At a time when Nepal and Israel are celebrating 55 years since the establishment of their bilateral relations, YARON MAYER, who has been serving as the Ambassador of the State of Israel to Nepal since September 2014, spoke to KESHAB POUDEL on various issues. Excerpts:
As Nepal and Israel are celebrating 55 years of establishment of their diplomatic relationship, how do you look at the present state of relations?
Well, since the establishments of our diplomatic relations in June 1, 1960, Nepal and Israel have been enjoying friendly and cooperative bilateral relations in many fields of mutual interest. The relationship is satisfactory for both the sides. We have accomplished many things in agriculture, health and education in collaboration with the government. However, there are still a lot of other things to do.
How do you see the evolution of Nepal-Israel relations over the last five decades?
The evolution is a friendly evolution and it has been growing. Along with the government to government level, people to people relations are also growing and they are also contributing to strengthen our relations. We are working today on several agreements to make our relations stronger. We are working on Cultural, Education and Science fronts between the two governments and on agreements on regular political consultations between the two foreign ministers.
How frequent is the exchange of visit that has taken place between the two countries?
In early days, we had a very few high level visits. With late David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel and B. P. Koirala, the first elected prime minister of Nepal, establishing the diplomatic relations between Israel and Nepal, some high level visits have concluded including late Koirala’s historic visit in 1960. Israeli President Zalman Shazar paid an official visit to Nepal in 1966. Similarly, there were other high level visits. Then, Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala also visited Israel. From our side, we have not had a high level visit for some time. This year we had a visit from Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. This was after many years and we are very happy to say that it has facilitated to the exchange of more visits for the future.
Israel remains the safest place for Nepalese women workers. However, the process of sending Nepalese women is reportedly stalled. How do you see the possibility to resume the process again?
We are working to allow Nepalese care givers in Israel. We are now working to finalize the agreement. Hopefully, it will be finalize soon and it will give Israelis opportunity to get Nepali care givers. For Nepalese women, it will open opportunity to work in Israel.
Israel has been providing technical support in agriculture sector for a long time, what is your impression on the current exchange of Nepalese agriculture students, who are the children of small farmers, under Learn and Earn, in Israel?
The project Learn and Earn is a very good program. It has been going on for the third year now. I just came from Nepalgunj staying two days while participating in the selection process for the next year's intake. We have a wonderful partnership with Sanakisan Bikas Bank. It is a good partnership between other various institutions.
Is there any possibility to increase Nepalese students?
Numbers are growing every year. We started from over 200 and last year we had 500 and there will be six hundred for next year. Then there will be more. It was started from 13 districts and last year we had 21 and next year the program is covering 42 districts. So we are trying to expand. From my impression about visiting Nepalgunj, Jhapa and Dhading and many places where students come from, one can really see the contribution from your own eyes. For a farmer who comes from a certain village, the experience of Israel can be changer. They can learn not only sitting in class but they can learn in the farm working side by side with Israeli farmers. He can learn the way of thinking to solve problems. This can be a major asset when one comes back here. When I interviewed some of the candidates and some young people want to do agriculture but they want to do in different ways. It is possible to bring change through the technology which is Israel willing to share and show that agriculture is possible even in harsh conditions of a country like Israel.
Despite such a long relationship between the two countries, how close are Nepal and Israel in sharing the global views?
At large, we do share many things. We have good understanding about the global problems. Nepal is a very important contributor to the peacekeeping operations in different parts of the world, especially in the Middle East. It is very much appreciated in Israel. This shows that Israel trusts collaboration with Nepal in common ideas. However, it is not always like this, including in the recent Nuclear Deal between P5 countries and Iran. Nepal issued a statement welcoming the nuclear agreement between Iran and P5. We don’t accept this agreement as Israel believes that this is a big mistake of those who negotiated on behalf of P5. This agreement gives Iran an opportunity to develop nuclear weapon in future. The agreement does not address problematic behavior of Iran like supporting terror, acting against Israel. Iran is involved in terrorism act not only in Israel but also her Arab neighbors. Israel is not only country objecting to this agreement even Iran’s Arab neighbors are objecting to this. This is an issue which shows we do not agree on everything. It is not that Nepal does not understand our concern. Understanding is there but it is not in full action.
As Israel is hosting Watec 2015 in October aiming to share its innovation and technologies, how can Nepal benefit from it?
It is not only technology on irrigation and drinking water. Watec 2015 will also address many water related problems. Watec 2015 will bring the technology evolved in irrigation, water treatment, sanitation and sewage. When I returned from Nepalgunj, I saw problems of water Nepalese are facing. There is a flood now because of monsoon but there will be drought soon. However, farmers still need water for irrigation. Nepal can learn a lot. As Nepal has so many rivers, there are many rivers needing to be clean and it is very important for social aspects. We have proven capability of cleaning the river.
How do you see Israel’s support during the earthquake?
As an indication of friendship between our two countries, Israel responded to the call for international assistance made by the government of Nepal by deploying search, rescue and relief teams as well as medical services through the Israel Field Hospital which was flown within 48 hours. Israel also dispatched a high level engineering team to Nepal to provide their expertise. Similarly, teams of psychologists and medical clowns provided their services in the affected people.
How do you see the mission?
First of all I want to give credit to the Nepalese authorities, government, army and police. We did send a big mission, largest one Israel had ever sent in such a crisis in any part of the world. But without excellent collaboration with Nepal, it could not be possible. I want to thank the concerned for this collaboration. As a friendly nation, Israel has been doing its best together with the government of Nepal to assist a friend in need
What is your impression now?
Suffering is still there and people still need something more. I am surprised to see the resilience and strength of the Nepalese people. They suffered a huge set back but they are very optimistic. You cannot hear any complaint from the people that they need this and they need that. People are grateful for what they have received and they want to make the country better and prosperous.
In what way can Israel support Nepal in the future?
Head of MASHAV –Israel’s Agency for International Development and Cooperation, Gil Haskel attended the International Conference in Nepal. We are planning to support some projects which will be based on Israel’s advantages like in agriculture and technology. We would support one or two places where we can share our expertise.