Turkey to open embassy in Nepal
Newly appointed Turkish Ambassador to Nepal Firat Sunel tells Nepali Times in this interview that his government plans to establish a resident embassy in Kathmandu next year. Turkey and Nepal are also celebrating 60 years of bilateral relations in 2022.
Sunel covered a wide range of topics including better air connectivity between Kathmandu and Istanbul, and the prospects for increased trade, investment and tourism.
Ambassador Sunel is also an accomplished historical novelist and is researching a book on the involvement of Indian and Nepali soldiers in the Gallipoli campaign during World War I, which saw approximately 300,000 casualties including 1,000 Gurkha soldiers.
Excerpts of the interview:
Nepali Times: What are some highlights of Turkey’s bilateral relations with Nepal?
Firat Sunel: Next year Turkey and Nepal are celebrating 60 years of establishment of diplomatic relations. On that occasion my government has decided to establish a resident embassy here, and we have started the process. I discussed this Prime Minister Deuba when I met him today (Friday), and he received the suggestion very warmly. We also agreed to deepen bilateral ties. We urge Nepal also to open its embassy in Ankara as well, because if we have embassies in each other’s countries it will help in closer relations. As it is, Turkey and Nepal have cooperation in many areas. We were in fact the first country to arrive with a 97-member health and rescue team in Kathmandu in the immediate aftermath of the 2015 earthquake.
Turkey spans two continents and is a bridge between East and West. What commonalities do you see between Turkey and Nepal?
There are a lot of cultural similarities between the two countries. The first and foremost is the importance we give to family life and our respect for the elderly. Next is our food, which is suitable for the Turkish palate. Here in Kathmandu I feel like I have gained weight because of all the eating I have done. And culinary relations are a brilliant way to connect people, so is language. A lot of our words are the same, like keema, kitab, insaan. In fact, linguists have found 9,000 words from Turkish that are in Hindustani, so there must be quite a few in Nepali as well.
Does Turkish Airlines plan to increase its connection between Kathmandu and Istanbul to pre-Covid levels?
Turkish Airlines is one of the world’s best airlines, and has been consistently elected the best carrier in Europe. It also flies to more destinations than any other air carrier. Turkish Airlines connects Nepal to Turkey as well as to the rest of the world. We plan to be back to pre-Covid flight frequency between Kathmandu and Istanbul.
What is the potential for tourism?
Nepal is a famous tourist destination, the world knows about its natural beauty, heritage and hospitable people. Almost every child in Istanbul knows about Mt Everest. What Nepal needs now is better infrastructure for tourism. Turkey as the sixth most visited country in the world, and can help Nepal do this. Tourism is not just a source of revenue, but it connects people and contributes to cultural understanding. We have to promote Turkey in Nepal as well, the more mutual understanding there is, the more interactivity there will be. We especially encourage people to stopover in Istanbul for a few days on their way to Europe and North America.
And prospects for trade and investment?
Our trade and commercial relations are good but do not reflect the true potential. Turkey is willing to change that. Turkey is already one of the top five countries for Nepal’s trade exports. On the other hand, Turkish companies are producing European-level goods at a cheaper price, which might be of interest to Nepal.
At the same time, Turkish investors are interested, especially in Nepal’s construction sector. Turkey has built a name for itself in infrastructure, and has expertise in highways, tunnels, hydropower and telecom. There are some more agreements pending, which will attract more investors from Turkey.
Nepal to Turkey, and onwards, Upasana Khadka