Minister Joshi Thank you for the introduction. And thank you Ambassador Subedi for inviting me here to be with all of you today.
I am delighted to join you on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, to bring to a close our year of joint celebrations, marking 200 years of friendship and cooperation between Nepal and the United Kingdom.
The Queen has asked me to pass on her best wishes to you all.
I had the pleasure of visiting Nepal exactly a year ago. I experienced first-hand the true meaning of Nepal’s slogan “I am in Nepal Now”.
The warmth of the welcome and hospitality from everyone I met, particularly from Mrs Mangali Tamang and her family, who I stayed with in Lorani, is something that I will never forget.
I will also never forget the views from Lorani across the Annapurna mountain range or the beautiful wildernesses of Bardia National Park.
The conservation efforts in Bardia are an example to the rest of the world of how the conservation battle can be won, through empowering communities to live and feed off the park – not from the park. Nepal is a truly captivating county and one which I hope more people will visit to experience for themselves.
My visit came almost a year after the devastating earthquake which had rocked the country and brought with it so much destruction.
I was very pleased to see how effective the disaster response measures, supported by the British Government and others, had been in getting support to those who needed it very quickly.
Reconstruction and building back more resiliently from such a disaster can take a long time. But I saw first-hand the unbreakable spirit and resilience of the Nepali people as they set about it – I hope you and they can continue to draw comfort from the fact the British people stand with you on that journey.
Another area in which our countries share a common aim is the commitment to empowering girls and young women to fulfil their potential.
I was delighted to have the opportunity of joining President Bhandari for the opening of the joint Girl’s Summit.
I have been encouraged to hear that so much has been done over the past year to raise awareness about child marriage and gender-based violence. I look forward to keeping up with Nepal’s progressive work to empower women and girls, the example you set is one that others will draw inspiration from.
During my time in Nepal, I was able to visit some of the communities from which the Gurkhas are drawn; I now better understand what has shaped the character of this extraordinary group of men, borne out of the values which the people of Nepal hold so dear.
Last week, I joined my Father in presenting operational service medals to officers and men from 2nd Battalion of the Royal Gurkha Rifles, some of whom are with us here today.
My father spoke of how important his 40 year association to the Gurkhas is to him. Even though my association hasn’t been quite as long, I also draw a great deal of pride and joy from my association with the Gurkhas.
Your courage, selfless dedication and professionalism are legendary; but your warmth and hospitality in welcoming me as a fellow soldier and friend means a great deal to me personally – even though certain people took great enjoyment from watching me sweat in freezing temperatures in Afghanistan while trying to get through a very spicy Goat Curry; some of you are probably here.
But you know, I am not alone in this admiration and gratitude. The Gurkha 200 Pageant was attended by Her Majesty The Queen; a mark of the high esteem with which the Gurkhas are held in this country.
This warmth was also demonstrated by the public fundraising campaign which followed the earthquake in 2015. It is no exaggeration to say that the people of Nepal and the Gurkhas in particular, hold a very special place in the heart of the British public and in my family.
I will close by saying thank you to everyone for joining us today to celebrate our 200 year-long friendship between the United Kingdom and Nepal, and we look forward to our continued close bond of friendship for centuries to come, and now that my tika has finally faded it’s probably about time to go back!