Exclusive Interview with Mahesh Raj Dahal, Outgoing Ambassador of  Nepal to Australia

Mahesh Raj Dahal Outgoing Ambassador of Nepal to Australia
His Excellency Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal, Outgoing Ambassador of Nepal to Australia

After 21 months in his office, the ambassador of Nepal to Australia His Excellency Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal is returning to Nepal. His ambassadorial duties are said to be successful.

His Excellency Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal, as the Ambassador-designate of Nepal to Australia, arrived in Canberra on 9th November 2019 and undertook his official duty at the Embassy.

H.E. Dahal called on the Governor-General, the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) and he highlighted on the various aspects of bilateral relations between Nepal and Australia

Nepalese media in Australia wrote that several fond farewells were being held for the Nepalese Ambassador to Australia His Excellency Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal in appreciation of his remarkable contributions to the Nepalese diaspora in Australia during his tenure (2019-21). He has been busy acknowledging the fond farewells thankfully offered to him by the Nepalese community.

His tenure saw some of remarkable accomplishments. It included building, maintaining and strengthening the relationships and promoting bilateral interest. His 2 years term of service has been widely regarded as remarkably successful for his contributions to developing the relationship and enhancing the cooperation between Nepal and Australia.

He always tried to justify the Nepalese attitude that it values Australian people in building the close people to people link between Nepal and Australia. He has been acclaimed for playing active and prominent role in promoting the bonding between these two countries. He is appreciated for his performance in furthering the progress of Nepalese communities and promoting social harmony in Australia.

Despite his short timeline, he had a series of significant and impactful discussions, regarded as distinguished milestones, with the high-ranking Australian government officials about strengthening cooperation between Nepal and Australia and they are regarded as the pathfinding initiative which will have far-reaching benefits to Nepal and Nepalese.

Raju Manandhar, the editor at Nepalese Australian holding an interview with H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal

Nepalese Australian: Most of your tenure saw the COVID 19 Pandemic. What duties did you perform during the period?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I had a meeting with many influential Australian leaders such as Mr. Ian Biggs, Assistant Secretary, Afghanistan and Regional Branch, North and South Asia Division, today, and discussed about the current  COVID-19 situations in Nepal and requested for the assistance of the Australian Government to contain the spread of the pandemic in Nepal. To make the best of the stressful situation, we convinced the Australian government to arrange COVID-19 vaccine for Nepal. The Australian government reduced its aid to other countries, but Nepal continued to receive assistance in the field of forestry, health, etc. For the COVID-19 hit international students, we worked in the direction of helping them in their problems of rental accommodation, tuition fees, course deferral, etc. We worked with NRNA, Australia, FENCA and valued stakeholders of our community to appeal the Australian government which resulted in providing $ 7 million to Nepal for the purchase of essential equipment. The embassy’s role in the arrangement of the repartition flights in coordination with the community organisations was also much appreciated.

Nepalese Australian: During the pandemic were there any worthwhile webinars organised by the Embassy?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: The Embassy of Nepal, Canberra in collaboration with the Honorary Consulates-General/Consulates of Nepal, organised a comprehensive webinar to explore trade and investment opportunities between Nepal and Australia in the post-COVID-19 context and on Diaspora Engagement for Higher Education in Nepal: Exploring Possibilities of Collaboration.

Nepalese Australian: What was your significant diplomatic visit to  Sydney, the industrial capital of Australia?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: During my official visit to New South Wales, I had a meeting with the Hon Tom Bathurst AC, Chief Justice of New South Wales and other high-ranking officials and discussed about high level visits, promoting bilateral trade, investment, establishing sister city relations, and direct air connectivity, etc. We also talked about the challenges posed by COVID-19 and looked forward to mutual cooperation in the post-COVID context.

His Excellency Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal having a meeting with ( H.E. the Hon Margaret Beazely AC QC, Governor of New South Wales) 

Nepalese Australian: What was your experience in the field of mental health of the Nepalese community in Australia?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I had a very constructive interaction with the executive members of Australian Nepalese Medical and Dental Association (ANMDA) on various health-related matters of Nepali community members including Nepali international students in Australia.We are proud to work collaboratively with ANMDA which is planning to set up a medical team in every state to extend their services. The embassy is willing to work with ANMDA to address health-related issues prevalent among Nepali community members including students.

Nepalese Australian: There has not been Nepal’s own embassy post-Panchayat Polity. Can you update us on the story of ‘Nepal House’-Embassy Buildings in Canberra?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: Owning an embassy building would be much expensive. The embassy invited tenders for the building design and the final copy will be ready in a month for the final approval and we are committed to completing the building in 18 months to 2 years. In a fairway and at a competitive price, we have finalized the building contract.

Nepalese Australian: Nepal, like Australia, is a multicultural country. Our community has sacred commitment to the values of multiculturalism. Many different multicultural festivals are held annually in Australia in different months and states to celebrate cultural diversity. Can you share your experience with multiculturalism engagement in Australia?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal:  I had a meeting with Lord Mayor Councillor Anna M. Reynolds of City of Hobart, Tasmania on the same day; and discussed about establishing sister city relationship between Hobart and Jiri, promoting Visit Nepal 2020 in Hobart, and Nepali diaspora in Tasmania. Multicultural Council of Tasmania (MCOT) is hosted a Multicultural Festival at the Hobart Twilight Market in February this year. We are very proud to share that Nepalese community in different states enthusiastically and impressively participating in multicultural activities showing mutual respect and admiration.

NepaleseAustralian: Are you much optimistic regarding the possibilities of direct air flight connection between Nepal and Australia and investment in tourism infrastructures?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I must say ‘yes’ as we have taken right step in right direction. The embassy organised a high-level meeting of the then Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Hon Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai with Mr. Jim Wolfe, General Manager of the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development of Australia at the Embassy. They discussed in detail on the possibilities of direct air flight connection between Nepal and Australia and investment in tourism infrastructures.In response to the Hon Minister’s request, the Australian side said that they will encourage Australian airlines to start flights to Kathmandu. Both sides agreed to explore the possibilities of starting flights on code-sharing basis as initial step.

NepaleseAustralian: Can you share your experience with the Nepalese organisations working for the welfare of the international students and your efforts contributing to Nepalese education sector?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I attended the Onsite Beach Safety Workshop jointly organized by the Embassy and Vision for Motivation (VFM) in December 2019 at Tamarama Beach, NSW.We requested all the participants to follow beach safety measures and requested them share the same information to their friends and colleagues. Our team made reliable efforts to persuade Australian INGOs and NGOs like Australian Himalayan Foundation to work collaboratively for the overall progress and betterment of Nepalese education landscape.  We also made some efforts to work collaboratively in the project of vocational education field. We have planned to work with Technical And Further Education (TAFE), the vocational education and training provider aiming to promote vocational education in Nepal following the popular model. The Executive Director of TAFE visited us, and we had fruitful discussion for our future plans.

H..E. attending ‘Onsite Beach Safety Workshop for Nepalese International Student’ at Tamarama Beach, NSW organised by the Embassy in collaboration with VFM.

Nepalese Australian: Sports is a source of national pride and it is the language that unites the community. During your tenure, did any remarkable activity aiming to promote sports take place?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I and my team attended the National Backyard Cricket celebration at the Government House yesterday. The programme was organized by the Batting for Change and LBW Trust to support education in cricket-playing nations including Nepal. The embassy worked jointly towards the same end with the leading organisations NRNA, Australia, FENCA, ANJA and other voluntary organisations for the overall progress of sports and other useful activities.

Nepalese Australian: What are some other momentous works did take place during your tenure?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I met the Immigration Minister and proposed to grant working, holiday, and agricultural visas that will benefit many Nepalese. On the one hand, it will fulfil Australia’s manpower and Nepalese will learn the distinguished agricultural development in Australia. We kept up the diplomatic channels alive and kicking even during the global pandemic. We undertook some ventures to make the international money transfers legal and professional discouraging the people from using the hundi to transfer money to Nepal. We also cooperated with the concerned stakeholders to give the international students quick and easy access to the required information from the educational consultancies and the professional service providers.The Embassy worked collaboratively with NRNA, Australia for the arrangements of repartition flights. Initiative was taken by the Embassy to activate Australia-Nepal Parliament-Friendly Group. I and Honorary Consul-General of Nepal to NSW Deepak Khadka, called on the senator for NSW Andrew Bragg, the co-chair of the group and earnestly proposed him and his team to revitalize the group. The other co-chair of the group is the senator for Victoria MP Peter Khalil. Though it was formed in 2009in the Federal Parliament, it has not succeeded to play an active role. The Nepal parliament-friendly group in Australian parliament will make an instant decision to lend Nepal a hand with easing and supporting Nepal during the major political changes, earthquake, flood, landslide, famine and at the time of foreign interference in Nepal, etc.  As Australia is a powerful nation in Asia Pacific region, the establishment of Nepal parliament-friendly group in Australian parliament will assist in strengthening Nepal’s diplomatic relationship at the regional level.

H.E. attending the session organised to revitalize the Australia-Nepal Parliament-Friendship Group

Nepalese Australian:Do you want to share your feeling with the Nepalese diaspora in Australia as you are leaving Australia finishing your tenure due to political turmoil in Nepal?

H.E. Mr. Mahesh Raj Dahal: I thankfully feel proud and would like to acknowledge the incredible sense of cooperation, understanding and consideration of respected Nepalese diaspora in Australia. Hats off to them for showing wonderful respect and support to me and the embassy. It is heartening to learn that coming together from different parts of Nepal they have been living here as a ‘Mini Nepal’ forming many distinguished social and valued organisations and sharing the common agendas of the rich country. They have contributed more substantially and meaningfully to Nepalese community in Australia and Nepal. I am truly appreciative of the valuable services of such self-motivated, public-spirited and good-meaning societies. I would like to remain connected with the inspiring, vibrant, and dynamic diaspora in one way or another.