By Reaven D’Souza
Ambassador of Nepal H.E. Durga Prasad Bhandari began by telling us about his early interest in pursuing a career in the diplomatic field. “From my school days I had the habit of taking interest in matters related to international affairs, in addition to the events and circumstances taking place in and around Nepali society. To be acquainted with international affairs was my hobby in those days that ultimately prompted me to choose a career path related to the outside world. I appeared in the examination conducted by the Public Service Commission of Nepal for Nepal Administrative Service (Diplomatic Group) and passed all examinations in my first attempt before joining the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1996 as Section Officer.
“In the last more than 26 years of my services in the field of diplomacy, I served both in Nepal and in my country’s diplomatic missions abroad. I participated in several meetings, seminars, workshops and conferences, both in Nepal and abroad on matters of bilateral, regional and multilateral affairs. I served in the Consulate General of Nepal in Kolkata (India), Embassy of Nepal in Brussels (For the countries of BENELUX and the Mission of Nepal to the European Union), and at the Embassy of Nepal in Islamabad, Pakistan (With concurrent accreditations to Iran, Afghanistan, Turkey and Iraq) in various capacities.
“Since 2019 April, I have been serving in Kuwait as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of my country. Through this career I received a good exposure, obtained opportunities to serve my country and people both from inside and outside Nepal. My job has also helped me a lot in broadening my knowledge horizon and enriching my experiences in relevant fields.”
Asked about any specific challenges he faced in his career over his extensive years in the diplomatic field, the Nepali envoy said: “I do not remember any specific challenge that I encountered during my previous postings. But serving abroad safeguarding the interest of your citizens; accomplishment of all tasks given by the country in a distinct environment different from that of your own country; enhancing relations with the host country in diverse fields, including trade, tourism, investment, employment and such other fields; protection, rescue and repatriation of own nationals in case of any emergency situation like sudden eruption of conflicts or war, natural calamities, spread of disease and others are definitely some of the common challenges faced by all diplomats, and I am not an exception in that. Looking from that perspective, I feel a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from my work so far. In my three-and-half years’ time in Kuwait, almost two years were spent dealing with adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic. Conducting rescue operations, supplying essential food and medical items to the needy Nepali workers, and coordinating repatriation flights for the affected Nepali migrant workers, as well as arranging medical equipment and supplies to fight against COVID-19 pandemic were some of the major accomplishments during that period.”
Speaking about his experience since taking charge at the Nepali Embassy in Kuwait, Ambassador Bhandari stated: “I presented my Letters of Credence as Ambassador of Nepal to the State of Kuwait on15 April, 2019 . Nepal and Kuwait have cordial and friendly relations both at Government and people’s level. These relations and cooperation are growing steadily to the mutual satisfaction of both sides. Kuwait and Nepal have remained good friends both at good and bad times. I found that all the government authorities here are very cooperative and friendly to the diplomatic community. I have also enjoyed good respect from the local people wherever I went in this country.
“The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Kuwait. The formal diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1972. A number of activities are being organized to mark this important milestone year. The Embassy has been receiving excellent cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other institutions, in all its activities aimed at enhancing the relations between Nepal and Kuwait.
“A good number of Nepali nationals have been working in various sectors in Kuwait. They have been helping in further strengthening the relations between the two countries and peoples. Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development ( (KFAED) has also been associated with some notable development projects of Nepal for years.”
Turning to bilateral relations in other fields and his endeavors to improve these ties further, the envoy said: “We are engaged in further expanding the relations between Nepal and Kuwait in the areas of trade, tourism, investment, employment and several other fields. We are also working together to have more employment opportunities for Nepali semi-skilled and skilled human resources.
“Additionally, Nepal and Kuwait have been working together on multilateral forums on issues of global and regional importance together with other member states. I do appreciate the cooperation and solidarity extended by the government and people of Kuwait in our fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Both countries in association with other member states are also exerting all efforts to enhance the effectiveness of Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), which has its Secretariat in Kuwait City, so as to promote economic interdependence among Asian countries.”
Expanding on bilateral economic relations, mutual investments, and sectors of the economy that would be especially appealing to investors from Kuwait, the ambassador noted: “Nepal is considered as an attractive destination for international investors. In terms of having the most favorable business climate, we are second in South Asia ( 2020 ranking). We are also continuously improving our business climate in the country.
“Nepal has an abundance of labor force with low cost of labor compared to other peer countries. We are situated between two large economies of China and India. We have optimized our legal instruments in line with international conventions and laws. In addition, our domestic laws and policies are private-sector friendly. Almost all sectors, barring a few, have been opened for foreign investment.
Energy, particularly hydropower generation, irrigation, infrastructure development, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) development, Agriculture, Education, Health, Manufacturing , Mines and Minerals are some of the major areas where we have been welcoming foreigners to make investment in Nepal at the moment. In Kuwait too, we have informed the same to the potential investors and individuals regarding the lucrative business and investment opportunities available in Nepal. The potential is high.
‘Although at present the volume of bilateral trade is not very significant, there is a huge potential for increasing it in the days to come. Nepali readymade garments, woolen carpets, pashmina products, handicraft items, Nepali agro-products like tea, coffee, large cardamom, ginger, garlic, spices, medicinal herbs, food products, and essential oils are some of the major exportable products of Nepal. The prospect of mineral water is also very high. With the improved connectivity between Nepal and Kuwait, as well as with other countries in the region, we hope that Nepali products will find a good market in Kuwait, as well as in other Gulf countries in the coming days.”
Moving on to the tourism potential of his country, Ambassador Bhandari elaborated: “Nepal is one of the best tourist destinations in the world. Nepal also has comparative and competitive advantage in the field of tourism in South-Asia region. It is a round-the-year tourist destination. The country is famous for its nature, culture and adventure. Out of 10 highest peaks in the world eight are in Nepal, including Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world. Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of biodiversity. Every year people from various countries come to visit Nepal for adventurous activities like mountaineering, trekking, jungle safari, rafting, boating, paragliding, Zip-line, bungee jumping, canyoning, Kayaking, hot air ballooning, ultra-light aircraft, and mountain flights among others. National Parks, wildlife conservation areas, serene lakes, perennial rivers, cascades, green hills, and beautiful valleys are some of the other attractions available in Nepal for nature lovers.
“Nepal is the land of diverse culture and geography. With historical monuments, ancient palaces, museums, Nepali arts and paintings, traditional music and dances, and festivals. The Kathmandu valley is also one of the best attractions for the outside visitors from the socio- cultural point of view. Pokhara, the city of lakes, is famous for diverse tourism products and activities including for its natural beauty. Chitwan is famous for jungle safari, boating, elephant riding, Tharu culture, village tour, One-horned Rhino, and for watching birds and crocodiles. Ilam and Bhedetar in the eastern part of Nepal and Bardiya and Rara Lake in western Nepal are becoming centers of attraction for the visitors. For tourists, there are myriads of places to visit and things to do in Nepal.
“After the improvement of COVID-19 pandemic situation, we have been making all efforts to promote tourism of Nepal with the local population in Kuwait through different means and have been in touch with the local tourism entrepreneurs, media as well as the airline companies. Now, the air connectivity between Nepal and Kuwait has increased. We have direct flights between Kuwait City and two important cities of Nepal, namely Kathmandu (The Capital City) and Bhairahawa, a city located in the mid-south region of Nepal. A Nepali airline has also started its direct flights between Kathmandu and Kuwait City. Almost all major cities of the Gulf region are connected with Kathmandu by direct flights. For tourists, we issue the visa within 24 hours of their application from the embassy. Visa process is very simple.
“Nepal is a destination for all categories of tourists ranging from low to higher income class. We have accommodation arrangements of varied kinds from 5-star hotels to non-star hotels, motels, lodges and home stay arrangements. Hotels in hill stations located in and outside Kathmandu valley are very popular among visitors. All major destinations in the country are connected by air and road transportation network from Kathmandu. I urge Kuwaiti citizens and residents to pay a visit to Nepal and take in a life-time experience. You must visit Nepal at least once in your lifetime.”
Asked about the issues he faced while dealing with the Nepali diaspora in Kuwait, the ambassador noted: “Local companies in Kuwait have been bringing Nepali workers to this country in different sectors, but not domestic workers. In the private sector, the demand for Nepali workers has increased significantly particularly after the improvement of COVID-19 pandemic situation. But the number of arrivals are not that much in comparison to the demand.
“The embassy is committed to promoting the welfare of the Nepali diaspora and has been providing necessary consular services to them such as renewing their passports, attestation of various documents related to their job, their stay and for other necessary purposes. It is better for the workers if they come with a certain level of experience in their work, knowledge about local language, culture and environment in the destination country, as well as the nature of the job and some information about the laws of the destination country. Hard work, integrity and discipline are necessary in all jobs. One should think about one’s own health and that of their family as well. The sponsor and workers should have very good mutual understanding and cooperative relations for the benefit of both sides.
“Currently, Nepal has banned domestic workers to Kuwait despite a constant demand for these workers among sponsors in Kuwait. It is not only Kuwait where Nepal is not allowing its nationals to go as domestic workers. For more than half a decade, Nepal has not been allowing its nationals to go to Gulf countries and some countries in South-East Asia to work as domestic workers. But those who had arrived in the destination countries taking work permits from the concerned authorities of the government of Nepal, prior to the imposition of restriction, have been going to Nepal and coming back to the destination countries to resume their duty. The embassy has been facilitating them in this process.
Concluding the interview with his thoughts on Kuwait and its future, Ambassador Bhandari said: “Kuwait has a very bright future under the visionary political leadership. His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince as well as the Government of Kuwait has kept the interest of Kuwaiti nationals at the center of the country’s political dispensation. The country is exerting all efforts to realize the ‘Kuwait Vision 2035’ plan on time.
“Kuwait has already made significant achievements in various fields, including in economic development of the country and promoting the welfare of its people. The ongoing development projects in various fields could contribute to further modernizing its economy and provide continuity to the prosperity of its people.
“Kuwait has also been maintaining a balanced and pragmatic foreign policy maintaining very good relations with all neighbors and other countries in the region and beyond. It has been developing its image as a humanitarian center and has remained active in multilateral and regional forums, and is working hand in hand with the international community. It has been providing support and cooperation to various efforts for the welfare of humanity and I wish all the best to its high political leadership, the Government and people of Kuwait.