Nepal’s voting in UN does not contribute to bilateral relations
With the start of the Russia-Ukraine war last year, the global situation has also changed drastically. Geopolitical tensions are rising and there is a legitimate threat of global energy and food crises. After the war, there has been a lot of discussion regarding Nepal’s formal position as well. In this context, ApEx talked to Russian Ambassador Aleksei Novikov on a host of global and Nepal-Russia relations. Excerpts.
- After the Russia-Ukraine war, global security is becoming increasingly complex and uncertain. Geopolitical rivalries, nuclear proliferation, food security and financial crises raise questions about our ability to maintain stability. What is your take on it ?
The subject matter of this issue is rather complex; however, there are a few clear reasons why global security is threatened nowadays. Firstly, the very possibility of the dominance of one country, or let’s say, a group of particular states must disappear. I strongly believe that a truly democratic world must be multipolar and shall be based on generally recognized international legal norms, primarily the principles of the UN charter. Secondly, those who ignore these principles are not embarrassed by the fact that their actions are creating new risks, undermining supply chains as well as food and energy security. For example, the number of countries headed by the US who try to “contain Russia” and flood the Kiev regime with weapons is provoking the risk of spreading weapons around the world, which may lead to an outburst of international terrorism. Everyone should learn that every action has its consequences. We believe it is important that the UN, which has of late been fairly quiet in this regard, should act proactively and step up its efforts in fighting global threats without the double standards.
- Since you mentioned energy security, how can we address this issue ?
Energy prices have risen consistently over the past year and a half, which Western leaders purposefully keep silent about. This was the result of the policy of the central banks of the United States, Great Britain, EU states to print unsecured funds. An increase in the money supply naturally caused inflation. Price hikes were also triggered by disruptions in supply chains due to the coronavirus lockdowns in various parts of the world. The surge in fuel prices was provoked by the attempts of the West to unleash a trade and sanctions war against Russia. Europe has created a deficit in the market with its own hands, stopping the purchase of Russian oil and gas, as well as seriously complicating their transportation to third countries. Replacing Russian fuel, the Old World began to buy it from the markets of Asia and Africa, thereby giving impetus to prices. Thus, the rise in fuel prices is in no way caused by Russia's actions. Moreover, Russia tried to contribute to the normalization of the market situation by supplying oil to friendly countries at a 20-30 percent discount.
- What about the global food crisis?
According to the FAO, the Russian Federation is one of the largest food producers in the world, it is a significant net exporter of agricultural products. For instance, in 2022, Russia harvested a record grain crop of 158 million tons, exported 70 million tons of agricultural products and food (cereals, oils, fish and seafood, etc.) to 160 countries of the world. As of today, every fifth export batch of wheat in the world is of Russian origin. The Russian Federation consistently advocates ensuring the activities of the FAO strictly within its mandate and without politicization. Solving the problem of food security and nutrition for all is possible only through the coherent and collective efforts of the entire international community. In the agricultural season 2023/24, Russian farmers plan to harvest at least 123 million tons of grain; half of it will be exported. In addition, the FAO confirms that the Russian Federation is one of the leading exporters of fertilizers, the largest in terms of the mineral ones. We are also the world's leading producer of other types of fertilizers, with up to 70 percent of the Russian exported fertilizers going to the developing countries of the Global South.
There have been many accusations of Russia blocking 20 million tonnes of grains in Ukrainian storage facilities, but the harsh reality of that issue is that the poorest countries are actually being held hostage to the EU and Washington’s ambitions. For the EU, food security problems are a side effect of anti-Russia policies and Western attempts to protect its self-serving “rules-based order.”
The projects to export agricultural products from Ukraine, including through EU’s so-called solidarity corridors, proved to be a humanitarian sham. Fodder corn, not wheat, became the main export in this scheme. It is the EU that needs this commodity more than others, and became the main recipient of these shipments (only 3 percent of the Ukrainian part of the “Black Sea Initiative” went to the poorest countries). The Russian part of the “package” had not been implemented at all.
- What is your take on Nepal’s decision to vote against Russia in UN voting on Russia-Ukraine conflict?
Russia considers Nepal a friendly state and we deeply respect its people, leadership and rich history. As you know, this year marks the 67th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between our countries and I am very happy to state that since 1956, our cooperation has been built on the basis of mutual respect, trust and concern for each other's interests. However, some aspects of Nepal’s diplomacy seem to have changed. We got used to seeing Nepal as one of the most outstanding leaders of the non-alignment movement and the strong follower of neutral international policy. Not just Russia, but the whole world admired how perfectly Nepal implemented the Pancha Shila philosophy in its external policy. Nevertheless, the way Nepal supported confrontational anti-Russian resolutions during the UN 11th emergency special session does not contribute neither to relations with Russia, nor to the traditional Nepali approach in the international organizations. I sincerely admire the Nepali people, their honesty and optimistic attitude. Many of them told me that they supported and cheered Russia and its culture. During our conversations, literally everybody said how thankful they were for all the support that the USSR had provided Nepal with. And this makes me happy. I believe that we have many things in common. As we look forward, we remain committed to strengthening the ties between the peoples and governments of Russia and Nepal, to celebrating our shared history and achievements.
- Out of this perspective, how can Nepal and Russia work on the regional and international platforms?
The legal framework of the bilateral partnership consists of the number of existing agreements. Both Russia and Nepal are guided mainly by traditional multilateral international acts, primarily UN documents. Over the past years and decades, enormous changes have taken place in our countries and in the world. But the feelings of sympathy between the two peoples and the desire to deepen multifaceted bilateral cooperation have not changed. Our relations have a mutually beneficial ground and all the joint international efforts must be based on that principle. We have no tensions, our ties remain friendly despite all the efforts to spoil them. And answering your question, I would like to point out that all the future prospects of cooperation in the regional and international platforms shall stick to the same attitude as before—trust and support without relying on those who wish to draw our nations apart.
- Lastly, what are the new initiatives that Russia is taking to enhance bilateral ties including resuming flights between two countries?
First of all, Russia and Nepal are developing cooperation in infrastructure and railway construction. This August I had a wonderful opportunity to negotiate with Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Prakash Jwala. Besides that, we maintain active contacts with the leadership of the Nepali railway industry. During the talks, the Nepali side expressed its interest in attracting RZD International and other Russian companies for the construction of the Pokhara-Ridi road, East-West railway, as well as a project to build a light metro in Kathmandu. We are also working closely with the Nepali friends in hydro energy development, having preliminary agreements on the possible participation of a Russian state company “Inter RAO” in the implementation of four projects for the construction of hydroelectric power plants in the Himalayan republic with a capacity of 300 MW or more. We believe that Nepal is interested in developing cooperation in the field of electricity generation and its export.
Agriculture continues to be one of the most promising areas of cooperation between Russia and Nepal. There have been many meetings with the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock Development that contributed to the active development of contacts in this field. The prospects of Russian-Nepali cooperation in agriculture, in particular, the supply of chemical fertilizers were on the agenda. We are actively exploring the possibility of joint construction of a plant for the production of chemical fertilizers in Nepal and we hope Russian farmers will shortly visit Nepal to explore the possibility of creating greenhouse complexes, including their construction in high-altitude areas. Training programs for Nepali specialists in Russia and study opportunities for Nepali students in Russian agricultural universities are discussed as well.
Today young people from Nepal have the opportunity to receive free scholarships to study in Russia. Moreover the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia already expressed its readiness to increase the number of positions for Nepali nationals to study in various programs and specialties (including medicine and IT) in the Russian educational institutions within quota of the Russian Government for 2024/25 academic year. And of course, establishing the direct flights between Kathmandu and Moscow is of essential importance to us. Such a measure would contribute to strengthening cooperation in all areas.
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