Kathmandu: For Dawa Futi Sherpa ambassadorship was an uncharted territory.
Nepal opened its embassy in Madrid in January, 2018. Then the relevance of opening one more embassy in EU countries had become a matter of debate.
The first ambassador, Bharat Bahadur Rayamajhi, served there for only one year. After he was called back the mission in Madrid was run by an acting envoy. “So when I came here in November, 2019, it felt like we had to start all over. We had little relation and rapport with the diplomatic community and the larger Spanish community. It felt like we were starting a new embassy,” said Sherpa.
If her predecessor had got to serve a full term, probably he would have laid all the groundwork, he would be handing over the responsibility and things would be smooth for Sherpa. This was not meant to be.
Madrid is a home to 126 embassies, which are categorized under various groups. Nepal Mission falls under the Asia Pacific group in which there are 22 countries. So naturally, how Spain looks at the Asia Pacific decides how they respond to Nepal as well.
Sherpa took office in Madrid in November, 2019. By March, 2020, the whole of Spain, which at the time was Europe’s worst hit country after Italy, was under strict lockdown. Sherpa got no time for socialization and interaction with the Spanish authorities, business communities and Nepali communities, a prerequisite for a diplomat to build a rapport in a new country.
When the second wave hit Nepal and daily infection rates were increasing every other day, Sherpa was overwhelmed with the sense of duty to do something for Nepal and also the sense of not being able to do much. “How do Nepalis away from home feel when they see their country and people suffering? I had the same feeling,” she said.
Then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the directives to heads of Nepali missions abroad to do something about the situation. “I immediately rang up the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain here and briefed them of the situation in Nepal,” she said.
By May this year, Spain had sent assistance to India. As a member state, the aid Spain provided to Nepal had to go through EU mechanisms. “I repeatedly made an appeal for help to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Spain,” she said. “Then when the EU activated its Civil Protection Mechanism I started to make calls to the Civil Protection Mechanism officials.”
When the second wave hit Nepal and daily infection rates were increasing every other day, Sherpa was overwhelmed with the sense of duty to do something for Nepal and also the sense of not being able to do much.
Then on May 14, Foreign Minister of Spain Arancha Gonzalez Laya called Sherpa to express solidarity with Nepal in its fight against Covid-19 and announced that they would soon send help to Nepal. “It was a pretty exciting moment for me, personally. To be able to secure some assistance for Nepal at a time fellow countrymen were suffering and dying due to lack of oxygen support in hospitals,” Sherpa told Nepal Live Today.
Then six days later, on May 20, a chartered aircraft carrying over five tons of medical supplies including ventilators, oxygen concentrators, and antigen test kits sent by the Humanitarian Action Office of the Spanish Cooperation Agency, and the Spanish Health Ministry landed in Kathmandu. The shipment was handed over by the Director of AECID Magdy Martínez-Solimán to Minister for Health Hyridesh Tripathi.
Spain was the first EU country to send Covid support to Nepal.
The shipment included 33 pallets, 15 respirators, 10 oxygen concentrators, 125,000 antigen test kits. The flight also brought along with it medical supplies donated by NRNA, Spain that included 17,600 surgical masks, sanitizers, gloves, and face shields among other health items.
It was not easy to gather support for Nepal, said Sherpa. “It’s difficult to meet people here. You cannot just go, meet the ministers or officials. You have to first give the agenda and take time beforehand.”