Shahid Ali Khan, Reporter, Saudi Gazette, English National Daily
RIYADH – Nepal is keen to diversify its bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia , as the demand for Nepalese coming to work in the Kingdom has increased during the past few years, said Hamid Ansari, Nepalese Ambassador to the Kingdom.In an exclusive chat with Saudi Gazette here on Wednesday, Ansari said Nepal established diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia in 1977 and since then his country has become one of the largest suppliers of manpower to the Kingdom.
However, Saudi Arabia is yet to open its diplomatic mission in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal . “We earnestly want the Saudi government to open its mission in Nepal , which will help a great deal in improving bilateral relations between the two countries,” the envoy said.
Secondly, he underscored the need for signing a bilateral agreement in aviation sector so that the national carriers of respective countries start regular flights between Saudi Arabia and Nepal , he said. He said due to the absence of Saudi diplomatic mission in Nepal teams from Saudi Embassy in Delhi and Dhaka visit for the endorsement of work visas for Nepalese workers coming to work in Saudi Arabia . “The non-existence of Saudi Embassy in Nepal is a cause inconvenience in a number of ways,” he said.
An estimated 500,000 Nepalese are currently working in Saudi Arabia in various sectors such as construction, hospitality, security and agriculture. About 2,000 to 3,000 Nepalese workers are recruited on a monthly basis, the ambassador said.
“Nepalese workers in Saudi Arabia have earned a good reputation because of their integrity, hard work and disciplined behavior, due to which the demand for them is increasing every day,” Ansari said. However, the envoy said Nepal is exploring the possibility of diversifying its relations with Saudi Arabia from that of manpower provider to areas of cooperation in fields, such as trade and commerce, tourism and investment destinations for Saudis.
“There is tremendous scope for improvement of bilateral cooperation between the two countries. For instance, Nepal is keen to develop hydroelectric power plants and the country does not have a single refinery. These are areas in which Saudis can invest,” he said.
Nepal is full of untapped resources and requires multibillion-dollar investments in areas such as power and electricity and railway and road transport, and in the development of infrastructure in the tourism sector among others, he said.
Lekh Raj Bhatta, Nepalese Labor Minister, visited Saudi Arabia six months ago and held talks with Saudi Labor Ministry officials on improving the quality of Nepalese workers in the Kingdom.
The ambassador said during these talks the minister insisted that Nepal wants to send workers who are well trained and speak Arabic. Both sides agreed upon the proposal but little has been done about it since.
Ansari said there has been a long pending need for exchange of ministerial level visits between the two countries. “Our government is keen to have Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal visit Nepal ,” he said.
“We also wish that King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, would visit Nepal . Such a visit would pave the way for further strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries,” he said.
He said so far the two countries have not signed any agreement and the Nepalese government wants to see the exchange of a high-level delegation to explore the possibilities of signing bilateral treaties in a number of areas.
Nepal , he said, is undergoing political changes and will become a secular, rather than Hindu state, called the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. – SG
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