An Interview with H.E. Mr. Andrei S. Budnik for the journal LOOK NEPAL
May I humbly request Your Excellency to shed light on Nepal-Russia relations?
On June 12-th we celebrate our main national holiday - the Day of Russia. During our centuries-old history many generations of our people have сontributed to the development of the country, and today Russian citisens continue their conscientious work to build up its economic and political power, preserve its ethnical identity, strengthen public self-awareness. For a huge number of people living today outside of Russia, the country remains a historical homeland they are linked with by invisible but inseparable ties, and the bearer of the richest traditions and truly world culture. People of different nationalities know and love our country, maintain close friendly and business contacts with her. I sincerely congratulate them all on our common holiday.
Relations between Russia and Nepal are of traditionally friendly character. Throughout the whole history of bilateral interaction our nations have always enjoyed substantial and fruitful cooperation on a broad international agenda. At different periods these relations were subject to fluctuations conditioned by dramatic transition processes in our countries, but never ceased to be cordial and trustworthy. Irrespective of political systems we have never had any disputes, irritants or conflicts.
Russia and Nepal have very close positions on many international issues and share basic values and principles embodied in the UN Charter - first of all, the principles of goodwill and non-interference into internal affairs of sovereign states. I am delighted to note the constructive and balanced character of Nepal’s foreign policy. It is very important that your country keeps to very consistent positions towards the issue of international security. Proximity of Russian and Nepal approaches to most of the global and regional problems and strengthening collaboration between our countries are very important in light of emerging multipolar world, where meeting contemporary challenges is possible only through combining wills, efforts and resources of states on equal basis and under the principle of supremacy of the international law.
I would like to note with satisfaction that a number of important events took place recently in our relations in various areas. In 2015 Nepal completed the process of working out its Constitution, and Russia welcomed its promulgation. It is worth mentioning that we endorsed Nepal to become as a dialogue partner of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and in March 2016 your state received this status. This remarkable event gave an opportunity for extensive cooperation between countries of the region in the spheres of security and economy. Also, Nepal’s joining to the “One Belt – One Road” initiative opened up broad prospects of the development of transportation routes in Eurasia. In 2016 our countries celebrated the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. On this occasion Russia’s and Nepal’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs exchanged the congratulatory messages, and Russia-Nepal Cooperation and Friendship Society visited Kathmandu to take part in festive functions. Besides, the anniversary was marked by concerts Russian creative groups which performed in various Nepali cities. Another remarkable event was the visit of the Speaker of the Parliament of Nepal to Moscow in November 2016. In our relations it was the first arrival of the parliamentary delegation after ten years of break. Both sides thoroughly discussed different international and bilateral issues. We are also trying now to broaden the legal basis of our cooperation and considering a number of bilateral agreements, including those aimed at the development of economic ties.
The potential of relations between Russia and Nepal is still to be fully realized, and I hope that in addition to existing opportunities in the forthcoming years we will be able to explore new areas of cooperation for mutual benefit.
The Russian Federation has made significant contributions to the development of Nepal through several Russian projects. Is there any plan of your government to provide economic cooperation to Nepal in its efforts of national development?
Many projects in Nepal were completed under the Soviet Union’s assistance including the Birgunj Tools Factory, the Kanti Child Hospital, the Panauti Hydropower Station, Janakpur Cigarette Factory, Sugar factory, Agricultural Tools factory, Portion of East-West Highway and some other projects. At present, the potential of bilateral cooperation is far fr om being exhausted, and we need to find new areas of cooperation beneficial for the two countries.
For example, Russia is able to take part in various construction projects related to the development of Nepali hydropower industry and transportation infrastructure, as it has outstanding experience in both these sectors. Besides, Russia can become a big market for a wide range of Nepali products such as organically grown tea, pashmina, carpets, medical herbs, ready-made garments, handicrafts. We have very promising prospects of increasing tourist flow from Russia to Nepal and boosting up bilateral trade. It is also worth mentioning the increased interest of our businessmen in investing in different sectors of the Nepali economy.
What suggestions do Your Excellency wish to make in the promotion of tourism industry between Nepal and the Russian Federation and to encourage more and more tourists to come to Nepal from Russia?
Nepal has always been of keen interest for Russians. After visiting this Himalayan country, Russian tourists stay charmed with the beauty of mountains, amazing architecture, hospitality of locals, exquisite art and breath-taking nature. Nepal presently offers a wide range of unique tourist opportunities. Every year, except 2015, the number of Russian tourists coming to Nepal has been increasing. We hope this positive tendency will continue.
I am satisfied to note that Nepal Tourism Board and tourist companies from your country take part in annual Moscow International Tourism and Travel Exhibition. I suggest the Nepali side to widen its presence on these events and boost up its efforts towards advertising attractions of the Himalaya destination among Russians.
Last year there were several mutual visits of delegations of tour operators. In the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Kathmandu the information exposition "Russian Tourist Routes" was held, and prospects for cooperation with leading representatives of this business line were discussed. The issue of creating a Russian-Nepalese organization of tour operators is being discussed, which would include the two sides’ competent representatives.
Most of our tourists coming to Nepal are keen on trekking, mountaineering, some special sports practices (like paragliding etc.). On the other hand, some Russians are interested in oriental spiritual practices, ancient crafts, architecture and local pieces of art. I would like to note that Russian tourists usually are quite undemanding and prepared to bear with simple boarding and lodging facilities. However, it does not mean that receiving tourists from Russia does not require improvement of general state of hospitality sector, transportation infrastructure and sanitary conditions of Nepali settlements, especially Kathmandu which is a gateway of your country. One of my Moscow guests jokingly said that there is no sense to have places of sightseeing without having roads to reach them, but there is still some truth in his words.
What should be done, in Your Excellency’s opinion, to promote commercial links and trade between the people of our countries?
I believe that trade and economic relations may only grow on the ground of sufficient awareness about the possibilities available in a given country. In this connection, I suggest that Nepali authorities and business community should increase their work on providing information regarding investment and trade opportunities in Nepal and developing ties with Russian business circles, first of all, represented by the Trade and Industry Chamber of the Russian Federation. The existing Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry could and should be more active in organizing all sorts of fairs, round tables and seminars to promote cooperation between commercial organizations of our countries.
In order to fill the information vacuum and increase the awareness of business opportunities in Russia and Nepal different kinds of industrial and trade exhibitions could be extremely helpful. Our countries should also continue to exchange visits of delegations of industrial and trading circles in order to reassess each other’s economic potential in light of the present-day reality.
The work we are constantly doing with the Nepalese authorities and organizations shows that there is a significant potential for development of our relations in various fields, which we must realize in the interests of both sides. It seems that for this purpose we should add to the existing forces and means more insistence and sequence, which are sometimes not enough to carry out already planned joint actions or projects.
Russian Centre of Science and Culture holds a number of cultural programmes on different occasions. May I request Your Excellency to make a small comment on the cultural relations existing between Nepal and the Russian Federation?
Both Russia and Nepal possess unique historical and cultural heritage. Our peoples have potential to culturally enrich each other, and to this end it is very important to promote cooperation in this field between our countries. In this regard the role of the Russian Centre of Science and Culture (RCSC) in developing friendly bilateral ties can hardly be overestimated. Almost every exhibition and event celebrating memorial dates of Russian history and culture, highlighting milestones in the development of our science, attracts eminent figures of Nepali government, civil society, artistic circles and intellectual community, as well as the media. Due to RCSC we have established lasting links with Mitra Kunj (Association of Nepali alumni of Soviet/Russian universities), Nepal-Russia Friendship and Cultural Association, Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Nepal-Russia Literary Society. We are satisfied to note that the Centre has become a place wh ere art-fanciers meet to enjoy performances of Russian art groups and can get acquainted with exhibitions demonstrating the beauty of Russian nature and greatness of Russian history. In total, about 150 various events of humanitarian, economic, educational and scientific-technical orientation were organized by the Centre last year.
I am delighted to note that this year the abovementioned organization Mitra Kunj –which significantly contributes to people-to-people links between Russia and Nepal – celebrates its 50th Anniversary. Members of this association are close and devoted friends of Russia and play constructive part in strengthening bilateral relations. By their dedicated work they contributed to social and economic progress of Nepal, and their success proved high quality of Soviet/Russian education. I am proud to note that every year dozens of Nepali young people go to Russia to acquire knowledge. It is very important that Russia is one of few countries which grant foreign students a chance to earn degrees fully at the expense of a receiving country. Cooperation in educational field includes Russian language courses organized by the RCSC which provides Nepali people with the opportunity to acquire necessary language skills for studying and working in Russia. Many Nepali students opt for getting education in Russia on commercial basis.
What message do Your Excellency wish to convey to the people of Nepal and Russia on the occasion of the National Day of the Russian Federation?
On this occasion of the Day of Russia I would like to once again extend congratulations to all the Russian compatriots staying in Nepal as well as to our numerous friends in this country and express my sincere and cordial gratitude for their support and well-wishing feelings. It is due to these feelings of mutual sympathy and understanding, which have evolved over the sixty years of our cooperation and got deeply rooted among our nations, we have been able to preserve and strengthen the spirit of our interaction in the interests of world and regional peace and stability and for the benefit of both our countries. I am convinced that together we will soon achieve more substantial progress in the establishment of a new more just and equitable world order.