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Why is Russia keen to engage with Nepal?

Why is Russia keen to engage with Nepal?
Russia has submitted a written proposal at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, seeking to enhance ties with Nepal at multiple levels, from high-level political engagements to infrastructure development projects. The document, which was seen by ApEx, expresses Russia’s readiness to increase its assistance to Nepal and talks about the new areas of the cooperation between the two countries. The document was prepared on the basis of talks held by National Assembly Chairman Ganesh Prasad Timalsina with the Russian officials during his visit to Russia in April. Geopolitical experts say Russia reaching out to Nepal is part of its wider Asia policy of expanding ties with all big and small countries to withstand Western sanctions. Most recently, the G7 nations decided to put more sanctions on Russia as it continues to wage a war with Ukraine.

Nepal had voted against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but it continues to engage with Moscow diplomatically. Though engagement with Nepal is not going to contribute significantly for Russia to withstand the Western sanctions, Moscow has nevertheless stepped up its engagement with Nepal. Experts say this may be due to Nepal’s strategic geopolitical location.

Nepal’s Ambassador to Russia Milan Tuladhar says Moscow’s renewed interests to step up engagement with Nepal must be seen as an opportunity. Russia has shown interest in providing financial assistance to construct roads in Pokhara and increasing the education quota for Nepali students from the current 18 to 150-200, according to the document. Direct deliveries of oil products, direct air flight between Kathmandu and Moscow, delivery of Russian helicopters, construction of the Russian Buddhist temple in Lumbini and direct investment from Russia are other areas that Russia has proposed Nepal. If Nepal makes a formal request, according to Tuladhar, Russia is also willing to provide fertilizer to Nepal. Almost every year, Nepali farmers face a shortage of chemical fertilizer for their crops. Ambassador Tuladhar says Russia can address this chronic problem. Russia has also offered to resume direct flights between the cities of two countries to enhance trade and tourism. If there is a direct flight, the number of Russian tourists will substantially increase, says Tuladhar. Geopolitical analyst Chandra Dev Bhatt says Nepal-Russia relationship has a long history and cordial relationship since the Cold War era.  Now, Russia is returning to South Asia after 30 years, engaging with all countries primarily focusing on new geopolitical flashpoints including Kathmandu, he adds. Amid pressure from Western countries to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Chairman of National Assembly Timalsina visited Russia in April. It was the first high-level visit from Kathmandu to Moscow after the Russia-Ukraine war, and first parliamentary delegation visit to Russia after 2016. During the visit, Timalsina also extended an invitation to Russian lawmakers to visit Kathmandu. In an interview with Russian news agency TAAS, Timilsina said he was expecting to host a high-level visit this year by Russian lawmakers Valentia Matviyenko, Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the Federation Council (upper house of parliament), and Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house State Duma. Timalsena added that Kathmandu was expecting that the visit would help boost Nepal-Russia trade. Khadka KC, professor of international relations, says Russia of late Russia has adopted an appeasement policy regarding Nepal. By making some offers, he adds it seems that Russia is trying to seek Nepal’s support in the international forum.  Russian proposal

  •         Fertilizer
  •         Direct flights between Moscow and Kathmandu
  •         Russian helicopters
  •         High-level visits
  •         People-to-people engagement
  •         Increase of scholarship quota
  •         Cooperation in international platforms