Dr Narad Nath Bharadawaj, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar
By Usha Wagle Gautam
Dr Narad Nath Bharadawaj, Nepal’s ambassador to Qatar, has seen his career take on the roles of a politician, journalist and academician before turning ambassador.
In his early years, he worked as reporter for The Kathmandu Post, the largest national English daily of Nepal; served as the associate editor of another English daily, The Everest Herald; worked as the news adviser of the government-owned Radio Nepal as well as the Chairman and General Manager of a state-owned media institution — Gorkhapatra Corporation.
He earned PhD in History from Tribhuvan University, and worked as an associate professor at the university’s Central Department of History. He has participated in various international platforms organised in China, USA, India and Thailand on multiple contemporary issues.
Bharadawaj has published over 500 opinion pieces on contemporary politics, history and international relations in several Nepali and English language newspapers and magazines, and has written or co-written half a dozen of books and research papers on history, ethnic studies and peace building.
He was decorated with Nepal Vidhya Bhushan ‘A’— an honour given for academic excellence by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari of Nepal. He was also conferred with the Puspalal Memorial National Award for his contribution in the history of Nepal.
Community caught up with the ambassador to talk about a range of issues.
How do you view the Nepalese expat community and the migrant workers in Qatar?
The Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare of Qatar has enacted sweeping legal measures with a view to bring the labour market within the framework of national laws, provisions of ILO Convention and the standard of international human rights. Some of the old practices like the kafala employment practice and the requirement of exit permit from employers for the workers to be able to return home have been done away with.
In the same vein, no objection certificate from the employers which was a must for workers to be able to change jobs in case they found better opportunities has also been exempted. These are epoch-making measures and have brought the employer-employee relationship within the broad framework of accountability.
The Government of Qatar has made it mandatory for employing companies to transfer the salary of the workers in their bank account within seven days of the end of the working month. This has provided workers security against delayed or partial payment.
What are your expectations of the bilateral relationship? What would you want to achieve by the end of your tenure?
Nepal and Qatar have been great friends since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1977; their friendship has withstood the test of time. Both the countries have firmly adhered to the Charter of the United Nations, Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and ideals of non-alignment and supported national liberation and democratic movements of the people.
Nepal and Qatar do not have any outstanding issues to sort out. About 340,000 Nepalese are engaged in the ongoing national construction campaign of Qatar. Similarly, Qatar, too, has highly appreciated the contribution of the Nepali workers in its economic transformation.
The Nepalese look up to Qatar and are thankful for its generous assistance during post-earthquake relief and rehabilitation in Nepal in 2015. We are confident that the co-operative engagement between the two countries will be further expanded in the days to come.
In recent years, the engagement between the two countries has greatly increased. High-level visits have taken place to each other’s countries.
From now onward, we will prioritise economic diplomacy focusing on investment and entrepreneurship. As for your curiosity as to what I would hope to achieve by the end of my tenure, it is always difficult to quantify achievements and accomplishments in diplomacy. But I am confident that I will work to the best of my ability to elevate bilaterals to a new level.
Have you come across any issues with regard to the labour sector? If yes, how is Nepal trying to solve those at its end, and specifically, how is the embassy co-ordinating to do so?
Most of the labour issues have already been settled and sorted out.
In some cases, groups of unscrupulous agents are bringing innocent people from Nepal circumventing legal channels by luring them with false offers of lucrative jobs.
In order to prevent such activities, a close co-ordination of law enforcing authorities and strengthening of monitoring and compliance mechanisms is necessary. The two governments have been in the process of consultation to amend some of the clauses of the Labour Agreement signed by the two countries in 2005. There are also suggestions to raise minimum salary of the workers on the basis of the current cost of living. I am confident that these issues will be sorted out in the course of the ongoing reforms.
Qatar is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. How optimistic are you that Qatari investors will go to Nepal and invest in sectors like agriculture, hydropower etc.?
Qatar has presented itself as a case of miraculous transformation from a moderately affluent country ten years ago to an economic engine of the Middle East today. We, as friends of Qatar, rejoice at the success of the Qatari government and its people. This has become possible because of the firm determination of the people of Qatar to build a self-sustainable economy under the wise and enlightened leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the Amir of the State of Qatar.
Nepal and Qatar are trying to build self-sustainable economies based on their own internal strengths and remaining open to external investment and transfer of technologies and expertise. Qatar has made tremendous progress in this field and has set the goal of transforming itself into a highly developed country through its National Vision 2030 while Nepal has also embarked on a journey to economic prosperity with a vision of building a moderately affluent society by 2030 under the slogan of ‘Happy Nepalese and Prosperous Nepal’.
Nepal is a country of approximately 30 million people consisting of 125 different ethnic communities. It is equally diverse in its geographic and climatic conditions. It is rich in natural, mineral and human resources. If interested investors from Qatar could invest in Nepal for the generation of hydropower energy and its subsequent marketing in India, China and Bangladesh, it could bring affluence to both the countries.
Similarly, Nepal is endowed with fertile land. Many kinds of food grains, vegetables and fruits can be grown in natural environment there. Qatar is essentially a food importing country. If Qatari entrepreneurs could invest to set up modern organic agricultural farms in Nepal and sell the agricultural products in Arab markets, including Qatar, it could benefit both the countries.
Similarly, Nepal has some of the most pristine and pure sources of drinking water originating from the melting snows and glaciers. If the Qatari investors could set up high quality drinking water plants in Nepal and supply it to China, India, Sri Lanka and Arab countries, the Himalayan water could go a long way in meeting the ever deepening water crisis in the region and the world.
Nepal produces good quality cardamom, coffee and tea. If the Qatari investors could invest in processing these spices and herbal products and sell them in the Arab world, both the countries could stand to benefit.
What do you think can Nepal and Qatar do further boost the relationship?
Nepal and Qatar share the same values and standards as the guiding principles governing their relations. They hold a similar position over most of the contemporary international issues. They have supported each other in times of difficulty. At present, these two countries have developed stronger bonds because of the involvement of a large number of Nepalese workers in building iconic national sports stadia and other mega infrastructures in Qatar. The majority of Qatari households are familiar with the honesty, loyalty and perseverance of the Nepali workers. Nepal is now opening itself to foreign investment and collaborative entrepreneurship. This shows that there is every possibility of the two countries working together in the future.
One of the sectors Nepal is really pushing hard at is tourism. There are prospects of attracting Qatari tourists in Nepal in high numbers for Visit Year 2020. How is the embassy co-ordinating with Nepalese and Qatari stakeholders or institutions to encourage them?
Nepal is a country where nature and life contrive to cast a spell of magic and mysticism. Its diversity is unparalleled in the world. It is a country of 30 million people, but there are 125 ethnic communities and 123 living languages. Its geography is so diverse that its lowest land is 70 metres above the sea level and the highest 8448 metres above sea level. In Nepal, you will find almost all kinds of weather conditions prevalent elsewhere.
Eight of the 10 highest snow-covered mountains of the world are located in Nepal. The second deepest gorge of the world, the Kaligandaki Gorge, is in Nepal. The beautiful lake city of Pokhara is just 25 minutes’ flight away from Kathmandu, the capital city. Tourism is the largest industry in Nepal. It offers unique destinations for mountaineering, trekking, white water rafting and jungle safari. There are ten world heritage sites in Nepal. If tourism savvy business persons or groups of Qataris choose to invest in tourism infrastructure or hospitality sectors of Nepal, there is a great potential for profitable investment.
Is there any data on the number of Qataris visiting Nepal in 2019? What you would like to say to the Qatari and other communities regarding ‘Visit Nepal Year 2020’?
Of late, the number of people visiting Nepal from this country is increasing. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulla al-Thani (Moe al-Thani) and Fahad Badar, both Qatari citizens scaled the Mt. Everest in 2013 and 2019, respectively. It is a challenge which many young Qatari nationals might take up in the future.
The government has launched ‘Visit Nepal Year 2020’. The goal of the campaign is to attract two million tourists to Nepal within the campaign year. The Embassy of Nepal is going to organise various programmes to promote tourism in Qatar, beginning January 7, next year. If even a small number of Qatari tourists visit Nepal during the campaign period, it will be a considerable contribution towards upgrading Nepal’s tourism industry.
I would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the Qatari citizens to visit Nepal next year to see the land of the people, who are so closely linked to Qatar’s phenomenal rise. Nepal is only four and a half hours away from Qatar. The Nepalese government offers on-arrival visa at the Tribhuvan International Airport and Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) offers 30% discount in accommodation.
There are over 340,000 Nepalese in Qatar and many have children of school-going age. Many Nepalese parents complain about a lack of a Nepalese school. Will the parents be able to send their kids to a Nepalese school any time soon?
The idea of setting up a Nepalese school in Doha is quite stimulating, but we cannot translate our ideas into reality if they are not based on hard facts. Before opening a school, it is necessary to make a proper research about the population of school-going students, cost of running, co-ordination with the education authorities of Qatar and host of other related matters. Still, if someone comes out with a credible project proving its viability, as the ambassador of Nepal, I will certainly help facilitate the initiative.
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