12 june / 2019

An Interview with Mr. Yury Yuzhaninov for the LOOK NEPAL magazine

May I humbly request you to evaluate Nepal-Russia relations? What are your suggestions for further strengthening of friendship between our countries?

Friendly relations between Russia and Nepal have been tested by the time and deepen over the years. The cornerstone of friendship between our states was laid down with the establishment of diplomatic relations on July 20, 1956. Despite significant changes, which took place in our countries, we have always maintained cordial ties notwithstanding complexity of the world politics. Moscow and Kathmandu have very close positions on many present-day international issues and share the basic principles of goodwill, non-interference into internal affairs of sovereign states, supremacy of international law. Nepal is a reliable partner in building a fair world order at which legitimate interests of all states would be observed. We appreciate the constructive and peace-loving foreign policy of Nepal and believe that consolidation of our bilateral ties will contribute to maintaining peace and stability and overcoming new threats and challenges to the universal security.

Our countries have always enjoyed substantial and fruitful partnership ties in different areas. I am pleased to note gradual development of economic and cultural cooperation between Russia and Nepal. Last few years witnessed a number of important events that took place in our bilateral relations. First of all, we have succeeded in giving an impetus to the exchange of visits between governmental, legislative and judicial bodies.

In November 2016, a Nepali parliamentary delegation led by Honourable Speaker Mrs. Onsari Gharti Magar visited Moscow where she held talks with the leadership of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation: the Chairperson of the Federation Council (Upper House) Mrs. V.I.Matvienko and the Deputy Speaker of the State Duma (Lower House) Mr. P.O.Tolstoy. We expect that a scheduled reciprocal visit of Russia’s parliamentary delegation would re-energize our ties and provide opportunities to explore new areas of bilateral cooperation, exchange views on legislative processes.

In September 2017 and May 2019, delegations, headed by the Right Honourable Chief Justices of Nepal Mr. Gopal Parajuli and Mr. Cholendra SJB Rana respectively, went to Moscow and held meetings with the Chairperson of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Mr. Vyacheslav Lebedev, heads of Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and Moscow Region Court. The sides exchanged their experience in improvement of both countries’ judicial systems.

An important landmark in development of relations between Russia and Nepal was resumption of our meetings held within the framework of the existing bilateral consultations mechanism in April 2018. Our delegations had discussions on bilateral and international affairs, considered prospects and opportunities for strengthening cooperation between our nations and widening legal basis of Russia-Nepal relations. I hope that the next round of bilateral consultations will not make waiting for a long time. Both sides are interested in keeping the ball rolling.

Our countries steadily invigorate cultural ties. From 24 November to 2 December 2018, the delegation of Dagestan – Russia’s mountainous region – visited the Himalayan republic to take part in unveiling bronze bust of the Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov who devoted several poems to Nepal. This April witnessed two remarkable cultural events – Russian Food Festival and arrival of a cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh. The culinary programme gave Nepali people an opportunity to taste plenty of authentic Russian delicacies cooked under the guidance of reputed chefs. Meanwhile, a famous cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh along with the mayor of Kathmandu Bidya Sundar Shakya inaugurated the bust of the first human in outer space Hero of the Soviet Union Yuri Gagarin in Ratna Park.

Russia and Nepal enjoy progress in bilateral relations in the areas of youth cooperation and sports ties. On October 14-22, 2017 more than two hundred delegates from the Himalayan republic participated in the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students in Sochi. Approximately one thousand guests from Nepal attended matches of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Moscow, and this grand event revived Nepali people’s interest in our country. On March 2, 2019 the Minister of Youth and Sports of Nepal Hon. Mr. Jagat Bahadur Sunar (Bishwakarma) held a bilateral meeting with the Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Hon. Mr. Pavel Kolobkov on the sidelines of the XXIX Winter Universiade 2019 in Krasnoyarsk. Both sides discussed opportunities for development of bilateral cooperation in the sphere of sports.

Russia remains to be a prestigious place for Nepali youth to get higher education. More than six thousand people from different areas of the Himalayan state graduated from higher educational institutions of our country. Currently, the number of Nepali students is gradually growing. The alumni of Russia's universities are widely engaged in health sector, roads and buildings construction, hydropower projects, science and education. They have a reputation of diligent students, competent experts and reliable workers. The members of the Association of Nepali Graduates of Russian and Soviet Universities “Mitra Kunj” have also played their constructive part in strengthening ties between our nations.

The potential of bilateral cooperation has not been fully realized yet. Russia and Nepal have firm grounds to look optimistically at the prospects of mutual partnership. Both countries consistently work on strengthening cooperation for the benefit of their peoples in the interests of regional peace and stability.

The exchange of delegations at various levels has played an important role in bringing our nations closer together. I believe that re-invigoration of bilateral high level contacts will significantly contribute to development of friendly and mutually advantageous ties between Russia and Nepal.

The Russian Federation has contributed to fostering the social and economic development of Nepal through several projects in the previous years. What kind of assistance can your country provide to Nepal in meeting its challenges in different sectors of development?

Historically, the majority of important agreements on technical and economic cooperation between our countries were signed as a result of visits on high and the highest levels. The most notable of them were His Majesty King Mahendra's state visit to the USSR in 1971, His Majesty King Birendra's state visit to the USSR in November 1976 and His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev’s (while he was His Royal Highness the Prince) unofficial visit to the Soviet Union in May 1985.

Our country provided substantial and free of charge assistance to Nepal in the development of national economy, having constructed in the 1960s and the 1970s a number of industrial, social and infrastructural facilities. Among them are Kanti Child Hospital, sugar mill, Panauti hydro power station, agriculture tools factory in Birgunj, 110 km part of East-West road, Janakpur Cigarette Factory etc. In 1987 production was launched on rosin and turpentine manufacturing factory which had been built by the Soviet specialists on compensatory basis.

Fundamental transformations which took places in both countries at the turn of millennium could not but affect dynamics of our bilateral ties. However, during the last few years we witness growing activity of Russian-Nepali interaction in searching new areas of partnership.

There are many spheres in which our countries could cooperate successfully. Nepali companies can buy from Russia chemical fertilizers, metal wares, transport vehicles. Russia-manufactured MI-17 transport helicopters are popular in Nepal and are used by private companies as well as Nepal Army. Nepali commodities such as carpets, exclusive sorts of tea, medicinal plants, traditional handicrafts etc., will find worthy place in the Russian market.

Russian business circles are interested in making investments in energy and tourist projects in Nepal. Our companies could play a significant role in exploring mineral deposits on the territory of Nepal, supplying oil products, construction of storage facilities and training Nepali specialists for these purposes.

The Government of Nepal has already declared 2020 as the “Visit Nepal Year”. What should be done, in your opinion, to make this campaign a grand success and to increase the number of Russian tourists coming to Nepal?

The increasing number of Russian tourists coming here is one of the encouraging characteristics of our present day relations. Nepal is becoming more and more popular destination among the people of my country. I would recommend the Government of Nepal and local agencies to pay closer attention to the Russian tourism market and its distinguishing features.

Nepal already attracts a big number of tourists from Russia. Annually around 10 thousand tourists and mountain climbers rise up the famous peaks, travel through sanctuaries of the Himalayan republic and get acquainted with historical places, spiritual practices, ancient crafts and architecture. Most of Russian tourists usually are quite undemanding. 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 in Kathmandu, which is a gateway of your country.

In 2018, the Government of Nepal decided to provide a land plot for construction of the Russian Buddhists’ monastery in Lumbini – the birthplace of Buddha. This project can become a driving force of increasing the number of Russian tourists and pilgrims visiting Nepal. Religious contacts between our countries have very deep roots. Through Tibet and Mongolia, Buddhism spread to Buryatia, Tuva and Kalmykia – regions of contemporary Russia with substantial number of Buddhism followers. Even today one can see ancient manuscripts of Nepal origin in the monasteries and temples of these republics of Russia. Contacts between Buddhist communities of our countries are successfully developing at present.

It is worth noting that Nepal offers a wide range of unique tourist opportunities. I recommend local travel agencies and Nepal Tourism Board to actively take part in tourism marketing events being held in Russia, like annual Moscow International Tourism and Travel Exhibition, for advertising incomparable attractions of the Himalaya destination.

What are your suggestions for promotion of trade and business ties between Nepal and Russia?

I would like to note that the economic ties between Russia and Nepal at present do not correspond to our countries’ potentials. Lack of direct business links and inadequate knowledge of business communities of Russia and Nepal about each other remains a weak point. The relations in this field should be raised to a qualitatively new level.

Information seems to be one of the key factors in promoting trade and business between Nepal and Russia. In order to increase the awareness of existing business opportunities different kinds of industrial and trade exhibitions could be most helpful. Our countries should also continue to exchange visits of the delegations of the industrialists and trading communities in order to reassess each other's economic potential, supply and demand in the context of the present-day reality. The Chambers of Commerce and Industry can also contribute to it by taking a leading role in providing the Nepali trade and business community with the latest information on Russia's economic potential.

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 Commerce and Industry Chamber of the Russian Federation. Its representative participated in the Nepal Investment Summit 2019, and this fact indicates the growing interest of our country in expanding commercial relations with Nepal. The existing Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry could and should be more active in organizing all sorts of fairs, round tables, seminars to promote interaction between commercial organizations of our countries and to fill the information vacuum and increase the awareness of business opportunities in Russia and Nepal.

What message do you wish to convey to the people of Nepal and Russia on the occasion of the National Day of the Russian Federation?

On this occasion I would like to send my sincere greetings to our citizens and compatriots living in this beautiful country and also to thank our numerous Nepali friends for their support and collaboration in our everyday work in order to raise Russian-Nepali relations to a new height. I wish the friendly people of Nepal prosperity and every success in their efforts to ensure stability and speedy economic development of the Himalayan Republic.