By Mohan Krishna Shrestha–I vividly remember, it was a balmy day in November 2005 in otherwise constantly hot weather. I have had a chance to go around cornice in Abu Dhabi city. Excellent road was flanked by skyscrapers in the right and Arabian Sea in the left. Drive was fantastic and enjoyable. But I never knew that a year later, I would get an opportunity to serve in this vibrant country in a diplomatic posting between 2006 and 2009.
I am so happy that UAE has decided to open a residential Embassy in Kathmandu and His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, honorable Foreign Minister of UAE, himself is visiting the country for the inauguration. These steps will definitely add much strength in our growing relations in the days to come.
United Arab Emirates
Composed of seven Emirates, United Arab Emirates was born 2 December 1971 after seven emirates i.e. Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujiarah, Sharjah, Ras -Al-Khaimah and Umm-al-Quain decided to make a confederatin. Abu Dhabi is the biggest emirate in the confederation and country’s capital too. It is said that Abu Dhabi holds much of the oil and gas resources of the country.
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan is the President of the country and His Highness Sheikh Muhammad bin Rashid bin Al-Maktoum is the country’s Prime Minister as well as the Ruler of Dubai. UAE presents a perfect example of the mix of royalty and democratic systems. With 83,600 sq. kms area, country’s moderate size as well as being in the strategic location, UAE holds great prospects for economic development and prosperity. Great advances have been made in these intervening years to modernize the economy. UAE is emerging as one of the wealthy and fastest growing country in the world. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are world class cities. As nature has deprived many things to make the country beautiful yet leaders have compensated these lacking making biggest, largest and wonderful engineering structures with unimaginable tastes. Classic examples are the world mapped houses as well as Hotel Atlantic perfectly made in the sea.
UAE holds a lot of oil and gas reserves which ranks 7th in the world and the country has been benefiting from their efficient utilization and harnessing. Huge financial resources have been redeployed in many sectors of the national economy. Country’s gross domestic product has reached a staggering US 641 billion billions as well as sovereign fund to the tune of US dollars 773 billion. Per Capita income of US 66,996 at (PPP) is also increasing per year. The government has been investing a huge financial resources in many social sectors to give a quality life to its people.
The country’s social and economic development has been developing as per the vision and guidance of late President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan who died on 2 November 2004. Sheikh Zayed is considered the father of the nation whose visionary policies laid the solid foundation for the making of a developed and prosperous nation. He engineered to redeploy the massive oil and gas wealth to finance the social sectors like education, health and building of the massive infrastructures.
Late Shekha Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan
The results of these efforts have paid off handsomely to put UAE in the world map. Dubai has emerged as a truly cosmopolitan city where nationals from 222 countries converge for sight-seeing and business. Similarly Abu Dhabi has emerged as a truly modern and vibrant city and as a center of aesthetic beauty and great learning.
UAE is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council and in recent years, she is playing an important role to establish peace and stability in the world. People find UAE more lenient in policies and hospitable for foreigners. Country’s total population is 9.2 million. Out of this figure only 1.4 million are UAE natives while 7.8 million are expatriates. Hence, native population is being dwarfed by a huge foreigners population. Yet the country’s administration is in the firm hand of the UAE rulers. Dubai has been emerging as a truly international city with people from almost all quarters of the world. UAE has also expanding wings in the international area with more business activities. Service sector has made a leap in recent years. Emirates Airlines, started with two small borrowed planes, has become world’s top airline in 4/5 decades and latest Dubai Airport terminal made with an investment of 32 billion dollars is poised to serve 150 million passengers in coming years.
Nepal – UAE Bilateral Relations
Nepal and UAE established diplomatic relations on 22 January 1977. Nepal established its residential Embassy in Abu Dhabi in 2004. Similarly, the residential Embassy of UAE will be inaugurated today, 10 May 2016, heralding a new era in our bilateral relations. It can be expected that with the opening of residential Embassies in both capitals, our bilateral relations will gain new heights in coming days. Both Embassies should engage themselves to take actions to promote our bilateral relations. At the diplomatic level also, there have been many exchanges of visits at the government levels. Many Nepalese parliamentarians have had visited UAE in the past on different missions. Just few years ago, Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan and Labor Minister Saqr Ghobash from UAE visited Nepal on government business and both were impressed with Nepal’s natural beauty and warm hospitality. I met Labor Minister in Paris in 2013 and he told me much about his good impression about our country which, indeed, pleased me.
UAE’s much of the land are arid and it is rather difficult for any agricultural cultivation. It is, therefore, natural that UAE is trying to green the country as much possible. Nepal and UAE has good trade relations but balance is always heavily in favor of the latter. UAE has emerged as a top country in terms of imports.
Nepal imported goods worth 40 billion in 2014 which slightly dwindled to Rs. 37 billion in 2015. Nepal imports many types of goods from UAE composed of household and industrial raw materials. However, one startling fact is that natural pearl has remained one important item in the import list whose value in total imports remains about 80-90 percent. Whereas exports from Nepal is at a paltry sum of Rs. 301 million in 2015. This figures was highest ever so far unto Rs. 498 million in 2009. For Nepal, there lies much in store to progress in exports. Nepal’s agricultural produces which comes from cool waters contain taste different from others. It is in my personal opinion, therefore, that Nepalese products might have a good market potentiality in UAE. But, to achieve such objectives, Nepalese government agencies and private business sectors must exercise efforts. As Nepal and Nepalese people hold a good image in the country, our products might have a good market too in the days to come.
UAE is a favored destination for Nepalese workers. As of now, it is estimated more than 300,000 Nepalese are gainfully employed in UAE in different vocations. Both men and women and working in UAE in varied fields. Apart from workers, Nepalese pilots, IT professionals, bankers, hotel entrepreneurs too have got employment opportunities in recent years. Nepalese workers are being liked by UAE employers for their hard work, discipline and less troubles making manners. As a seminal step, the Embassy with cooperation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of UAE organized a Job Fair on 6 June 2007 in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Dubai. The event was graced by Labor Ministers from both countries and it was an event which was highly successful. This event also served as an eye opener for the employer companies from UAE. Visited by many high ranking officials and CEOs, the event provided an opportunity to portray that Nepal is not only a source of laborers, but for others white collar jobs too. Both countries signed a labor agreement on 3rd July 2007 in Kathmandu. This was a was a hallmark event to promote the welfare of the Nepalese workers in UAE and added further strength in the annals of our bilateral relations.
With large number of expatriates living in UAE and mainly in Abu Dhabi and Dubai city, any program to promote Nepal can be successful. We experienced this when we hosted a Nepal Food Fair on 7 and 8 March in 2007 at the Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Universal Exposition 2020
Dubai clinched the opportunity to host the Universal Exposition in 2020 A.D. Other cities like Sao Paulo (Brazil), Izmir (Turkey) and Yekaterinburg (Russian Federation) were in the fray. However, grapevine sources were agog with rumor that Dubai would be the ultimate winner. Diplomatic circles in Paris were speculating this in view of the massive preparatory works, huge investment and well orchestrated advertisement machine. At the election on 22 November 2013, it proved so. Dubai defeated Yekaterinburg with a huge vote margin in the final round.
Nepal also supported and voted for Dubai from the very beginning.
This Exposition will usher UAE into a new phase of yet another modernization. With huge construction works to be accomplished, it will surely engender thousands of employment opportunities. Nepal can also benefit from this opportunity. Rulers in UAE are very receptive to Nepal and Nepalese. Further, as a part of the deal, UAE has also made a plan to assist developing countries to participate in this world expo. Nepal can also derive a great benefit in this universal expo showcasing many natural beautiful aspects of Nepal as well as our other national development aspects.
Nepalese in UAE
Nepal and UAE are being linked by many flights. Air Arabia started the seminal flights between the two countries in 2007 and soon after Etihad also started its flights. Now Fly Dubai, an offshoot of Emirates Airlines, as an economic airlines is operating its flights. All these flights combined make the connectivity between our two countries more facilitated and easy which further boosts the exchange visits at the people’s level.
More than five dozen associations have been established by the Nepalese in UAE with objectives to promote brotherhood and their social and cultural values. They organize annual and other programs from time to time with wider participation. Further, Nepalese cine and other artists are also being invited to perform from time to time which enthralls the audience. In this way, while working hard in this hot country, Nepalese nationals are also enjoying their life with varied programs. It is noteworthy that in recent years, few Nepalese skilled entrepreneurs have started their own business activities in UAE creating employment opportunities.
UAE native people are very kind and hold genial dispositions. I vividly remember an incident in 2008 while visiting Sharjah. Confused with the road, we asked one unknown man who was just in front of us in the traffic light. He was going to fetch his children. But he abandoned his route and rather guided us to the destination we were destined to reach. We were so much impressed by the generosity of that unknown UAE man.
Nepal and United Arab Emirates are two friendly countries whose relations is based on true friendship, mutual understanding and cooperative spirits. There exists a great scope to develop our bilateral relations. A good impression about Nepal and Nepalese people exist among the top echelons of UAE rulers. While Nepalese also find UAE as good and prospective country. Both countries can benefit a lot leveling up their relations at manifold areas. For Nepalese workers there remains many employment opportunities at different vocations and levels. From Nepal, we need to exert much efforts to enhance our exportable produces. Dubai is also city from where our products can be re-exported to other countries. Nepal can also invite Foreign Direct Investment from UAE. For this purpose, we need present good and prospective projects to them. Abu Dhabi Investment Authority holds a huge foreign reserves for investment in foreign countries. We can invite many UAE and expatriate nationals to visit Nepal and especially on Nepal Visit Year 2018 just declared by the Government. Some experts have told me that even the torrential rains during our monsoon season might be an attraction for visitors from an arid country like UAE.
Happy note is that residential Embassies have been established in our respective capitals. This will surely facilitate to further strengthen our relations at all levels in coming days. People from both countries look forward to know each other better and deepen their mutual understanding. In this age of globalization, countries need to enhance their bilateral relations to bring fruitful results.
(Mr. Shrestha, a career Nepalese diplomat who previously served as Charge d’affaires a.i. in Nepalese Embassy in Abu Dhabi)