On March 3, Nepal along with 141 countries voted in favor of a resolution that ‘deplores in the strongest terms the aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.’
Five countries voted against the motion, while 25 countries remained absent. Nepal’s voting led to a souring of the relationship between Kathmandu and Moscow. Immediately, Russia through public and diplomatic channels expressed its displeasure. Domestic opinions were also divided over the government’s position on the Russia-Ukraine war.
“We condemned the attack on Feb 24 and voted in the UN as well, and our position remains the same but there is a realization that we need to restore our cordial ties with Moscow,” says a senior Foreign Ministry source.
Despite the Kremlin’s displeasure, the official says, Nepal is still on Russia’s friendly list. He goes on to claim that Vladimir Putin himself places high importance to Nepal.
Milan Kumar Tuladhar, Nepal’s newly appointed ambassador to Russia, says though Nepal’s position with respect to the Ukraine conflict did not go down very well in Moscow, “our long-standing ties with Russia need to be further developed for our own benefit.”
Tuladhar has extended an invitation to Putin to visit Nepal in 2023 when the Russian leader is scheduled to visit India.
At a time when European and western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia, the Kremlin is keen to deepen ties with Asian countries, which could provide an opportunity for Nepal as well, say officials.
South Asian countries like India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have already started to expand their areas of cooperation with Russia.
Ambassador Tuladhar says this is the right opportunity to deepen collaboration with Moscow in areas such as tourism, trade, and investment.
“Over the past few years, Nepal is facing a chronic problem with fertilizer and we can easily seal a deal on it with Russia to overcome the crisis, says Tuladhar.” “Tourism is another vital area where the two countries can cooperate.”