Current Affairs

Madam Pratima Pandé conferred with French honour, Knight of National Order of Merit

French honour2

Kathmandu, 20 March (2019) – The French Ambassador to Nepal, Mr. François-Xavier LEGER, conferred upon Mrs Pratima Pandé the French honour, Knight of National Order of Merit (Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite) on Tuesday at the Residence of France.

Ms Pandé has a long relationship with France and especially through the Alliance Française, the French culture center.  She was a member of the board between 2001 and 2007, then the Vice President between 2007 and 2011, and, finally the President between 2011 and 2017.

During her many years with the Alliance Française, she was one of most active members who regularly lobbied for the interests of the Alliance Française and advanced the vision of the Alliance Française.

This honour is in recognition to her many years of selfless service to the Government of France.

During the award ceremony, Ambassador LEGER recollected the role played by Mrs Pandé during the tough period for the Alliance Française and how “she never missed a single meeting and always attended cultural activities”.

The French government’s honour Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merits) was instituted in 1963 by General Charles de Gaulle.  It is awarded for distinguished services rendered in public, civil, military posts, or a private profession.

French honour

Full text of Ambassador LEGER’s speech is as follows:


Dear all,

I wish to all of you a heartily welcome at the French residence.

We are gathered here today for a very special occasion.

I have the great responsibility and an honour, to give to Pratima Pande a French honorary distinction.

First, I will say a few words followed by Pratima, and lastly Arnaud will make a toast.

Dear Pratima Pande,

Today, I have the great honour and pleasure to confer on you a French honorary distinction, chevalier de l’ordre national du Mérite, knight of the national order of Merit.

First of all, let’s remind us some information about the history and the purpose of this honorary distinction.

General De Gaulle, when he was elected as the President of the French republic in 1958, gave the instruction to establish the national order of Merit, with an aim to:

  • Consolidate national unity
  • Harmonize and simplify the honorary distinctions: at that time we had more than 70 different awards, most of them invented by each ministry, with a lot of fantasy, so they did not have great value.
  • Create two national orders along with the Legion d’Honneur ;

There were three main purposes:

  • Express the dynamism of society
  • Give the right example
  • Recognize the diversity

As a retired general of the French army, De Gaulle obviously highly valued the honours.

What are the main criteria to confer an honour on a French or foreign national?

To recognize and reward, acts of devotion, of dedication, of generosity, true merits and measurable commitment benefiting to others and to France.

So, everybody now fairly understands why Pratima Pande was proposed for receiving this honour, thanks to my predecessor Yves Carmona.

But let him express his own feelings.

Dear Pratima, please accept my personal congratulations for the distinction that the French government has awarded you. As a Chairperson of Alliance française de Katmandou, and very soon as a friend and neighbour, you, Prithivi and family have graced my wife Rika and me with your warm friendship. We appreciated your total dedication, in spite of so many responsibilities including as an honorary consulate, to the interests of French language teaching and culture. You have constantly supported Alliance française in difficult times. That is the magic of Alliance everywhere, including in Bordeaux next street to mine: to be able to mobilise the goodwill of the people, French and foreigners alike, to support French language and culture. You know Bordeaux and its surroundings well since you visited a few famous vineyards and hosted some of their representatives to promote their wine. I hope you have the opportunity to drink Bordeaux wine tonight.

To flag up some elements, I will say, for those who may not know, that Pratima Pande has a long history of relationships and friendship with the Alliance Française in Kathmandu. She was member of the board between 2001 and 2007, then vice president between 2007 and 2011, and, last but not least, president between 2011 and 2017.

And, I would like to highlight the fact that, according to our friend Prabin Rana, she never missed a single meeting and she always attended cultural activities.  She has been always very supportive to the Alliance Française team, and especially to the incoming new young director that we appoint here.

I really would like to commend that because, as all of us know, she has so many other duties, as president of the Nepal Britain Society, as member of the Kathmandu Valley Heritage trust, as honorary consul of Italy, and as a philanthropist.

Now therefore, I would like also, on behalf of all my predecessors, to express my sincere apologies to her husband Prithivi.  Partially due to our fault, he spent certainly many lonely evenings.

But, it seems that he does not hold it against us, because Nepal Investment Bank has always been along the year a very reliable and trusted partner of the Alliance Française. This support has been really instrumental in maintaining and developing further its cultural activities, and getting through difficulties.

This evening, I would like to express my gratitude and my thanks for this continuing support.

On a more personal note, I would like to flag up that I am particularly happy to have Pratima and Prithivi at home this evening: we are neighbours and, as soon as Gael and I arrived, they immediately welcomed us very whole heartily.  We have had many occasions to meet very informally and are very grateful for that.

So, to sum up, this embassy would not be exactly the same without the support of the Pande family.

For this evening, I would have only one wish: that we hear many times Pratima laughing, because I really love it.

Now, we will proceed with the formal part of the evening, which I have to say in French:

Pratima Pande, au nom du Président de la République et en vertu des pouvoirs qui me sont conférés, je vous fais chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite.