H E Prof Dr S Enkhbat
From a country where temperatures could dip down to minus 50 degrees C in winter, to a place where temperatures sometimes soar to 50 degrees C in summer, the shift from Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, to Kuwait City was a radical move for His Excellency Prof. Dr. Sodnom Enkhbat, Ambassador of the Republic of Mongolia to the State of Kuwait. “I presented my credentials to His Highness the Amir in April 2013 and since then have enjoyed the courteous hospitality of the country and the genuine warmth and friendliness of its people. With the support and cooperation of everyone involved, I have found working here to be quite pleasant and satisfying,” said Ambassador Enkhbat at the start of an exclusive interview with The Times.
A nuclear physicist by profession, Dr. Enkhbat, who is also a Member of the Mongolian Academy of Science, has spent much of his career working at his country’s Nuclear Energy Agency. Prior to his appointment as Ambassador to Kuwait, he served as Deputy Chairman of the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency and has represented his government at various international conferences around the world, including to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.
“This is my first diplomatic assignment and since assuming office in Kuwait, I have been working to enhance the already strong and friendly relations between Mongolia and Kuwait, and exploring further collaborations in all spheres,” said the envoy. As the only Mongolian diplomatic mission in the entire region, the ambassador has the added responsibility of representing his country and looking after its interests and concerns in all of the GCC states.
“Mongolia and Kuwait established diplomatic relations in June 1975 and though there was ambassador-level representation since 1995, from neighboring countries, it was only in late 2009 that Mongolia opened its embassy in this country and Kuwait reciprocated by opening its mission in Ulaanbaatar in early 2010. In fact, next year we plan to celebrate 40 years of fruitful diplomatic ties between our two countries,” said Ambassador Enkhbat.
Expanding on the strong ties between Mongolia and Kuwait, the ambassador added, “Since the opening of embassies the two countries have achieved steady progress in political and diplomatic relations, marked by high-level visits and the signing of numerous protocols, agreements and Memorandum of Understandings (MoU). High-profile bilateral visits received a significant boost in 1995, when the late Amir, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, visited Ulaanbaatar to express Kuwait’s gratitude to Mongolia for its support against the vicious Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. This was followed in 2007 by an official visit to Mongolia by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and, in following years, even as recently as August of this year, His Highness the Amir has visited Mongolia on both official and private visits.”
On January 2011, the Mongolian Prime Minister His Excellency Sukhbaataryn Batbold and, in December of the same year, the President of Mongolia, His Excellency Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj paid official visits to Kuwait. During these visits the Mongolian side expressed interest in developing collaboration in the mining, agriculture, health, education, scientific and other sectors, and to attracting investments from Kuwait in the exploration of mineral resources. The Mongolian side also expressed gratitude to Kuwait for a decision to increase the number of scholarships for Mongolian students. The two sides also affirmed their willingness to supply oil to Mongolia from Kuwait and to cooperate in exploiting nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.”
The envoy continued, “In April of this year, our Foreign Minister Luvsanvandan Bold was here at the invitation of his Kuwaiti counterpart Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. During this visit a MoU, on the waiver of visas for diplomatic and government officials, was signed between the two countries. Mongolia has similar bilateral diplomatic and official visa waiver agreements with 23 nations and full bilateral visa waiver for all citizens with 16 countries. We hope in the near future all Mongolians and Kuwaitis will be able to enjoy visa-free travel between the two countries. This hassle-free travel arrangement, along with the start of direct flights from the region, will greatly improve leisure and business travel and help promote the quick and reliable transport of goods between Mongolia and the entire Gulf region.”
Speaking about the need for enhancing economic relations between Mongolia and Kuwait, the diplomat said,”While we are quite pleased with our bilateral relations on the political and diplomatic fronts, there remains much work to be done in the economic field. Kuwaiti businesses and investors have plenty of scope to participate in the growth and development going on in Mongolia. It is true that on the government-level Kuwait has extended soft loans to Mongolia through the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development. Since 1996 these loans have helped finance various infrastructure projects, including the Taishir Hydropower project in 1999 and several road networks across the country. Also, in 2011, we signed a MoU between the Development Bank of Mongolia and Kuwait Investment Authority on increasing the investment and developing economic relations between the two countries.”
“Although government level loans and investments are welcome and aid in the social and economic development of the country, we are also trying to get the private sector in Kuwait to invest in Mongolia,” noted the diplomat. During his official visit to Kuwait in 2011 the Mongolian President had chaired a meeting at Kuwait’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry in which he stressed on the importance of promoting and stimulating Kuwait’s private sector operations in Mongolia. The two sides also agreed to exchange representatives of each other’s Chambers of Commerce and to organize an investment and business forum.
Detailing the investment and business potential of Mongolia, Ambassador Enkhbat added, “Entrepreneurs and investors in Kuwait should explore the challenges and opportunities in investing in the Mongolian mining, livestock and agriculture industries, all of which provide lucrative returns on investments. In this context, it is important to note that the World Bank expects Mongolia will have one of the world’s fastest growing economies, with two digit growth figures, well into 2015 and beyond. The country is also ranked 76th in the latest World Bank’s ranking for ease of doing business.”
“Mongolia is rich in natural resources, in addition to large deposits of copper, coal and gold that are beginning to be mined, we also possess large quantities of uranium and other rare earths that are highly valuable in the scientific, industrial and manufacturing sectors. Oil has also been discovered and we are currently assessing the quantities available; we especially welcome Kuwait’s expertise and technical knowledge in the oil industry. Mongolia is also a large country where agriculture land is plentiful and available for cultivation;products from animal husbandry, including leather and wool, from camels, yaks and the precious cashmere wool from Mongolian goats are other export-oriented sectors that could avail of foreign investment. The rearing of livestock for export is another area that could benefit greatly from foreign investments; incidentally the livestock are grown organically in an unpolluted environment, which makes it even more desirable on the international market.”
“During my term as ambassador I look forward to furthering mutual economic cooperation between Mongolia and the region, and to enhancing collaboration in education, scientific and cultural fields with bilateral exchanges in these domains. We plan to hold a cultural festival next year to commemorate 40 years of diplomatic relations between our two friendly nations, and look forward to continued peace and prosperity for the two people in the years ahead,” said the envoy in conclusion.