An Interview with H.E. Mr. Andrei S. Budnik for the journal LOOK NEPAL

May I request Your Excellency to kindly shed light on the importance and historical background of the National Day of the Russian Federation?

Russia Day is one of the most important public holidays in our country. It is celebrated annually on June 12. This date commemorates the beginning of a fundamental transformation in our contemporary history. On this day in 1990, the first Congress of Peoples Deputies of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) accepted the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the RSFSR. In 1992, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation, the highest legislative body, proclaimed June 12 as a national holiday.

The national holiday reflects not only major democratic and economic transformations that began over twenty five years ago, but also the entire historical path of the Russian state which is constantly developing and has already existed for over eleven centuries. It aims to recall the origins of Russias statehood, based on respect for the traditions, languages and culture of many peoples living in our country. This date symbolizes the unity of Russian citizens, as well as the unity of our compatriots living abroad who still have a spiritual connection with their Motherland.

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

In the past 62 years of diplomatic relations Russia and Nepal have been bound by the time-tested friendship, mutual understanding, respect and trust. This ties are developing harmoniously and steadily on the basis of the principles of sovereign equality, non-interference in the internal affairs and mutually beneficial cooperation. Mutual sympathies existing between peoples of our countries create a favourable climate for further deepening of political dialogue, strengthening cooperation on the international arena, development of our ties in all spheres. Free of any discord or conflict, our bilateral relations are not susceptible to the fluctuations of the moment.

Russia considers Nepal to be a reliable partner in building a fair world order at which legitimate interests of all states would be taken into account. We highly appreciate the peace-loving, constructive foreign policy of Nepal and note the commodity of approaches of our countries on key problems of the present-day world. In view of ever-increasing importance of Asia in the Russian foreign policy, we believe that consolidation of our bilateral ties is important for maintaining peace and stability and meeting new threats and challenges to the universal security.

For the last few years a number of important events took place in our relations. In 2017, Nepal successfully held elections in municipal, provincial and federal bodies completing the lengthy transition period and paving the way to its stable development and prosperity. Russia on the highest level congratulated the Nepali leadership on this remarkable occasion. We consider this event a starting point for closer bilateral collaboration in various fields and strengthening friendly ties between our nations. In this challenging period we have been continuing to conduct exchange of delegations. In November 2016, members of the Parliament of Nepal headed by Rt.Hon. Speaker Mrs. Onsari Gharti Magar visited Moscow where they held formal talks with the chairperson of the Upper House and the Deputy Speaker of the Lower House of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. In May 2017, delegations of the Society of Cooperation and Friendship with Nepal and Russian universities arrived in Kathmandu to take part in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Association of Nepali graduates of Soviet and Russian universities Mitra Kunj. This function was attended by representatives of Nepali political and business circles, partner organizations and more than sixty members of similar alumni associations from Bangladesh, China, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Peru and Poland. I am pleased to note that we succeed to revive ties between our judicial bodies. In September 2017, a delegation of the Supreme Court of Nepal visited Moscow and was received by Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation Rt. Hon. Mr. Vyacheslav Lebedev.

On October 14-22, 2017 more than two hundred delegates from Nepal participated in the XIX World Festival of Youth and Students (WFYS) in Sochi. The Secretary of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Nepal attended the Ministerial Meeting held on the eve of the event. A representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal took part in the 1st Global Forum of Young Diplomats organized as a part of the programme of the Festival.

In April 2018, our countries held a bilateral consultation meeting. The Russian delegation was headed by Special Envoy of the President of Russia, Director of the Second Department for Asia of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation H.E. Mr. Zamir Kabulov. Both sides discussed bilateral and international affairs, reviewed prospects for strengthening cooperation between our nations and widening legal basis of Russia-Nepal relations.

We believe that the reservoir of our cooperation is still to be tapped to the full. It is our firm conviction that vigorous and reciprocal moves to translate our collaborative intentions into life in all fields of human endeavour political, trade, economic, cultural, etc. would serve our mutual interests. The Russian side intends to step up its efforts to expand relations with Nepal and to make them more substantive and result-oriented.

Russia is one of the countries of the world which has provided significant assistance in the development of Nepal. Does the Russian Federation have any plans to contribute to boosting Nepals economic growth and promoting wellbeing of the Nepali people?

The economic cooperation between our countries started in 1959. During the Soviet period we carried out a number of large-scale projects, such as the Panauti Hydropower Station, Birgunj Tools factory, Janakpur Cigarette Factory, Birgunj Sugar Mill, Kanti Child Hospital, a portion of the Mahendra Highway from Pathalaya to Dhalkebar and others. After some decline in economic ties happened in 1990s we succeeded to restore growth in bilateral trade. We even managed to retain our presence in certain spheres. For example, the Nepalese Army still extensively use Russian Mi-17 helicopters and keep purchasing them since they proved to be a reliable transportation in the Himalayas.

Development of infrastructure is one of the most burning issues for Nepal. We are always open to cooperate in construction of hydropower stations and roads. Our researchers are able to provide technical assistance in biomedicine, waste treatment, water purification and other hi-tech spheres. In November 2017, a delegation of leading institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and universities participated in international conference held in the Russian Center of Science and Culture (RCSC) and presented its innovations to Nepali colleagues. Besides, on the margins of the event the scholars of our countries discussed prospects for partnership between the RAS and the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and the Kathmandu University and the South Russian State Polytechnic University signed a Memorandum of Understanding. I hope that these steps will contribute to extension of technical cooperation for mutual benefit and technological development of Nepal.

Also, I would like to stress that Russia keep training specialists for the most crucial spheres of Nepals economy and social life. Our universities have provided more than six thousand young people from Nepal with opportunities to obtain higher education and academic degrees in engineering, medicine, pedagogy. Most of Nepali alumni of Soviet and Russian universities have come back to their homeland and work in their fields. Education in Russia is of high demand in the Himalayan republic, that is why the Russian embassy and the RCSC make every effort to increase the number of scholarships and quotas for Nepali youth. Besides, we work in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of Nepal to define the most preferable specialties to be proposed to local applicants taking into account demands of the Nepali economy.

What measures would Your Excellency suggest for extension of trade and commercial relations between Russia and Nepal?

Sharing of information is one of the key means of invigorating business ties between our countries. To increase the awareness of existing opportunities in commercial sphere different industrial and trade exhibitions, fairs and seminars could be the most instrumental. Such entities as Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Russian chapter of the Non-Resident Nepali Association should contribute to exchange of business delegations in order to reassess each others potential and build up mutually beneficial partnership ties.

Entrepreneurs manufacturing and selling Nepali products can find their buyers in Russia. Our customers are interested in organically grown tea, pashmina, carpets, medical herbs, ready-made garments, handicrafts from the Himalayan republic.

What are the opportunities for promotion of tourism between Russia and Nepal?

Among the spheres of our bilateral cooperation tourism occupies a significant position. In recent years, except 2015, the tourist flows in both directions has been increasing, and we expect this trend to remain in future.

Russia and Nepal possess unique historical, cultural and environmental heritage which attracts visitors from every corner of the world. Most of Russians arrive in Nepal for trekking, mountaineering, practicing extreme sports (paragliding, base-jumping etc.), visiting national parks. Other tourists from our country are interested in local culture and deeply rooted traditions, fine art and exotic handicrafts.

As a birthplace of Lord Buddha, Nepal attracts plenty of pilgrims. Every year a few Russians visit Lumbini to take a look at the Mayadevi Temple and other places. In 2018, the Russian embassy initiated a project of building a monastery of Russian Buddhists in Lumbini. These plans received full support of the Lumbini Development Trust, and I hope that the construction will be started soon. Upon its completion, the monastery will become an anchor for Buddhist pilgrimage from Russia to Nepal.

Nepali people usually come to Russia for studying, visiting their friends and relatives, sightseeing tours or business purposes. It is pleasant to note that air companies have recently increased a number of flights with convenient jointing on the route from Kathmandu to Russian cities. I hope that it will promote the growth of the tourist flow from the Himalayan republic to our country.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup will likely urge Nepali tourists to explore new destinations in Russia. Apart from Moscow and St. Petersburg, other nine Russian cities are hosting football matches. The geography of this championship is spacious and stretches from Kaliningrad at the Baltic sea to Ekaterinburg in the Urals. The cities have done an enormous preparatory work and are ready to meet and greet spectators from all over the world. Foreign fans will be provided all necessary assistance by lots of very well-trained volunteers. Not coincidentally, 2018 in Russia was declared the Volunteers Year since their assistance will be an integral part of successful conduct of the World Cup. I would like to underline that Russia have done its best to ensure comfortable and safe stay of spectator during the championship. Most of organizational issues were considered and solve during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. From June 4 to July 25, 2018, any spectator obtaining a ticket to a match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup can easily enter the territory of the Russian Federation without visa by showing his/her Fan ID and valid ID documents.

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

On the occasion of Russia Day, I would like to extend my cordial congratulations to all Russian citizens and compatriots as well as to express gratitude to the friendly Nepali people who demonstrated its goodwill and desire to support us through thick and thin. I am convinced that our nations will keep strengthening cooperation for the sake of peace and stability. I believe that the Russian and Nepali peoples should take a look ahead and set great goals for their countries helping each other to follow the path to prosperity.