Bahrain has long been known for its diverse community with a significant number of expatriates from every corner of the world. The Nepali community has had a presence in Bahrain for decades and has grown to over 20,000 individuals. The Ambassador of Nepal to the Kingdom of Bahrain, His Excellency Tirtha Raj Wagle, has 27 years of experience in the foreign service and arrived in Bahrain in August 2022. He tells us about his primary areas of focus, his thoughts on the Kingdom and why Nepal is a great tourist destination.
Your Excellency, could you kindly tell our readers about yourself?
This is my first ambassadorship and I feel honoured to represent Nepal in the Kingdom of Bahrain. I have gained diverse experience working in the Foreign Ministry and Nepali diplomatic missions abroad. In fact, I was in this region 20 years ago in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from 1997 to 2001. At the time we only had one embassy in the Gulf. So, from Riyadh we used to look after all the GCC countries, including Bahrain.
Since then, I have had two bilateral postings, and two multilateral postings. Besides Riyadh, I was in New Delhi at the Embassy of Nepal between 2012 to 2016 as political Counsellor. And, of the two multilateral postings, I was in Nepal’s Permanent Mission to the UN in New York as First Secretary between 2005 to 2009; and most recently between 2018 to 2021 I was the Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations Office in Geneva. Before coming to the Kingdom, I was in Kathmandu at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Joint Secretary for the South Asia Division.
Approximately how many Nepali nationals are there now in Bahrain?
There are around 21,000. The Nepali community has had a presence here for the last three decades and since I was previously in Riyadh, I can say we had around 5,000 people at the time.
The majority of the Nepali nationals are in the construction sector while the rest of them are in the security and hospitality sector and general work categories - semi-skilled and low-skilled categories.
What is your primary focus here in Bahrain?
We particularly have an interest in strengthening cooperation in the labour sector, tourism sector and trade and investment sector.
At the moment in Nepal, we have semi-skilled and low-skilled workers. However, we have talented, qualified people in the IT sector, hospitality management at restaurants and hotels and in the nursing sector too. We can contribute to the workforce in these areas and believe it would further strengthen our bilateral relations.
Which particular areas do you think have the potential to increase trade between Bahrain and Nepal?
The trade sector between Bahrain and Nepal needs to be explored more. Potential areas include the Nepal’s products such as tea, coffee, carpets, garments, handicrafts, jewellery (particularly silver jewellery) and herbal products for medical uses. We have conventional herbs, like those in India, available in Nepal as they have similar traditional knowledge.
We do not have direct flights at the moment and are working on possibly having a direct flight so trade can be expanded. We have encouraged Gulf Air to resume their flights, as well as Nepal Airlines and another private sector airline in Nepal.
Nepal is obviously a major tourist destination. How popular is the nation amongst local and expatriate travellers from Bahrain?
At the moment we are gaining more interest from Bahrainis as well as expats. Particularly after the climbing of Mount Everest by the Royal Guard team, many tourists, not only from Bahrain but from other Gulf countries too, are interested in learning more about Nepal’s tourism sector.
So, we are promoting Nepal as a destination for nature, culture as well as adventure. In terms of nature, we have wonderful biological diversity. As I just mentioned we have various plants, but we also have places such as the Chitwan National Park which has one-horned rhinoceroses – an endangered animal. On the cultural side, we have a very long and rich history and hence have a multitude of cultural sites. Finally, mountaineering, paragliding, river rafting, are some of the activities that adventure-seekers would certainly enjoy. These are some of the reasons why many tourists find Nepal to be a fascinating and memorable destination.
What can you tell us about the role of cultural exchange between the two countries and also upcoming community events arranged by the embassy?
In reference to cultural exchanges between the two governments, we are currently focusing on establishing a bilateral consultation mechanism between the Nepal Foreign Ministry and Bahrain Foreign Ministry. Through that cooperation we will explore avenues of further cooperation in various sectors.
Otherwise, we have a very significant Nepali community here. They come from different ethnic backgrounds representing a number of geographical areas of Nepal, and have established their community association here in Bahrain. Of course, whenever there are any festivals, they organise community events and invite the embassy to attend the occasion.
What are your thoughts on Bahrain in the brief time that you’ve been here?
Oh, it’s really a very welcoming society. In Nepal we have a saying ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ which translates to ‘Guests are like God’ and that’s the way we treat tourists and foreigners. I find that welcoming and open-minded approach here in the kingdom too. Everywhere I go, people are smiling and spreading very positive vibes – they are peace loving, promoting peace and coexistence. It’s the most beautiful thing here.
When I came here in August, I had the opportunity of attending Diwali festivals here as I was invited by some families. When I went there, I was surprised to see that everyone was there, including members of the royal family, friends, Hindu community people, other ethnic and religious communities - they were all enjoying together. I think that is truly beautiful in this Kingdom.
On a personal basis, are you here with your family?
I’m here with my wife and at the moment my parents are also here for short visit. I have two grown children in university; my daughter and son are currently in Bahrain too for their winter break.
What about your hobbies, Your Excellency? What do you do in your time off?
During my time off I enjoy reading books and sometimes book reviews. I also enjoy reading poetry which I find very interesting. Surfing the web and TV channels is also a hobby and I love taking walks in my free time. I also previously mentioned the community groups which invite us to events that they organise on the weekends. When I find the time, I accept those invitations and attend.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I appreciate this opportunity to serve as Nepal’s ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain. I’ve seen that the Nepali community are happy living and working here, and I’m truly honoured to serve here in a very homely, warm country. Also, with the New Year approaching, I extend my warm wishes for a very healthy, happy, peaceful and prosperous new year 2023 to everyone.