Birat Anupam, SUNSARI:- Today marks the 44th Anniversary of Nepal-Qatar diplomatic friendship. Nepal and Qatar established formal diplomatic ties on 21 January 1977. Ever since its formal diplomatic engagement, Nepal and Qatar friendship has grown stronger each year, says Gopal Khanal, the author of Bhurajniti which is loosely translated as ‘Geopolitics’ in English.
Camaraderie built during monarchy era
When Nepal and Qatar started formal diplomatic relationship, Nepal was under the direct rule of the then king Birendra during the party-less Panchayat system. Likewise, Qatar was under the reign of Emir Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani. Qatar had formally supported Nepal’s global proposition to establish itself as the ‘Zone of Peace’.
Nepal’s first embassy in Qatar was opened after two decades of diplomatic friendliness. On 11 July 2000, Nepal opened its embassy in Doha, the capital city of Qatar. It was during monarchy era. However, Qatar, on the other hand, established its residential embassy in Nepal only on August 2011. It was during republican era.
Economic diplomacy: pillar of Nepal Qatar relationship
There is no economic match between Nepal and Qatar based on Per Capita Income. For instance, according to World Bank statistics of 2019, Nepal’s GDP Per Capita Income stands around 1071.1 US Dollar. Whereas, based on World Bank statistics of 2019, Qatar has GDP Per Capita of 62,088.1 US Dollar. Despite such an enormous economic difference, Nepal and Qatar are important economic partners. Nepal is one of the main labor source countries for Qatar.
According to the official website of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as of March 2019, 365,000 Nepalese expats are living and working in Qatar. Nepalese workers are an indispensible part of Qatar’s construction boom.
Nepal had signed a ‘Bilateral Agreement Concerning Nepalese Manpower Employment’ with the State of Qatar on 21 March 2005 during the visit of Nepal’s the then Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey. Subsequently, its protocol agreement was Okayed on 20 January 2008. Before manpower employment agreement, Nepal and Qatar had signed ‘Bilateral Air Service (Civil Aviation) Agreement’ on 8 July 2002.
Owing to such economic engagement, Qatar ranks among top remittance-sending nation for Nepal. Once a controversial law called Kafala has been eradicated in Qatar on 30 August 2020. This legal reform by Qatari Government, something extraordinary in the Arab world, has given optimism to Nepalese migrant workers in Qatar. Not only Nepalese expats International Labor Organization, a UN body, has praised the policy departure.
In spite of increasing economic engagement in labor migration, Nepal has huge trade deficit in comparison to Qatari imports and Nepalese exports. According to the official website of Nepalese embassy in Qatar, Nepal’s export to Qatar in 2018 was 378,649 US Dollars while its import was 7,948,448 US Dollars. There is not updated import export figure in the embassy page which was last updated in July 2019.
Increasing engagement both at people-to-people and political level
Nepal and Qatar are not immediate neighbors. Still, there is stronger bond between people-to-people relationship between Nepal and Qatar on varied levels. Millions of Nepalese have worked in Qatar making their own presence in the Arab nation. Likewise, Nepal has been a good destination for Qatari climber to make Qatar and Arab proud on mountaineering world. For example, Fahad Badar scaled Mt. Everest (8848.86 m) and Mt. Lotse (8516 m) on 22 May and 23 respectively in 2018. He became first Qatari and Arab to accomplish the task of climbing two eight-thousander mountain in the single expedition. Before Badar, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdullah Al Thani, a royal family member, has record of first Everest ascent from Qatar. He was atop the top of the world on 22 May 2013.
Incumbent Qatar’s ambassador to Nepal, Yousuf Bin Mohamed Ahmed Al-Hail has been a good diplomat in Nepal. His hiking hobbies to Nepalese hills and increasing engagement to people and community has earned wider praises on public diplomacy.
On political level, also there are series of high-profile visits from both sides, On behalf of Nepal, the first high-level visit was by the the Prime Minister Girija Prashad Koirala in 1998 and the recent visit was by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari in 2018. She paid official state visit at the invitation of Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani from October 30 to November 2 of 2019.
From Qatari side, Shikh Hamad bin Jassim bin jabr Al Thani, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, had visited in Nepal in 2009. Likewise, recently in 2016, Qatar’s Director General of Passports and Expatriates Affairs of the Ministry of Interior Brigadier-General Mohamed Ahmed Al Ateeq paid visit to Nepal from February 29 to March 1 of 2016.
Direct flights between Kathmandu and Doha have advanced connectivity between the two countries. However, the tourism connectivity between Nepal and Qatar is not realized on full swing, said Basudev Baral, a Nepalese tourism entrepreneur from Dharan. ”We have direct flights, we have hundreds of thousands of Nepalese expats in Qatar and we have good knowledge of Qatari language and cuisine”, said Baral. He added, ”Still, people based on Qatar are not coming in good volume to our world-class natural destinations which are mainly owing to Nepal’s poor preparations to lure Qataris and people on Qatar to fly to Nepal.” RSS
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