Speeches and Interviews

Interview of the Russian Ambassador Dr. Sergey Velichkin to the Look Nepal Magazine
(Kathmandu, June 12, 2012)

1.   May I humbly request Your Excellency to shed light on growing relations between Nepal and Russia?

The relations between our two countries at present I would define as passing through a period of promising reinvigoration and search for new opportunities after several years of visible slowdown due to an understandable preoccupation with numerous domestic problems of scopeful historic transition in both countries. Last year - to be precise, on   July 20 – we celebrated the 55th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two states. In the congratulatory messages exchanged between the foreign ministers a remarkable similarity of approaches towards the development of traditional friendly relations  of respectful and mutually advantageous cooperation in various fields and active interaction  on a wide range of global and regional issues of common interest was visible with both dignitaries, while recalling with warmth and pride milestones of our past achievements, emphasizing their intent to further enrich and broaden the Russian-Nepalese agenda in consonance with contemporary challenges and opportunities.

As an example of the reinvigoration mentioned above I would like to refer to the renewal of the practice of regular consultations between the foreign ministries of the two countries, which were held at the joint secretaries’ level for the first time after an interval of 8 years in Moscow last summer, and the working visit of the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Honourable Mr. Upendra Yadav after a gap of 6 years. The exchanges in Moscow confirmed commonality of views of Russia and Nepal on the priorities and values of their foreign policy agenda aimed at promoting cooperative multipolarity and inviolability of international law.

Several agreements on exchanging views and experiences as well as visits of delegations, including for the purposes of identifying concrete fields and projects of cooperation relevant to needs of the two countries, have been initiated between some ministries and other state as well as non-governmental institutions of Russia and Nepal.

Just one but a valuable instance of above is provided by the Agreement on Cooperation signed between the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation in Moscow on  July 25, 2011.

We have every reason to believe that with the gradual but inevitable affirmation of the already quite visible trend for eventual establishment of required framework for successfully concluding the historic transition in Nepal we will definitely see further expansion of the range of institutional links and project-specific joint ventures in our relationship.

2.   Is there any plan, in near future, of Russian Government to extend cooperation to Nepal in its fight against poverty?

In Russia, we have been following with sincere sympathy Nepal’s efforts to meet the challenges of residual social complexity, economic underdevelopment and environmental problems responsible for poverty of substantial sections of the friendly country’s population which you have referred to. Obviously, it is only through far-reaching and well thought-out time-bound programs of Nepal Government, supported by the people and implemented through their mobilization on the basis of popular consensus, that such fight will achieve the urgently needed breakthrough, given sustained efforts over a solid period of time. Still, some aspects of relevant domestic programs involving, for example, the implementation of infrastructural and labour-intensive projects, if supported by foreign investment may be of great supplementary value. There is every reason to work for such investment to come from Russia, though, realistically, it is the private sector of my country which in contemporary Russia’s largely market-oriented economy may be expected to become motivated for participation.

As for the Government, its role in such matters in Russia at present is more that of a facilitator. For instance, a joint working group has been established between the ministries of energy of Russia and Nepal with the participation of prominent representatives of our big-time corporations to explore the possibilities of joint investment ventures in this country’s hydropower. Apart form that, the Russian Government intends to continue in future as well providing scholarships to scores of Nepalese students who annually go to our country to receive their higher education including in the fields of priority interests in terms of poverty  eradication programs. It seems to be a solid contribution if one recalls the truly proud record of our Nepalese graduates’ achievements in various fields in the span of the recent 45 years. This figure signifies the anniversary of the establishment of ‘Mitra Kunj’ celebrated the other day in Kathmandu with the participation of many outstanding professionals, academicians and society leaders who all of them have in common the distinction of being alumni of Soviet and Russian universities.

3.   What suggestions do Your Excellency have for the industrialists and businessmen of Nepal and Russia for the promotion of trade and commercial relations between these countries?

As it has been already mentioned above, a serious cooperation agreement between the FNCCI and the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry was initiated last year in the follow-up of which the two sides plan to have a high-power and representative Russian business delegation in Kathmandu early in October. My humble suggestion is that the two sides try and engage themselves in a good homework to prepare discussion between the visiting and local businessmen focused on concrete projects of trade and investment character in order to achieve real and tangible progress without further prevarication. As for the Embassy, we have been trying to do our bit having informed the Russian organizers on the basis of our research and analysis regarding what in our view constitutes the more promising fields here. But it is of course up to the Federation as well as to the Nepal-Russia Chamber of Trade and Industry to come up with realistic and attractive concrete suggestions.

I would like to share with your readers that answering the queries from interested or visiting Russian businessmen while honestly updating them on trade and investment opportunities here, I invariably take it upon myself to express faith in good prospects of developing profitable commercial interaction with local partners in the not so distant future with the resolution of current political issues arising from the complexity of ongoing transition, given the bountiful resources of hydropower and unique natural attractions the Himalayan Republic possess. However, I would like to be equally frank with my Nepalese friends. Without solid sustainable progress in establishing genuinely encouraging investment environment it will be highly unlikely that substantial capital from Russia comes here, even while remembering my compatriots’ remarkable ability to dismiss many of annoying inadequacies which prove to be ever so often lethal to the implementation of investment ideas originated in milder climes.

 

4.   How do Your Excellency highlight the foreign policy of Russian Federation particularly in relation to South Asia.

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 technology induced 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 a leading world power as a part of it. This system should be just and sustainable. It should rest on the cooperation of the leading states and integrational alliances on the basis of respect for international law.

Many events happening in the world today give us serious concern. I mean the attempts to resolve impending issues by applying force so as to bypass international law and the established decision-making  formats, including brazen violations of the UN Security Council 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 pressing problems 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 steadily shifting 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 integrational 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 resurgent objective trends leading to the evolvement of the multipolar system of international relations against the background of increasing 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 your attention to its rather impressive agenda, which includes the adoption of a Declaration giving assessment to all the principal global and regional processes as seen by the member states; the 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 also 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. We continue to develop our relations of privileged strategic partnership with India while having upgraded during the last few years our cooperation with each of the rest of the South Asian countries bilaterally.

5.   What should Nepal and Russian Federation do for increasing the number of tourists coming to Nepal from Russia?

Judging by the statistics, over the last several years there has been a steady growth in the number of Russian tourists visiting this country. However, compared to the dynamics visible elsewhere, we are still very far from making Nepal a privileged destination it deserves to be for Russians with their known preferences for mountaineering, adventure sports and oriental exotics on par with Turkey, Egypt or your neighbour India or recently ‘discovered’ Sri-Lanka. A large problem remains the absence of direct airflight between Moscow and Kathmandu, for the resumption of which this Embassy has been tirelessly working all this time. However, it seems that additional efforts to promote the awareness of the traditional attractions of Nepal from the Nepalese side would be quite in order. It think it might help if the tourist sector on this country were to borrow from the experience accumulated by their colleagues in the states I already mentioned, especially Sri-Lanka since that country is at least similarly distanced from Russia and had to establish itself as a tourist haven in a comparable post-conflict environment.

6.   What opinion do Your Excellency have towards the political development and situation of Nepal regarding constitution drafting and peace building process?

Russia is highly sympathetic to the strivings of the friendly Nepalese people for peace, democracy and equitably balanced and dynamic development of their country, essential for bringing speedy relief and social upliftment to its population covering every stratum, national and ethnic group in each area, nook and corner of your ancient glorious land. There are no easy immediate solutions, least of all imported ones, to be prescribed for tackling complex and interrelated issues of your transition. One thing though is obvious: a workable long-term positive solution, which will result in durable stability and the establishment on this basis of new sovereign, democratic and prosperous Nepal, is only possible through a peaceful, patient and responsible dialogue involving all major representative forces of the nation, provided that they exclusively prioritize national interest and demonstrate maximum flexibility, vision and ability of self-sacrifice for popular good. Russia is opposed to any outside interference, imposition and mentorship, especially the one based on double standards, while being open to share, if sincerely requested, its varied and mixed experiences with utmost respect for the judgment of the Nepalese, who are the only and ultimate authority to take decision in this regard.

Despite all the challenges, anxieties and even disappointing twists, I remain a firm believer in the eventual success of your endeavors for the better future of hard-working, resilient and proud people of Nepal.

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

This year the Day of Russia comes barely a month after the inauguration of our country’s newly-elected President, who for the first time, as per the earlier constitutional amendment, will have a term of 6 years. The highly participative and dynamic electoral campaigns of the preceding half a year have revealed the prevalent strong desire in Russia for change, focused on speedier modernization of economy, democratization of state institutions, more efficient struggle against corruption and crime, more people-oriented and transparently implemented policies to tackle burning social issues. It is these priorities that exercise the people and leadership of Russia at the moment most of all.

  I would like to take advantage of this occasion to express my appreciation to those numerous Nepalese friends, who have followed with sympathy and interest the events in my country and exhibited remarkable understanding of those, despite their limited and sometimes quite distorted coverage by the Western media, which sadly focused on marginal and less relevant exploits of a few of their perennial selected favourites, while ignoring the broad vibrant political landscape of Russia with its real big-time struggles, debates and politicians.  I would like to convey my special gratitude to all those who sent to us in the Embassy their messages of congratulations.

I would like to extend to the people of Nepal on this festive day my wishes of peace, stability and progress in their efforts to build a new democratic and prosperous nation, which are so consonant with Russia’s vision of what the emerging just, sustainable and cooperative world order, based on multipolarity and international law, should be, and assure them that our countries will continue to work together in future as well to bring about early realization of these shared ideals of ours.