Tika Jung Thapa
Nepal Council of World Affairs/Political Analyst
Nepal and the then Soviet Union had established diplomatic relations in 1956. Soon after the disintegration of the former Soviet Union in 1989, Government of Nepal extended full and formal diplomatic recognition to the Russian Federation as a sovereign and independent state on December 28, 1991. Foreign Ministers of Nepal and the Russian Federation exchanged congratulatory message in July 2001 on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. They both emphasized the need for enhanced exchanges of visits and interactions at various levels for consolidating bilateral relations.
The Russian Federation has been extending important economic and development cooperation to Nepal’s development efforts. In the past, Russia’s cooperation in building physical and industrial infrastructure also contributed to accelerate the modernization process in Nepal. Similarly, large numbers of technical manpower is trained in the Russian Federation mainly in the engineering and industrial fields. Entrepreneurs from the Russian Federation participated in a big way in the Nepal investment forum meeting held in Kathmandu in November 1992 and a number of letters of intent were signed between the two sides.
Since then numerous bilateral meetings have taken place between both sides. Since 1992 numerous Nepalese students have gone to Russia for higher studies on a financial basis. In October 2005, the Foreign ministers of both countries met to discuss cooperation on a variety of issues including political, economic, military, educational, and cultural. Both countries maintain embassies in each other’s capitals.
There are several possibilities of trade between Nepal and Russia. In this connection a four member delegation from the National Trading Limited (NTL) led by Mr. Chandi Prasad Shrestha, Chairman of the NTL as well as Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Supplies, visited Russia on September 3-5, 2000 in order to explore the possibilities of bilateral trade. Similarly, a business delegation from the Nepal-Russia Chamber of Commerce and Industry visited Russia on September 11-14, 2000 with the same objective. Russian technology on Hydro Electricity and Light and Medium Industries are suitable for Nepal. In recent years, some private airline companies of Nepal have purchased Russian Helicopters for civilian purposes.
Besides, Russian Chemical Fertilizers and Metals can be available in very competitive prices in Nepal. Nepalese side can export carpets and tea to Russia. There is also a long-term potentiality in the field of tourism. Nepal is participating in some tourism fares in Russia for some years.
Since 1996 Russian side has resumed the practice of granting scholarship to Nepal. Most of the students, after being selected for the scholarship, utilize the stipend for their higher studies. However, request has been made to the authorities of the Russian Higher Education Ministry to consider the increment of monthly stipend of the Nepalese students who pursue higher studies under the government scholarship seats.
Since 1990 Aeroflot was operating direct flights every week between two capitals-Kathmandu and & Moscow. In 2001 Aeroflot abruptly decided to discontinue its direct flight to Kathmandu effective after January 13, 2002 showing the basis of a review of commercial viability and efficiency of its flight destinations. The Aeroflot authorities say that Aeroflot will maintain the right of Russian airlines to operate to Kathmandu and is prepared to resume flights if it is able to make the Kathmandu route viable. The Civil Aviation authorities of Nepal have shown flexibility on the Russian side’s points and have proposed for talks either to conclude a new Air Service Agreement (ASA) to replace the existing one or to amend some clauses in the existing ASA so as to bring it up to date.
Balance of trade between Nepal and Russia has been remained unfavorable to Nepal for the last several years. Nepal’s major exports to the Russian Federation consist of hand knotted carpets. Nepal mainly imports electrical equipment, industrial raw material, parts of airplane and helicopter and newsprint form the Russian Federation.
A joint venture in the area of gliding service has been operating with the financial collaboration of Russian investor. License has been provided to open an industry to produce generators under joint venture. Similarly, a firm has been licensed under Russian joint investment to produce computer software.
Agreement on the Abolition of Visa Requirements for the Holder of Diplomatic and Service Passports was signed in Kathmandu on 16 April, 2002. The Agreement simplifies the official travel of diplomatic and official passport holders of the Republic of Nepal to the Russian Federation and vice versa by eliminating visa requirements for a maximum period of 180 days.