Speeches and Interviews

Interview of the Russian Ambassador Dr.Sergey Velichkin
to the special edition of the Look Nepal Magazine on the occasion of the Day of Russia
(Kathmandu, June 12, 2011)

How does Your Excellency assess the state of Nepal-Russia relations?

On the 20th of July this year we are celebrating the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries*. The erstwhile Soviet Union was among the first nations to exchange Embassies with the Himalayan State and, equally important, ever since our ties have been based on the convergence of our fundamental national interests in the absence of any conflict of whatever kind between them, on our common adherence to the principles of the UN Charter and our peoples’ firm belief in supremacy of the values of peace, justice and equitable cooperation.

During the initial decade of our cooperation solid traditions of mutually respectful dialogue and effective interaction for the benefit of the world and regional peace and security on a wide range of various international questions have been established. Our cooperation has been marked by completion of a number of projects in different spheres of Nepalese economy and infrastructure, which at the time were harbingers of progress playing an important pilot role in promoting industrial development of your country and some of them remaining even now milestones of a kind to our joint endeavors permeated by the spirit of unveiling Nepal.

Of special significance were the opportunities created for talented Nepalese youth to receive higher education in our country, which have resulted in over five thousand specialists having received their diplomas and quality professional training. These people, many of whom have achieved prominence in the chosen fields, now form the core of contemporary Nepalese elite playing leading roles in advancing progress of the Nepalese society, its science and technology, education and industry, arts and culture.

Over the last two decades both countries have been undergoing complex and all-embracing processes of internal transition which naturally affected somewhat the dynamics of our relationship.

However, the historic meeting of the Prime Ministers of Russia and Nepal in the margins of the world Tiger Summit in Saint-Petersburg on October, 24 2010 has vividly demonstrated that the two countries are eager to reintroduce more substance to the time-tested framework of their cooperation. The exchange of opinions between the top leaders has confirmed that in the present-day rapidly changing globalized world both Moscow and Kathmandu have a common vision of priorities and share a value system for the emerging world order based on inviolability of international law and cooperative multipolarity and consider their partnership relevant to each country’s foreign policy agendas. Promising fields of cooperation have been identified, mutual interests in promoting exchanges in various sectors properly emphasized.

Given the progress in the peace process and the building of democratic statehood institutions in Nepal over the recent few months, I believe we may reasonably expect that the impulse generated by the Saint-Petersburg meeting will allow us to revitalize our cooperation and achieve concrete tangible results in different spheres of mutual interest without much further delay.

Late March this year the Deputy Speaker of the State Duma of the Russian Federation paid a visit to Nepal and met many high-ranking officials of the Government of Nepal. How do you look upon the exchange of such visits between Nepal and Russia?

The first-ever visit by a delegation of the State Duma (lower house) of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation led by its Deputy Speaker Mr.Valery A.Yazev to Nepal held between 23-27 of March 2011 provided a veritable breakthrough in the field of parliamentary exchanges at a highly important juncture of Nepalese constitutional development, thus acquiring an added value of making a relevant contribution to priority efforts by the elected representatives of the Nepalese people to complete successfully their historic task of drafting the Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Discussions between the deputies of the two Parliaments were held in an atmosphere of mutual respect and businesslike genuine interest to each other’s experiences as well as to available opportunities for expanding bilateral cooperation. The visit has enabled the Russian MPs to see for themselves the possibilities Nepal offers in the field of tourism and also, even more importantly, to get the feeling of the problems experienced by the country at present. A special feature of this visit was a sincere and concrete interest shown from the Russian side during the meetings with the leaders of the government and the business community of Nepal towards the prospects of bilateral cooperation in trade and economic fields, including through investment into priority projects here if proper investment conditions according to accepted international standards were created for that. In a follow-up of the visit further contacts between the two sides have been envisaged which are currently at the final stages of preparations by the bodies concerned.

  In view of the above, I believe that exchange of such visits between Nepal and Russia should be definitely promoted in future as well to make both sides aware at the leadership as well as at the popular level of the existing opportunities and to generate project-specific discussions between business and opinion leaders in the two parliaments.

In previous years the Russian Federation contributed significantly to the development of Nepal through several Russian projects. Is there any plan of your government to promote economic cooperation with Nepal in its efforts of national development?

I have mentioned the projects, which I have found in my discussions during the five months spent in this country are surprisingly well remembered by many people here. I am under the impression that present priorities of Nepal may have somewhat shifted, though judging by the trend of in your Parliament and the media some specific plans are expected to be finalized after the completion of the present phase and the emphasis then is going to be put on meeting economic challenges. However, even at this stage it is rather obvious that promotion of the national development would probably be focused on upgrading hydroenergy and infrastructure. It seems that problems of that kind tend to be addressed primarily through attracting private investments including those from abroad. As I have already mentioned, there might be a role for the investors from Russia since all the needed expertise and experience in the fields are available in my country. Which does not mean tackling other avenues may present a problem once badly needed stability on the ground is in place.

Nepal is celebrating Tourism Year 2011. The tourist traffic between our two countries is annually increasing. Your Excellency, what would you suggest to promote tourism between Nepal and the Russian Federation?

Indeed, the increasing number of Russian tourists coming to this country is one of the encouraging characteristics of our present day relations. According to the statistical data quoted recently by the official representatives here last year it increased by 43% reaching almost nine thousand people in absolute figures. I consider this very promising against the background of a non-availability of direct air connections between our two countries situated as they are rather far from each other,  and a next to non-existent tourist promotion publicity campaign regarding Nepal in Russia.

In view of this what is required is obviously to fill in both voids: to work for the restoration of the direct air flight previously operating between Moscow and Kathmandu as well as to start advertising seriously uncomparable and inimitable  attractions of Nepal in the Russian Federation. I would like to bring to the attention of Nepalese tourist agencies some helpful facts regarding the typical Russian tourists in Nepal: there are many in my country with the specialized knowledge and training required for mountaineering, high altitude trekking and other special sports practiced here (like paragliding and etc), who would gladly come here if they informed about the opportunities available in those fields. On the other hand, there is widespread interest among some sections of the Russian public in oriental spiritual practices, ancient crafts and architecture offered by Nepal in abundance.

Let me note that Russian tourists as a rule are rather undemanding and quite prepared to bear with simple boarding and lodging facilities, sometimes bordering on plain austerity. However that doesn’t mean that getting tourists from Russia doesn’t require improvement in the general state of sanitary conditions and infrastructure of your grand and hospital capital city, which is a gateway as well as a show-case of Nepal, any less than for the sake of expanding tourist traffic from other countries as very often suggested by knowledgeable experts in the media here.  I can also only agree with those who insist that the establishment of tourism as a major national industry in Nepal is only possible if the domestic situation here becomes solidly stabilized in broad public perception worldwide.

I am confident that Your Excellency is well aware of the Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry which is committed to promoting trade and business between the peoples of our countries. What should, in Your Excellency’s opinion, the Chamber do to develop commercial ties and trade exchanges between Nepal and Russia?

The Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has over the years passed since its establishment evolved a number of avenues to promote trade and economic cooperation between our two countries.  One could refer to seminars and meetings regularly held by enthusiastic and knowledgeable leaders of the Chamber to spread awareness of possibilities available for the expansion of our trade. A recent highly fruitful event, to my mind proved to be the interaction between the leaders and activists of the Chamber and the visiting delegation of the Russian State Duma led by it Deputy Speaker Mr. Valery A.Yazev, which I have already mentioned before. As far as I know, the Chamber, whose distinguished members I personally hold in high esteem for their role in facilitating friendly cooperation between our two countries, is on the right track working now on preparations for the establishment of formal ties with the Russian Chamber of Trade and Industry. The way I understand this is it will require first of all introducing clarity regarding the plans its members have in mind in terms of their own personal business interests vis-à-vis commerce with Russia. It would be highly advisable before the Chamber sends its delegation and establishes a regular dialogue required to provide the business community here and of course those eager to establish commercial links in my country with the necessary information on a permanent basis

Nepal is passing through a critical stage of its development and is facing problems caused by delay and deadlock in constitution-drafting and settling disputes relating to the peace process. What would Your Excellency suggest in this regard?

In Russia we are highly sympathetic to democratic strivings of the Nepalese people and maybe more than some others even in the contemporary turbulent world of ours are aware of complexities and challenges of your historic transition. As the UN Security Council member and against the background of our long standing friendly relations we responded to the Nepal’s requests addressed to the International Community as most appropriately personified by the United Nations and its Security Council, to facilitate its peace process with the clear understanding that it may be brought to the successful conclusion primarily through the efforts by the Nepalese sides themselves. I have been in this country for less than half a year now, therefore my conclusions may be somewhat premature, but there seems to be a discernable progress of late as far as discussion on the modalities of resolving major issues pertaining to the peace process is concerned. By the same token there can be hardly any denial that a number of issues in the context of drafting the Constitution have been constructively covered by detailed discussions and to a large degree settled while more clarity has been introduced regarding the alternatives to choose from in the most controversial chapters.

Nothing so far has given grounds to put into doubt the ability of political leaders of your country to eventually resolve the pending problems as per the popular mandate. If I were at all to make some suggestion, I would confine myself to only reiterating that any solution corresponding to national interests of Nepal may only result from an honest, patient and pain staking dialogue between all of its principal political forces with each of them showing maximum responsibility, tolerance and flexibility never abandoning the principled positions of prioritizing national interests and adhering to realistic perceptions.

I would highly appreciate Your Excellency shedding light on key features of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation.

Developing partnership with the USA as an important modernization alliance as well as within the framework of Moscow’s policy to ensure its security interests and contribute to improving global security environment remains a centerpiece of Russia’s traditional multifaceted foreign policy engagement with the Western World. A significant breakthrough has been provided by the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, signed last April and ratified earlier this year. It has not only brought about substantive cuts in the nuclear war arsenals of the two powers but has served as a beacon on the path to comprehensive disarmament, setting in the pattern of realistic and equitable mutual accomodation of interests.

Speaking about Russian traditional interests in advancing cooperation with Europe, I would like to state with satisfaction that of late one can note some progress in the unfolding discussions around well-known European Security Treaty, Initiative, put forward by President Dmitry A.Medvedev. One could refer to a keen debate essentially on indivisibility of continental security, held at the Russian-NATO Council in Lisbon last November, which represents a step in the direction of building common space of peace, security and stability in Euro-Atlantic.

The Russian diplomacy has played an important part in making possible the OSCE Summit held after the gap of 11 years in Astana, Kazakhstan, last December, which reaffirmed commitment to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Of late, there has been somewhat accelerated advancement in deepening strategic partnership between Russia and the EU as witnessed by their two Summits in the course of the last year in Rostov and Brussels.

Bilaterally, there has been steady progress in evolving modernization partnerships with a number of countries, above all, Germany and France.

While my country’s Foreign Policy is no doubt complex and multidimensional, its principal goal is singular and simple – to facilitate in every possible way betterment of living standards as well as cultural upliftment of Russian citizens, speeder development of the country, to ensure protection of citizens’ safely, health, rights and dignity. The domestic priorities influence the choice of our international strategic options. As our domestic agenda is fundamentally targeted on establishing a prosperous society in Russia based on the principle of freedom and justice through steady development of democratic institutions, our priority at present is-along with affirmation of the rule of law and elimination of corruption - the all round modernization involving combined efforts of our scientists, engineers and in entrepreneurs with the state support and in cooperation with foreign partners.

At the present transitional  stage of world development, characterized by a paradigm shift from confrontation to cooperation, national priorities outlined above demand focusing our diplomacy on the formation of a new world order, more just and multipolar, based on international law and multilateralism with the central role played by the United Nations.

As some of the principal features of our policy I would like to mention just a few. Such as all-round bolstering of network diplomacy implying the development of partnerships between two or more states sharing a common interest on a particular set of relevant issues. A vivid example of this is Russia’s well known proactive line in the context of the dynamic formation of G-20 and the importance attached by it to promoting stronger and increasingly comprehensive and scoopful coordination within the framework of BRICS as witnessed by the results of its most recent Summit in Sanya, China on April, 14. At the same time Russia remains an active participant to the activities of the Group of Eight aimed at improving global governance and seeking collective solutions to key world and regional political problems.

Our long-term important priority remains a phased integration in the post-Soviet Space, most of which encompassed by the Commonwealth of Independent States. I would like to draw attention to the most recent event in this regard, which happened last July with the launching of the Eurasian Economic Community Customs Union. It constituted an epoch-making breakthrough for its three member states (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) speeding them up on the track leading to the establishment of the Single Economic Space of the Troika.

With Russia being a great Asian and not only European power as the bulk of our territory after all constitutes the northern third of Asia, the latter’s affairs form an important part of our foreign policy agenda. President Medvedev on the 2nd July, 2010 addressing a conference in Vladivostok on the topic of “The Economic and Social Development of the Far East and the Strategy of Russia’s Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region” set out what amounts to a detailed program of measures to promote regional integration of Russia into the APR, the expansion of its economic presence and political participation in regional partnership forums. As for the latter, the recent milestones to be mentioned are a new stage attained in Russian-ASEAN partnership with their Hanoi Summit held on September 30, 2010 outlining concrete roadmaps for their interaction; Russian membership in the East Asia Summit and its participation in APEC’s Yokohama Summit last November which has endorsed all-important growth strategy for the region.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been an important element of the emerging new Asian architecture. Its Tashkent Summit last June approved common approaches of member-countries to global financial and economic crisis, disarmament and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, challenges of international terrorism and drugs. Russia attaches utmost importance to developing relations with its biggest neighbor – China, which have reached an unprecedentedly high level – what with the six summit meetings in year 2010 alone, a booming trade and the impressive oil pipeline project completed within a record-breaking time. President Medvedev’s visit to Delhi during December 21-22, 2010 covering extensive agenda of world and bilateral issues with scopeful multibillion contracts signed has signified a new stage in Russia’s privileged strategic partnership with this great country.

While not elaborating on our engagement in regional conflicts resolution, which is remains an important facet of Russian diplomacy in our turbulent transitional age, let me briefly mention just the most high-profile of them, each one presenting a dramatic challenge in a globalized security environment.

Russia has a crucial role in negotiatory formats dealing with non-proliferation challenges arising from the issues of the Iran’s and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issues. In both cases Russia champions exclusive application of political and diplomatic methods for their solution through negotiations within the six-party formats evolved in each case.

Russia’s proactive role as a member of the Middle East Quartet has been contributing to bringing about despite heavy odds a negotiated Arab-Israeli settlement in accordance with the relevant UN resolutions.

Russia continues Russian involvement in the UN mandated international community efforts to meet the challenge of world terrorism in Afghanistan, having a vital stake in extinguishing this hotbed of tension in its geopolitical proximity with special emphasis on the need to take tough drastic moves to end local narco industry directly affecting negatively the health and crime situation in Russia.

Our principled approach to establishing durable peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region through developing a new security and cooperation architecture in that volatile area of the globe has been elaborated jointly with China in the well-known initiative put forward by the heads of the two nations in September last year.

In view of the urgency added to this issue by latest upheavals in some Middle East and North African countries let me say a few words on the relevant Russian position. It is simple and quite clear – all such problems must be resolved through negotiations between domestic political forces within the states concerned peacefully without resort to violence and in no case result in the use of armed force or firepower against peaceful civilian population. The role of international community if called upon by circumstances should be strictly defined by the UN Security Council, based on international law, ruling out outside interference and prioritizing local efforts including mediation when needed. Security Council resolution should prompt movement towards negotiated resolution of existing problems and should not turn into a license for preparation for conflict that leads to a deadlock. All plans including a regime change imposed from outside are counterproductive and may only lead to further extending spread of instability and suffering of innocent civilians.

Finally, I would like to add a few words against the background of the recent Fourth UN Conference on LDCs in Istanbul which has attracted a particular interest in this country in view of Nepal’s chairmanship.

Being a new evolving donor, Russia has been taking consistent practical steps to assist LDCs, first of all through increasing every year its contribution to financing international cooperation programs implemented both under the auspicies of the  UN and within the frameworks of G-8 and G-20. Our country is committed to international cooperation in development through constructive interaction with a large number of parties, including those in the private sector and civil society, aimed at timely achieving the Millennium Development Goals all over the world.  Russia has been able to step up its contribution into promoting development for benefit of LDCs.

Over the last 3-4 years the volume of Russian development assistance has been maintained at the average level of $ 400 millions without taking into account the writing-off of debts totalling over the post-Brussels Summit decade billions of dollars.

Russia has been permanently increasing its financing of food aid programs. Starting from the year 2010, Russia’s annual contribution to the World Food Program has increased up to  $ 20 millions and if one takes into account emergency aid granted in installments it has amounted to $ 30 millions.

Russia has been also contributing to strengthening LDCs international trade potential. A special preferential regime has been applied to imports from these states thus supporting the development of LDC’s traditional natural exports of industrial, crafts and agricultural production. Besides, Russia renders support to the LDCs through having contributed to the World Bank’s programs of support to the vulnerable economies $ 250 millions during 2009-2010 years.

The Russian Federation has reiterated its commitment to the goals and tasks of the Almaty action program to meet special needs of the land-locked countries. We consider sustainable economic development of the LDCs an important integral part of world financial and political stability and will continue in future as well to render assistance to these countries. Many of their problems impact our common interests therefore prompting us to seek solutions to them together with our partners.

It is truly a matter of pleasure and pride for all Nepalese that Russia is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Yuri Gagarin Space Flight in the context of the Year of Cosmonautics – 2011. What makes this date do special?

Yuri Gagarin’s space flight started a new chapter in human history. At the height of the Cold War it offered a new paradigm in international relations - that of cooperation in meeting the truly global challenge of ensuring the continuation of the human civilization’s existence in the universe beyond the terms imposed by Earth’s  fragile environment and the limitations of its energy and resource base. We are proud of the Russians that stood at the cradle of the space era – XIX century’s  visionary Tsiolkovsky who first advanced the theory of interplanetary travel, designer-giant Korolyov who initiated and brought to fruition the  Soviet space program, and Yuri Gagarin himself with his difficult war-years childhood and ordinary working led to turn a fighter-pilot background making him so close and dear to millions of contemporaries who will forever remember his simple but irresistible smile, embodying the goodwill of the Russian people, whom he so ably and effortlessly represented during his memorable tours worldwide as a messenger of peace and advent of planetary in real sense cooperation for the benefit of the whole humankind.

The breathtaking progress of science since then, in no small measure promoted by technical achievements of the space industry, has made it possible to put on the agenda of mankind the resolution of vital problems in the fields of information, communications, eradication of deadly diseases and enhancement of production capacities. Though, potential of science has by no means been fully utilized, primarily due to  limitations imposed by decades of confrontation and diversion to senseless and dangerous military pursuits of resources needed to eradicate poverty, prevent environmental degradation and rationally use raw materials and energy. Now is the time to discard vestiges of those outdated policies and rededicate ourselves to tackling jointly contemporary globalized agendas. The era of cosmonautics gives us an opportunity to review our achievements and problems and remind ourselves of the possibilities available in the field.

Russia remains a leader in space exploration. As the Russian Prime Minister Mr. Vladimir V. Putin said recently, “We have advanced technology, highly qualified specialists, unique production facilities and the ground infrastructure needed. Russia's satellite constellation includes over 100 satellites and will be increasing gradually. Moreover, Russia along with the United States and China are the only countries that have the necessary technology and capabilities to launch manned space flights. Thus, Russia currently plays the leading role in supporting the International Space Station programme. In cooperation with our partners we decided to extend the operation of the station until 2020. In 2012 a new Russian multi-purpose lab module will be established at the ISS and three additional modules will be launched by 2016 thus completing the Russian segment of the station”.

I would like to reiterate that by-products of space research are technologies used in telecommunications, remote monitoring of natural resources, weather forecast, and environmental monitoring. Due to them we are capable of doing much more than before to render emergency assistance to people in trouble like saving the lives of sailors and flyers or even bringing humanitarian relief to refugees and the people affected by natural disasters. At the same time still relevant remains the problem of preventing arms race in space and destabilizing “Star Wars” scenarios.

I would like to state that on all those issues there is a great measure of coincidence of positions between Russia and Nepal making it possible for our countries to interact productively in international fora. I believe that with the passage of time we may be cooperating more specifically in space research itself - after all, it is not for nothing that some Russian spacemen used to recall the way the highest mountains in the world – the Himalayas – looked from space, maybe because an ever-present human striving to move closer to stars, the mysterious abode of supposed clues to destinies of mankind, was that much earlier and easier realized by ascending their snow-covered peaks giving birth in the process to the treasurehood of spirituality and crafts forming the foundations of the ancient Nepalese civilization.

What message does Your Excellency wish to convey to the people of Nepal and Russia on the occasion of the National Day of the Russian Federation?

On the occasion of the Day of Russia I would like to extend my congratulations to all the Russian people staying in Nepal as well as to our numerous friends in this country and express my sincere gratitude to them for their feelings of friendship and gestures of support the Russian Embassy in Nepal has invariably received throughout the history of our diplomatic relations. It is due to these feelings of mutual sympathy and understanding, which have evolved over the half a century of our cooperation and got deeply rooted among various strata of the Nepalese people, that we have been able despite the challenges of domestic transition in both the countries 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 nations.

I wish the friendly people of the Himalayan Republic early resolution of complicated problems of building democratic statehood the country is coping with at this historic juncture and every success in establishing foundations for the future prosperous and stable independent Nepal. I am convinced that together we will sooner achieve more substantial progress in the establishment of a new more just and equitable world order essential for peace and well-being of mankind.

The upcoming 55th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations between Nepal and Russia has been recently marked at the Russian Center of Science & Culture (RCSC) by holding a special talk programme on “Russian foreign policy in the context of Nepal-Russia relations”. The event was jointly organized by the Russian Embassy in Kathmandu and the Nepal Council of World Affairs and Institute of World Affairs. To learn more visit http://www.nepal.mid.ru/press/2011_14.htm