Last updated in May 2016
Bilateral relations are close and amicable. Germany and Nepal established diplomatic relations in 1958. Since the ten-year civil war ended in late 2006, Germany has actively supported the peace and democratisation process in Nepal. Of particular importance here is the two countries’ collaboration in development cooperation, trade and in the cultural, academic and scientific sectors.
Since the resolution of the country’s armed conflict, high-level visits have again become more frequent. Former Nepalese Foreign Minister Yadav visited Germany for talks in March 2009 and then Commerce and Supplies Minister Lekh Raj Bhatt paid a visit in early March 2012. Other Nepalese government ministers have also attended major trade fairs in Germany (ITB Travel Trade Show, International Green Week).
Members of the German Bundestag’s Committee on Economic Cooperation and Development and its Parliamentary Friendship Group for Relations with the States of South Asia visited Nepal in March and April 2016.
Germany is an important market for Nepal, particularly for carpets and textile products. Nepal’s main imports from Germany are machinery and industrial products. In recent years, the bilateral balance of trade has regularly shown a surplus in Nepal’s favour. The annual volume of bilateral trade has remained fairly constant over the last few years, at around EUR 50 million.
An investment protection agreement has been in place since October 1986. Founded in 1990, the Nepal-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NGCCI) in Kathmandu promotes bilateral trade relations.
Nepal is an important partner country of German development cooperation, which aims to support Nepal in its efforts to deal with the aftermath of the civil war and alleviate poverty there in the long term. German support focuses on the following areas: improving health care, promoting renewable energy (solar and hydroelectric power and biogas) and energy efficiency as well as fostering trade and sustainable economic development. Here, Germany is also currently coordinating international support for stepping up foreign trade.
Following the major earthquakes in Nepal in April and May 2015, the Federal Government made available a total of EUR 35 million in humanitarian aid and for reconstruction programmes.
Another important element of Germany’s engagement in Nepal is its support for the peace process there through advisory activities and participation in the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, a funding instrument to finance the agreements reached under the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord. Germany has also provided assistance in the form of concrete vocational training and further-education measures for former Maoist rebels, thus making an important contribution to their reintegration into society.
Building democratic structures and protecting and improving the implementation of human rights are important concerns of Germany. The Federal Foreign Office provides support here through various other projects.
The principal implementing agencies of government development cooperation – the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the KfW Development Bank – have their own staff working in Nepal. There are also more than 130 private initiatives and associations from Germany supporting projects and programmes in Nepal, in some cases with public funding.
Beyond its bilateral commitment, Germany also makes a substantial contribution to international organisations’ – in particular the EU and the World Bank’s – development assistance for Nepal through membership fees and other financial payments.
For many years now, and since 2016 in cooperation with the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Federal Foreign Office has funded projects to restore sites of cultural or religious significance in Nepal and in the former royal cities of Patan and Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley. German archaeologists have also done important research work through their excavations. A cultural agreement between Nepal and Germany was signed in 1992.
Some of the sites destroyed or damaged by the powerful earthquakes are being rebuilt with funding from the Federal Foreign Office’s Cultural Preservation Programme. German development cooperation is providing assistance to restore major cultural monuments and build schools in Bhaktapur.
As part of the network of globally operating Goethe Institutes, the Kathmandu Goethe Centre teaches German as a foreign language. The courses it offers are very popular with young Nepalese, who are also increasingly interested in studying in Germany. In addition, German has been taught for many years at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu and, since 2010, also as second foreign language, along with English, at two schools in Kathmandu under the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH). There are currently a total of more than 1,000 young Nepalese learning German, a number that is trending upwards.
Also very well received are German cultural offerings such as guest performances by German music ensembles, most recently that by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle cooperates with several Nepalese radio and television stations and Nepalese journalists are regularly invited to attend information programmes or further-training courses in Germany.
Science and academia
Nepal is also a priority country of the German Research Foundation (DFG) with more than 40 research projects so far, including a major project by the University of Hamburg to catalogue some 160,000 Nepalese (Tibetan and Newari) manuscripts, which were able to be microfilmed with German support between 1970 and 2002.
Heidelberg University’s South Asia Institute has its own local office in the country.
The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) regularly awards scholarships, particularly in postgraduate programmes of special relevance to developing countries. Students returning home from Germany have since established a number of alumni organisations and networks of former scholarship holders. These also include the umbrella organisation German Alumni Association of Nepal (GAAN), which comprises a total of seven alumni organisations and has been active since 2015.