Speeches and Interviews

Interview of the Russian Ambassador Dr. Sergey Velichkin to the Peoples Review
(Kathmandu, June 4, 2012)

Q. Your Excellency, on the occasion of the Day of Russian Federation, we wish to congratulate you and also extend our sincere congratulations to all the Russian people.

On the occasion, I wish to request you to shed light on the present state of Nepal-Russia relations. 

A. Thank you very much for your congratulations. After having been here for one and a half years I may confidently state that Nepal-Russia relations, which are based on commonality of values and interests and have a long tradition of mutual understanding, fruitful interaction and friendly cooperation are moving ahead in a very conducive favourable environment. It has been that way throughout more than 55 years since our diplomatic relations were established, and I may confirm to our Nepali friends that now as before goodwill and cordial friendship prevail between our two nations. Of course concrete dynamics of our cooperation are shaped by the nature of the most challenging transitional phase friendly Nepal has been passing through and I sincerely wish you all an early and successful completion of this prolonged peace process with adoption of new democratic constitution opening the door of a new phase of the movement towards prosperous, sovereign and strong Nepal.

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Q. How satisfied are you from the present bilateral relations between Nepal and Russia?

A. As I already said, we have a very good rapport established through the achievements of the past. We remain good partners in our common endeavor for peace - regionally and globally. We have been interacting on a number of issues at various international forums and we have some inspiring projects for the future. At the same time, I cannot say that I am fully satisfied because we could do much more. Perhaps, it is because of local preoccupations arising from somewhat cumbersome nature of our transition processes. The Russian Federation was for quite a while very much focused on its internal issues and than, for the last ten years or so, Nepal was immersed in dealing with a rather challenging domestic agenda due to which the leaders of both might not have been able to devote enough time to foreign policy matters of certain kind. Now, that the peace process here is entering its concluding phase, in which I believe the Nepali people and their leadership will be able to achieve success, one expects they will give more priority to the foreign policy, including enhancing in a mutually beneficial way relations between Russia and Nepal. 

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Q. Specially, what efforts should be made in further enhancing Nepal-Russia relations?

A. I think, there are things known to both sides which being in mutual interests, suggest a feasible immediate agenda. I would like to remind that the present stage of our dialogue should be probably considered to have started in November 2010, when there was an international conference in Saint Petersburg on the problem of Tiger preservation. As that was the prime ministerial level meeting, the then Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin hosted it and from Nepal the then acting Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal attended. On the sidelines of the conference which was quite successful, the two leaders also discussed bilateral issues. That meeting was very fruitful and resulted in a high degree of mutual understanding.

Last year, we renewed after a gap of eighteen years our consultations at the Foreign Ministries’ Joint Secretaries level. The meeting was highly relevant to the two countries' foreign policy agendas and confirmed remarkable proximity of approaches on a wide range of issues. In fact, we had quite a new beginning in terms of our foreign policy dialogue since the working visit of the then deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav in July last was also characterized by some fruitful exchanges of views and besides discussions were held on concrete bilateral issues, such as cooperation, including investment, in hydropower development. In this regard, the two sides have agreed to establish
a joint working group between the two ministries of energy. It is by no means the only field where we can develop our trade and economic relations.

An important memorandum was signed between the Russian Chamber of Trade and Nepal's Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industries in Moscow in July last year. I am hopeful the business communities of the two sides are going to benefit from the implementation of this agreement. This autumn,
a high-level group of our industrialists and trade people is scheduled to visit here.

We should accelerate the development of our cultural ties by exchanging delegations and performing cultural troops, organizing exhibitions from each other's countries. Practically we have finalized the contents of the corresponding protocol between the two Ministries of culture. It is probably going to be signed pretty soon. Though we only have some small and occasional visits from our country in this field I am very happy to state that there is a great interest among the Nepalis for Russian culture.

Last year, a very successful series of performance was given by the “Gzhel” ballet group and this year so far the highlight has been without doubt a most interesting exhibition held in the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Kathmandu on Buddhism in Russia. It opened up still largely unknown here facets of Russian civilizational tradition and our cultural heritage. We are a Buddhist country in the sense that three of the 83 subjects of our Federation are Buddhist by their tradition and history.

I think, besides other things this fact might help us to increase in line with existing great potential the tourist traffic between our two countries. We are working on restarting direct air-flights between the two countries. This is one of my priorities. Along with increase in tourist traffic here, I also hope, there will be more Nepalis visiting Russia as tourists as well.

Moreover, in the education sector also, there is a steady trend of Nepalis going for higher study in Russia. I am very proud of those sons and daughters of Nepal, who have received education in the Soviet Union and Russia, who are practically invariably highly qualified and most of them very active in social work. They are highly patriotic and dedicated to serving their country. These days we are marking the 45th anniversary of Mitra Kunj, the society founded by those Nepalis who studied in Russia. This year also, as before,a number of scholarships have been offered by the government of my country, but beyond that, people are going to Russia now for higher studies on their own.

We will of course continue exchange visits of the parliamentarians and also there are certain projects in the pipeline, such as developing exchanges in the fields of science and technology. To sum up, we have signs of our bilateral relations  growing in various dimensions.  

 

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Q. In the past, the former USSR had made remarkable contribution in our infrastructural development such as the industrialization of the country by constructing roads and by establishing industries. Our present day government is talking about economic diplomacy and joint-venture investment. As Russia is an economically booming country, whether she has thought about investing in Nepal?

A. I believe that there are indeed good possibilities of Russian investment coming to Nepal’s economy. However, one should proceed from contemporary realities of both countries. As far as Russia is concerned, one such reality is that at present it is a very much market-oriented economy with many industries privatized and pursuing their investment policy accordingly which implies that it is up to the Nepalese side to make prospective investors aware of the opportunities available here and, more importantly, to make these opportunities really attractive for our investors. These are the issues to be discussed during the already mentioned visit of the Russian business delegation this autumn.

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Q. You have been here in such a crucial phase. How have you evaluated your stay here?

A. All in all, I am satisfied with my stay which made me a witness to the  dramatic page of    Nepal’s contemporary history – a unique qualitatively new experience for the world in establishing peace and building democracy in a country of such diversity and complexity facing so many challenges of various kinds. Even though we have not yet arrived at the nationally accepted destination of the promulgation of the democratic constitution opening up the road to firmly establishing new sovereign, strong and prosperous Nepal, the progress achieved  has been impressive and leaves one in no doubt that you will eventually overcome.

I am also reasonably satisfied with further revival during this period of our bilateral cooperation due to mutual efforts of both sides in this direction. It gives me pleasure to feel myself among friends. My wife and myself are touched by numerous occasions on which we could taste to the full the warmth of Nepalese hospitality. Not to mention about the pleasure one derives from relishing breathtaking sites of your picturesque landscapes and inimitable treasures of Nepalese architecture permeated  with the spirit of ancient civilization and colorful cultural heritage.

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Q. It seems, the global political scenario is gradually changing. Again, Russia is emerging as economic power. In this context, how do you evaluate the Russian foreign policy?

A. Contemporary world is becoming more and more interrelated with focus increasingly being on the global challenges and threats common to everybody. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, regional conflicts and crises, international terrorism, narcotraffic, organized crime, piracy, energy security, climate change, environmentally and technically caused disasters – all of these problems are of trans-border character. They infringe upon the interests of all states and require consolidated joint efforts.

We witness a steep turn in history which  might result in radical changes of geopolitical landscape. Before our eyes and with our active participation a new multipolar system of international relations is emerging and we believe that Russia has to become one of the leading states of the world as a part of it. This system should be just and sustainable. It should be promoted through the cooperation of the leading states and integrational alliances on the basis of respect for international law.

Many events happening in the world today are a matter of serious concern for us. I mean the attempts to resolve issues at hand by applying force so as to bypass international law and the established decision-making  formats, including brazen violations of the UN SC resolutions as happened in the case of Libya. Relying on force is unrealistic in general and the examples of Iraq and Afghanistan prove beyond doubt, that it is impossible to bring about solution to problems at hand by applying force, though it is quite likely to further aggravate them that way.

Under the present-day conditions respect for the principles of democracy and supremacy of law should cover in full measure international relations as well. Any compulsory actions in the world arena may only be taken on the basis of the UN Charter. We will be resolutely opposing every attempt to undermine the fundamental principles of international law embedded in the UN Charter – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, non-interference in their internal affairs and peaceful resolution of disputes.

On May the 7th this year, right after his inauguration, President of Russia Vladimir Putin signed a special decree “On Measures to Implement the Russian Federation’s Foreign Policy” reiterating the continuity of our course in international affairs. It will continue to be based in future as well on the key principles of pragmatism, openness, multivector character, consistent though without sliding into confrontation advancement of our national interests.

One of the key Russian priorities is the Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, the center of global economic activity has been gravitating unflinchingly here  with political activity not far behind. Russia is seen here as an important stabilizing and balancing power capable of contributing to smoothening the prevailing contradictions in this part of the world. Unlike some other states, Russia has no need to ‘reset’ its relations with Asian countries or, to ‘return’ to the region. Over the last decade our country has become an indispensable part of all the processes under way here.

This year Russia is hosting in Vladivostok the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) which gives us extra opportunities to implement our strategic line aimed at incorporating our country, above all, its Eastern Siberia and the Far East, more effectively with the ongoing regional interrogational processes. Together with our Chinese partners we are advancing our joint initiative to build in the Asia-Pacific region a new architecture of security and cooperation  based on collective non-bloc approaches, norms of international law and indivisible security.

I would like to specially highlight the increasing role of multilateral diplomacy, including the BRICS partnership, wherein we are developing our strategic interaction with China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Over the recent few years it has emerged as a weighty factor in world politics. The BRICS is an embodiment of upcoming objective trends leading to evolving the multipolar system of international relations against the background of economic interdependence of states. We consider our cooperation in this format as one of the mainstream directions of our foreign policy.

An important form of multilateral diplomacy highly relevant for its South Asian dimension is our active participation in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Since  I am giving this interview on the very eve of the SCO Summit to be held in Beijing during June 6-7, 2012, it may be not out of place to draw attention to its impressive agenda, which includes a Declaration giving assessment to all the principal global and regional processes as seen by the member states; Draft Basic Guidelines of the SCO medium-term development strategy as well as the updated version of the Statute on Political and Diplomatic Measures and Means of the SCO Reaction to Situations Endangering Peace, Security and Stability in the region. The summit will approve the program of cooperation of the SCO member-states in fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism for the years 2013-2015.

It may be mentioned that this organization includes besides its founding members Russia, China and the Central Asian states also observers, out of whom two South Asian nations – India and Pakistan – are likely to receive full membership status soon, and dialogue partners, one of whom is another South Asian country Sri-Lanka. As before, Russia is supporting the development of peaceful cooperation between the countries of the subcontinent based on mutual respect of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other, resolving all disputes and controversies in the region through political dialogue between the states situated here.