Meet the Ambassador: Anjan Shakya wears her gentle determination well

Nepal’s ambassador to Israel is anxious to bring Israeli medical know-how and technology back home.

President Reuven Rivlin welcomes Ambassador Dr. Anjan Shakya of Nepal (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
President Reuven Rivlin welcomes Ambassador Dr. Anjan Shakya of Nepal
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
The first impression when one meets Anjan Shakya, the ambassador of Nepal, is that this is a petite, feminine traditionalist. While other ambassadors from Asian and African countries wear their national costumes for special occasions and are usually seen in Western attire, Shakya always wears a sari.
She is soft spoken, gentle, yet determined in her manner without seeming to be forceful. But if one peruses her curriculum vitae and sees the incredible list of achievements and high-ranking positions over the past 20 years, one gets the impression that this is an ultra-feminist.
Shakya does not see herself as such.
When men are victimized, they need to be helped just as much as women, she says.
But on the whole, she can be regarded as an activist for gender parity, or gender balance, as she likes to call it.
As far as government roles and other areas of public service in Nepal are concerned, there is parity in that if a man occupies the key position in any government office, his deputy must be a female and vice-versa.
However, this has not trickled down sufficiently to the private sector, and before taking up her role as ambassador in February of this year, Shakya served as chair of the Nepal Women’s Chamber of Commerce. She had been an executive member of the Nepal Chamber of Commerce for 20 years, and during that time had been the only woman member out of a total of 49 board members. Aware through her many other activities that there was no shortage of women entrepreneurs in Nepal, she was a founding member of the Women’s Chamber, which was established two years ago. There are now 100 women members in Kathmandu and more than 10,000 in the various district branches of the Women’s Chamber.
One of her ambitions is to bring a delegation of women entrepreneurs from Nepal to Israel to meet with their Israeli counterparts.
Shakya has enjoyed a widely varied career. The eldest of three siblings from a highly educated, well-to-do Nepalese family, her father was an engineer. She has a brother who is a businessman, and a sister who was the youngest cardiologist in Nepal.
Shakya is married to parliamentarian Ajaya Kranti Shakya, who came to Israel to witness the presentation of her credentials, and they have since met from time to time in Israel or in Cyprus, where she is also accredited.
Each one understands the other’s professional responsibilities, she says, and this enables them to enjoy whatever time they have together without resentment toward either side.
She is a former news reader on Nepal Television, radio program coordinator and presenter. She is also a highly talented singer who was frequently heard on radio until 17 years ago, when she turned this talent into a hobby rather than a profession.
“We all grew up on her,” says Deputy Chief of Mission and First Secretary at the Embassy of Nepal Astha Subba, who will soon be returning to Nepal with her three-year-old sabra (Israeli-born) son.
WHEN INTERVIEWED in a coffee shop by The Jerusalem Post, Shakya and Subba were eating a sandwich from the same plate. They are living proof of happy co-existence. Shakya is a Buddhist and Subba is Hindu.
“It’s important to ave a good relationship if you want an efficient embassy,” says Subba.
The two agree that harmony is an important factor in their professional relationship, but they also have a close personal relationship which is perhaps based on Nepal’s foreign policy, which is “Amity with all, enmity with none.”
This is also part of Nepal’s internal tradition. “The Nepalese people are very open and helpful to others,” says Shakya. “It is customary to greet whoever knocks on the door – even a total stranger – with warmth and refreshments.” This is endorsed by Subba.
Both also agree on the importance of management and marketing abilities, which, says Shakya “is very necessary in Nepal.” In fact, her PhD in management is from Nepal’s Tribhuvan University.
A researcher and teacher, she served as a professor at Nepal’s Presidential Business School, which is an offshoot of Westcliff University California, and for eight years she was also a lecturer at Padma Kanya Multiple College.
Her research and teaching were largely in the realm of international relations, foreign policy, economic diplomacy, management, trade, organizational learning, tourism and gender attitudes and behavior.
She is also interested in history and in the culture of different ethnic, national and religious groups. This is hardly surprising considering that there are 125 ethnic groups in Nepal, each with its own language and cultural traditions. There is also a common Nepalese language – but not everyone speaks it.
In addition to her roles as a university professor and college lecturer, Shakya has operated training and orientation programs for senior government officials and for people in various professions, and has also been involved at top organizational level in international, regional and local conferences, seminars and workshops. She is a former deputy executive director of the Institute of Foreign Affairs, which operates under the auspices of the Foreign Ministry of Nepal. She held this position for five years.
Somehow, she also found time to be involved with several civic, public and international organizations, such as the Nepal Cancer Relief Society, the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, the Nepal Council of World Affairs and the Nepal-China Chamber of Commerce, to name but a few.
She has also edited and written books, and her articles have been published in numerous newspapers and magazines.
Both she and her husband love traveling abroad, and each has had to travel a lot in their respective positions, almost always accompanying each other. Shakya has visited 30 countries and tries to learn as much as possible about them before undertaking any visit.
Before she came to Israel, she asked someone to get her a transliterated copy of the national anthem, which she now knows by heart and which she sang at the recent Nepal Independence Day reception that she hosted.
Shakya is anxious to bring Israeli medical know-how and technology to Nepal, and in fact has already organized for doctors from Hadassah and Ichilov medical centers to go to Nepal and collaborate with Nepalese colleagues.
SHE WAS enormously impressed a month after taking office to see what Save a Child’s Heart had done to save the life of Nepalese baby Avita, who was born with a congenital heart defect. Avita was the first such patient from Nepal who was brought to the Wolfson Medical Center from which SACH operates. She represented the 59th country whose children have been saved and given a normal life through the care and expertise of Israeli medical staff.
Aside from visiting universities, hospitals and hi-tech companies in Israel, she is busy planning the celebrations next year of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Nepal and Israel, and is awaiting approval for a state visit to Israel by the prime minister of Nepal, which could be delayed due to Israel’s internal political problems. He cannot come until the next Israeli government is formed.
Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, the first elected prime minister of Nepal, was very pro-Israel and pro-Jewish. In fact, the Nepalese word for Jew is Yehudi, the same as it is in Hebrew. The calendar, like the Hebrew calendar, is lunar. Koirala, who had read extensively about the Holocaust, was horrified by the atrocities and wrote a book about the Jewish people. There was no doubt when he met Israel’s founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, that the two countries would establish diplomatic relations and that Nepal would stand with Israel at international forums.
When asked what she likes best about Israel, Shakya replies, “The people.” She has been made to feel welcome everywhere she goes, and people are more than willing to help her with any problem she might have. She also likes Israeli straightforwardness. “What is in their heart is in their mouth. They are very frank,” she says.
She is also impressed with President Reuven Rivlin, who recently hosted women diplomats and told them that he sees no reason why there should not be a woman president and woman prime minister of Israel.
Shakya’s term of office is four years, and during that time she hopes to boost tourism to her country, noting that while Nepal is popular with young backpackers after they leave the army, she wants to attract tourists over the age of 40. “They don’t have to hike because we have cable cars,” she quips, but underscores that the cable cars which go to high peaks do not go as far as Mount Everest, because if they did, it would lose its charm and its challenge.
She points out that there is something special in two-way tourism between Israel and Nepal, because Israel has the lowest point on Earth at the Dead Sea, and Nepal the highest point at Mount Everest. There is an Everest monument at the Dead Sea with stones taken from the mountain, and there is a Dead Sea monument at the Mount Everest base camp with stones taken from the Dead Sea.
During her four years in Israel, Shakya hopes to visit every corner of the country. “My government instructed me to go and learn and collaborate – and that’s what I intend to do.”
Shakya is one of the many ambassadors who have been invited to The Jerusalem Post’s annual Diplomatic Conference, which this year will take place on Wednesday, November 13, at the Jerusalem Waldorf Astoria Hotel.