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Kelesh is a large, ancient, and extremely powerful empire. It's not a nation: it's a governing body that contains many nations and cultures. (As I hinted at in Inner Sea Races, the "Keleshite" designation is less an ethnicity like Kellids or Varisians and closer to "Tian" -- which is to say, it's not monolithic, and has more to do with Avistani not really understanding the different cultures and peoples and lumping them all into a single designation that basically equates to "I dunno, they're from Over There.")
Kelesh itself has a lot of desert, but it also has jungles, grasslands, temperate forests, and other climates, and cultures that developed within them. The Imperial Family and a lot of the nobility originate from desert tribes, and a lot of citizens imitate some of their practices and dress because they're seen as socially prestigious, which is why Keleshites are seen as "desert people" in Avistan.
Vudra is also extremely large and potentially powerful (and probably better defined as an empire than as a nation), but it's a collection of a ton of different smaller nations and while the maharajah is the supreme ruler, its administration is less tight than Kelesh's -- a mahajanapada is more independent than a satrapy.
Vudra hasn't conquered the world because A) overall they're not inclined to and B) they're not particularly centralized.
Kelesh hasn't conquered the world because after they got rich enough, they decided that instead of engaging in military conquest, they'd try economic/cultural conquest instead. (Join up, get free shipping on luxury goods from around the world!) They're confident that the quality of life the Empire provides its citizens will lure the rest of the world under their rule eventually. They don't need to force it. Qadira feels differently, of course.
Thank you for this Jessica!