Saudi-Nepal Ties To Trigger Strong Growth

RIYADH: Relations between Saudi Arabia and Nepal are poised for strong growth after the opening of the Saudi Embassy in Katmandu and the renewed Saudi pledge to extend aid and loan facilities for infrastructure projects in the south Asian country. 
“Nepal is also currently studying the clauses of a draft agreement to be signed with the Kingdom, which will facilitate deployment of Nepalese domestic workers in this country,” said Mahendra Prasad Singh Rajput, newly appointed Nepalese ambassador on Saturday.
Rajput, who gave an overview of the progressively growing Saudi-Nepalese relations, said that “the state-owned Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) has pledged to extend a SR30 million loan facility for infrastructure projects in Nepal.” 
“This was conveyed to me during my meeting with top SFD officials here recently,” said the envoy. He said that “we will submit some project proposals to SFD shortly in this regard.”
Nepal has previously acquired aid and loan support from the Kingdom for several infrastructure projects including hydroelectric projects such as the Marsyangdi one. There has also been extensive support from the SFD of the East-West Highway of Nepal project as well as its assistance in Bagmati I & II Irrigation Project in that country.
Asked about the possible date of signing of the bilateral agreement, which will allow export of domestic manpower including housemaids to Saudi Arabia, Rajput said that “Nepal is studying the text of the proposed labor agreement with an aim to safeguard the interests of its workers … we hope to proceed further as Saudi Arabia today is the top labor destination for our country.”
“Our focus is how to protect our workers,” said the diplomat, while referring to a special Nepalese panel headed by former Nepal Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Udaya Raj Pandey that is studying the draft agreement. He noted that about 400,000 Nepalese workers other than domestic aides have been deployed in the Kingdom so far.
He said that “the opening of the Saudi embassy in Katmandu has given a new boost to Saudi-Nepal relations.” 
The opening of the Saudi embassy has also facilitated the visits of Nepalese Muslims, who have been coming to the Kingdom for Hajj and Umrah every year. “On the top of this, now a strong and stable government in Katmandu has given opportunity for us to work more closely with the Kingdom to boost commercial links,” he said.
Ambassador Rajput said that Nepal Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada had presented a federal budget of $13 billion for the fiscal 2018-19 in the joint session of the House of Representatives and National Assembly of Nepal this week. The main focus of the Nepal state budget was on transforming the production sector and development of physical infrastructure.
Nepal and Saudi Arabia have forged closer ties since they established diplomatic relations on March 15, 1977. 
Economic cooperation between the two countries began in 1978 when Nepal opened its embassy in Jeddah. Trade, commerce and promotion of tourism are yet to be explored and tapped. Tourism is one of the key potential areas in the development of Nepal-Saudi relations.

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