Toasts of the President and King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev of Nepal at the State Dinner

December 7, 1983

The President. You got mighty quiet all of a sudden. [Laughter]

Well, Your Majesties, honored guests, ladies and gentlemen, today King Birendra and I had the opportunity to review our bilateral relations and to discuss our international concerns. We also had the chance to get to know one another as individuals. I'm pleased to inform you tonight that not only are relations between Nepal and the United States good, but King Birendra and I have each discovered a new friend.

Our discussion of bilateral relations revealed a refreshing lack of difficulties. Notwithstanding the great distance that separates our two nations, Nepal and the United States through the years have enjoyed a particularly amicable relationship. We prefer to think of you, Your Majesties, as neighbors on the other side of the world. We're so pleased that you've made this neighborly visit. It will serve to expand the good will between our peoples when more Americans, as I did today, get the chance to meet you personally.

Americans respect individuals of courage and conviction. And to give you some idea of how this applies to King Birendra, one of His Majesty's many talents is parachuting. We have a great deal in common -- [laughter] -- but let me hasten to say we found our common ground in another of his interests -- horseback riding. [Laughter]

Your Majesty, the highest mountain on our planet, Mount Everest, is in Nepal. So are 8 of the world's 10 highest peaks. And the character of your people, the sincerity of your convictions stand as tall and strong as your mountains.

Any American who's visited Nepal returns home in awe, not only of the majestic beauty of your land but also of the religious strength of your people. There are countless religious shrines in Nepal -- outward symbols of your country's greatest strength. And, Your Majesty, this spiritual side which is so important to your nation speaks well of you and your countrymen.

Today we had the opportunity to discuss a proposal of which you and your people can be rightfully proud. Through the Nepal Zone of Peace concept, you're seeking to ensure that your country's future will not be held back by using scarce resources for military purposes. We Americans support the objectives of Your Majesty's Zone of Peace proposal, and we endorse it. We would only hope that one day the world in its entirety will be a zone of peace.

In the meantime, we encourage you to continue to work closely with your neighbors to make Nepal's Zone of Peace a reality. Your innovative approach to peace and development could be a foundation for progress throughout the region. We wish you success.

It is an honor to have you with us, Your Majesties. Now, would all of you please join me in a toast to His Majesty, King Birendra, to Her Majesty, Queen Aishwarya, and to the people of Nepal.

The King. Mr. President, Mrs. Reagan, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I'm touched by your cordial welcome and the warm words with which you and Mrs. Reagan have received us here in Washington. We're equally honored by the generous remarks you, Mr. President, have just made about my country and people.

Seen from Washington, Nepal is almost on the other side of the globe, and yet, as this friendly gathering here tonight shows, distance notwithstanding, friendship and cordiality based on shared ideals can exist between countries that are geographically far apart. In 1947, as soon as Nepal broke her age-old isolation by seeking friendship beyond her borders, it was with the United States of America that Nepal sought to establish her diplomatic relations.

Since 1951, the year when my grandfather, late King Tribhuvan, led the Nepalese people to democracy, we have looked to the United States as a land of freedom and fulfillment. The enduring ideals of the Founding Fathers of America, who spoke to men of liberty and independence, have inspired men throughout the world, including those of us living in the mountain fastness of Nepal.

In our part of the world, if America is looked upon as a land of gold, grain, and computers, a country of skyscrapers and space shuttle, she is also regarded as a nation committed to respect man and his dignity. A land of discovery, America has distinguished herself in being inventive, in breaking new grounds, and opening newer horizons of knowledge for the betterment of man.

With a country such as the United States, one wonders if Nepal has anything in common. On the surface, there may seem very little. Yet, as men living in the same planet, we have common stakes in the global peace, prosperity, and, indeed, the survival of man in dignity and freedom.

We're happy to see, Mr. President, your efforts to maintain peace and stability around the world. The Nepalese people join me in appreciating the understanding with which on behalf of the people and the Government of the United States you have extended support to the concept of Nepal as a Zone of Peace. This recognition, I assure you, will go down not only as an important landmark in the history of our relations but also as a testimony of your personal commitment to the cause of peace, stability, and freedom.

Nepal rejoices in the achievements of the American people in different fields of human endeavors. The initiative and enterprise of your people are exemplary. Yet, what happens in this part of the world sends its ripples even to the roadless villages of Nepal. We receive their fallout. When America suffers a temporary drought, millions around the world get affected.

Indeed, if I may seek your indulgence, I would like to mention something that on the surface may sound trivial, but sometimes it is the small thing that can bring about profound changes. The corn maize in Nepal was introduced from this part of America, as were the potatoes from the Andes nearly 300 years ago. These new crops not only altered our hill economy but even the mode of life, by making settlements possible in the mountain terraces of Nepal.

Evidently, we do not live in islands, but in a world bound in a nexus of interdependence. What happens in America ceases, therefore, to be a local event. The United States as such has shown a consistent understanding towards this and has assisted Nepal in stretching her hand of friendship and cooperation in many fields, including the building of infrastructures.

May I take this opportunity, therefore, to thank you, and through you, to the people and Government of the United States for the support we have received in meeting the challenges of development in Nepal.

Mr. President, in recent years, America has brought glory to humanity by landing man on the Moon. It is indeed thrilling to reflect that one can soar into space to explore the unknown and scan the stars. Yet these adventures into outer space would carry still deeper meaning if the part of humanity living in Nepal could also rid themselves of their continuing poverty. Herself, a least developed, land-locked country, Nepal has always sought understanding and cooperation from our friends and neighbors. In fact, since the time I assumed responsibilities, I have sought that the minimum of basic needs must not be denied to people anywhere in the world. In this regard, I take comfort in the reassurance that the United States will continue to extend cooperation on a long-term basis into the future.

Modern technology, Mr. President, has reduced distance and joined us all into a family of nations. This situation demands that we create an enduring relationship based on a sense of purpose and meaning. With Nepal and countries in her region willing to join hands with the United States and other international agencies in a creative effort for prosperity by putting into use a fragment of their human and capital resources to harness the water potentials of Nepal, it would not only enable them to walk over a long road to progress for our region, as a whole, but would also continue to build bridges of understanding between a most advanced and a least developed nation of the world. It would also mean eliminating the perils of hunger on the one hand, and the danger of instability and extremism on the other.

I have no doubt that Nepal and the United States can cooperate in many fields of creative endeavors. As countries that have shown respect to the uniqueness of the individual, we believe in the conservation of the natural as well as the spiritual heritage of man. But most important of all, we both honor the freedom of man and the independence of nations. In this regard, we appreciate the support the United States has shown consistently to our identity as a nation.

Mr. President, I cherish the fruitful exchange of views we have had recently with each other. You have been very reassuring, and I wish to thank you and Mrs. Reagan for the warmth of hospitality shown to me, my wife, and members of my entourage.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, may I now request you to join me in proposing a toast to the health and happiness of President Ronald Reagan of the United States of America, and the First Lady, Mrs. Nancy Reagan, to the peace and prosperity of the American people, and to the further development of friendship between Nepal and the United States.

Thank you.

Note: The President spoke at 9:54 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.