Asia in Review Archive (2019-2020)
Date of AiR edition
29 December 2020
Nepal: Government calls winter session for upper house of parliament from January 1
(lm) The Cabinet of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recommended President Bidhya Devi Bandhari to summon the winter session of the upper house of parliament on January 1, after the session was abruptly prorogued on in July. According to the Constitution, the gap between the prorogation of one session of Parliament and commencement of the next session must not exceed six months. [The Hindu]
Months of infighting in the ruling Nepali Communist Party (NCP) led Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to recommend the dissolution of the lower house of the parliament on 20 December [see AiR No. 51, December/2020, 4]. Under present circumstances, the upper house, therefore, will have an extremely limited role: While it can still pass bills already sent by the lower house, any changes deemed necessary cannot be passed in the absence of the lower house.
29 December 2020
Nepal: Prime Minister Oli removed from Communist Party’s top post, as political crisis deepens
(lm) A increasingly beleaguered Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 25 removed two ministers from his cabinet and changed the portfolio of another six, about a week after seven ministers loyal to his intraparty rivals, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, resigned to protest the dissolution of the lower house of parliament [see AiR No. 51, December/2020, 4]. [The Himalayan Times 1]
Nepal on December 20 plunged into a political crisis after Prime Minister Oli got President Bidya Devi Bhandari to dissolve the country’s lower house of parliament and announce snap elections for next year – a controversial move amidst a prolonged tussle for power between him and his rival Dahal [see AiR No. 51, December/2020, 4]. Since then, the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) is effectively divided into two factions – one led by the prime minister and another by Dahal. Both factions over the course of last week held separate meetings of key bodies of the party.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal, hitherto co-chair of NCP, was elected by his faction on December 23 as the new party’s parliamentary leader, replacing Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The nomination was proposed by NCP senior leader and Dahal-ally Madhav Kumar Nepal, who was elected new NCP co-chair during a meeting of the party’s Central Committee the day before. On December 24, however, the Central Committee of the Oli-led faction removed Dahal from the post of the party chairman. [The Himalayan Times 2]
As part of their efforts to retain control of the party, both factions seek official recognition by the Election Commission (EC). The Dahal-led faction on December 23 informed the EC that it had more than 40 percent of Central Committee members (out of 441) to claim the NCP. The previous day, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli presided over a separate meeting of the Central Committee, expanding the body to make it a 1,199-member committee with the addition of 556 members now and with the provision of adding 197 members in the future. As per the current provisions in the Political Parties Act, a faction must show the signatures of 40 percent of its Central Committee members to claim the party name or register a new party. [The Kathmandu Post]
The Supreme Court (SC), meanwhile, forwarded a total of 12 writ petitions against the prime minister’s move to dissolve the parliament to a Constitutional bench, after it refused to issue an interim order against the decision. The hearings are set to begin on Friday, December 25. Moreover, the main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), has decided to go on a nationwide protest against dissolution of the lower house of parliament. [Hindustan Times] [The Himalayan Times 3]
29 December 2020
China sends senior official, amidst crisis of ruling Nepal Communist Party
(lm) In a first diplomatic step since the dissolution of Nepal’s lower house of parliament, China on December 27 dispatched a four-member delegation led by a vice minister of the International Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to Kathmandu. During his four-day visit, the delegation is scheduled to meet Nepali Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and President Bidya Devi Bhandari, among others. [The Kathmandu Post] [The Straits Times]
The trip comes on heels of a series of meetings held by China’s ambassador to Kathmandu with Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari and top leaders of the NCP, including Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal. The Chinese envoy is known to be active during times of crisis in Nepali politics, showcasing deep interest in the internal dynamics of the NCP [see AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1, AiR No. 18, May/2020, 1]. [The Himalayan Times]
Coming as it does at a time when the NCP is undergoing a vertical split, the visit of the Chinese delegation is likely not confined to assessing the ground situation. In this context, it is worth noting that the high-ranking official is known to enjoy considerable influence with NCP leaders. This is largely because he played a major role in bringing together the Oli-led Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-UML) and the Pushpa Kamal Dahal-led Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) (CPN-MC) in 2018 to form the NCP [see AiR (4/2/2018)]. [The Diplomat]
22 December 2020
Nepal: Prime Minister Oli recommends dissolution of Parliament, forestalling no-confidence vote
(lm) Throwing into doubt the political future of Nepal, President Bidya Devi Bhandari on December 20 dissolved the lower house of parliament. The decision came at the request of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s cabinet, after some lawmakers from his ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) had proposed a motion to hold a vote of no confidence that would call on NCP co-chair and Oli-rival, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, to become prime minister. Nepal is now set to hold elections on April 30 and May 10 next year, more than a year earlier than the expected vote in November 2022. [The Diplomat] [New York Times]
In the wake of the decision, the two rival factions of the NCP held separate meetings with the party’s lawmakers as well as members of the upper house of parliament, intensifying efforts to retain control of the party. A meeting of the NCP’s Standing Committee chaired by the Dahal faction on Sunday proposed disciplinary action against the prime minister. A meeting of the Oli-led faction the following day, then, not only rejected the proposal, but in turn also demanded action against the rival faction. [The Himalayan Times 1] [The Kathmandu Post 1]
Increasingly isolated, Oli had lost support within the NCP over recent months, with some members openly demanding his resignation as party co-chair and prime minister [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1]. Observers therefore consider the decision as a last resort to safeguard Oli’s political career, after he has fallen into minority in all key bodies of the party — Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee. The prime minister defended the decision later on Monday in an address to the nation, saying his decision to dissolve parliament was had come in response to disputes and non-cooperation in the NCP that had led to a ‘state of inaction’. [Reuters]
The country on December 21 witnessed multiple arrests, as protests were held in at least 10 cities across the country, including the capital Kathmandu. Moreover, opponents of Prime Minister Oli turned to the Supreme Court on Monday submitting more than a dozen petitions against the dissolution of parliament and the calling of an election, denouncing the move as a ‘constitutional coup’. The court hearings are set to begin this week. [Al Jazeera]
Preceding the events, Prime Minister Oli last week faced heavy backlash over an ordinance to amend the Constitutional Council Act. The new ordinance, which had been promulgated by the president on December 16, enabled the Constitutional Council (CC) – a key agency that appoints officials at various constitutional bodies – to achieve quorum if as few as three of its six members, including the prime minister, attend a meeting. Interestingly, this was not the first time that the Prime Minister Oli had introduced and shortly thereafter withdrawn such an ordinance. In April, Oli also sought to amend the Constitutional Council Act but backtracked just days later, after coalition partners and some Cabinet members had opposed the move [see AiR No. 17, April/2020, 4]. [The Kathmandu Post 2] [The Himalayan Times 2]
On December 19, Oli then once again met with Dahal to reconcile their differences, offering to withdraw the ordinance if Dahal’s political proposal [see AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3] was also withdrawn. But because Dahal refused the offer, Oli moved a resolution for dissolving the lower house of parliament, thereby effectively blocking his former political partner from threatening his position. Hours later, seven of the government’s 25 ministers – all belonging to the Dahal-led faction – resigned from Parliament in protest. [Hindustan Times]
15 December 2020
India, Nepal to form joint business forum to represent private sectors
(lm) Following in the heels of a number of high-level visits by Indian officials to Nepal [see AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1], both countries on December 7 agreed to form a joint business forum to facilitate bilateral trade and business, and pledged to facilitate its first meeting by the first quarter of 2021. [The Kathmandu Post]
Meeting under the Nepal-India Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) led by the commerce secretaries of both countries, Nepal and India also agreed to amend a bilateral transit treaty in a bid to boost trade and connectivity. [myRepública]
15 December 2020
India, Nepal to form joint business forum to represent private sectors
(lm) Following in the heels of a number of high-level visits by Indian officials to Nepal [see AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1], both countries on December 7 agreed to form a joint business forum to facilitate bilateral trade and business, and pledged to facilitate its first meeting by the first quarter of 2021. [The Kathmandu Post]
Meeting under the Nepal-India Intergovernmental Committee (IGC) led by the commerce secretaries of both countries, Nepal and India also agreed to amend a bilateral transit treaty in a bid to boost trade and connectivity. [myRepública]
15 December 2020
Nepal unveils new foreign policy framework
(lm) Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on December 6 unveiled the country’s new foreign policy framework that outlines Kathmandu’s position on various bilateral and multilateral issues. In talking about economic and Track II diplomacy (backchannel diplomacy) to resolve disputes, amend bilateral treaties collaborate with friendly nations, the framework also seeks to provide a roadmap for future engagement with neighboring China and India, in particular. The document also includes a goal of non-alignment – even though the country has habitually oscillated its support between India and China in recent years. [The Kathmandu Post 1]
While crediting the Nepalese government for bringing out the document in times of global flux, foreign policy experts say the framework has several shortcomings and question the government’s capacity to implement the policies. [The Kathmandu Post 2]
15 December 2020
Nepal: Rights violations rampant, according to Asian Human Rights Commission
(lm) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), an independent, non-governmental body that promotes human rights in Asia, on December 10 accused the Nepalese government of using the COVID-19 pandemic to exercise control, commit human rights violations, and deny justice to victims of human rights abuses. [AHRC]
In 2020, there were mounting allegations of extrajudicial executions and deaths in custody resulting from torture. Members of marginalized communities, including Dalits (a name for people belonging to the lowest caste in India), are far more likely to be tortured than members of other caste groups. [The Himalayan Times]
In October, Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission published the names of more than 280 people including police officers, soldiers, and former Maoist insurgents, recommending them for prosecution for events over the last 20 years.
The Supreme Court has directed the government to form a new body to investigate allegations of extra judicial killings, acting on a public interest litigation filed against the government. [The Himalayan Times]
Separately, Amnesty International Nepal on December 10 started a campaign, appealing to Nepal’s authorities to launch an independent and impartial investigation into all incidents of custodial deaths. [The Kathmandu Post] [Amnesty International]
15 December 2020
Nepal: Battle lines between rivaling NCP factions drawn in the run-up to Standing Committee meeting
(lm) Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, who has been facing the heat from the rival faction of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), got a temporary reprieve on December 14, as a meeting of the party’s Standing Committee ended after passing a condolence message on the death of an NCP central member. Still, as the feud within NCP shows no sign of ebbing, factional gatherings have been organized by both sides to gauge their strengths before the next meeting of the party’s Standing Committee, scheduled for December 16. [The Kathmandu Post] [The Himalayan Times 1]
Prime Minister Oli has been resenting a 19-page proposal authored by his rival and party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal. In the document, Dahal accused the prime minister of defying party norms and values, disobeying party committees’ decisions, and making appointments to constitutional bodies without consulting top leaders [see AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3]. Although the prime minister demanded the proposal to be withdrawn, while presenting his rebuttal on November 28, party officials decided that both documents had formally entered the party committee and thus had to be duly discussed [see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3].
During the party’s last Standing Committee meeting held on December 6 both documents – Dahal’s proposal and the prime minister’s rebuttal – were presented and discussed. Since then, Oli not only skipped two NCP meetings [see AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1], but also last week called an all-parties meeting to discuss the current political developments [see AiR No. 49, December/2020, 2].
The country’s Minister for Home Affairs, meanwhile, said the NCP would not split, but would rather grow stronger amid the ongoing intraparty struggle. [The Himalayan Times 2]
8 December 2020
Nepal: PM Oli shuns communist party meetings, calls all-party meeting instead
(lm) Nepal’s Prime Minister and co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), PK Sharma Oli, on December 7 called a meeting of all parties represented in the parliament to discuss the current political developments. Previously, Oli skipped a meeting of the NCP’s Standing Committee, forcing the meeting to be re-scheduled. He also chose not to attend a meeting of the NCP’s Secretariat, originally scheduled for December 2. [The Himalayan Times 1] [The Himalayan Times 2] [Hindustan Times]
In a letter sent to the Standing Committee meeting on Sunday, Oli reiterated his stance that his intra-party opponent Dahal should unconditionally withdraw his political proposal tabled during the Secretariat meeting. Furthermore, the prime minister accused his rival of working towards the dissolution of the party by tabling an ‘allegation paper’ against him. [AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1]
The intra-party feud had deepened after co-chair and Oli rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal last month presented a 19-page proposal accusing the prime minister of defying party norms and values, disobeying party committees’ decisions, and making appointments to constitutional bodies without consulting top leaders [see AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3]. In a 38-page rebuttal published late last month, PM Oli accused Dahal of hatching plot to dislodge his government, adopting double standards vis-à-vis the Millennium Challenge Corporation agreement signed with the United States [see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3], and promoting factionalism in the party. [The Himalayan Times 2]
Having fallen into minority in all key bodies of the party — Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee – in the run-up to the Secretariat meeting, the Oli-led faction was preparing to pitch for a joint proposal with party o-chair Dahal, hoping to resolve the dispute through consensus. The Dahal-led faction, however, threatened to take all the documents to the Standing Committee and the Central Committee, where the majority’s decision should prevail. [The Himalayan Times 3]
8 December 2020
Nepal: Protests to call for restoration of monarchy despite government ban
(lm) Nepal’s monarchist and Hindu nationalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), royalist groups and pro-monarchy citizens ratchet up demonstrations calling for the restoration of the monarchy and a Hindu state. The RPP launched a movement for the restoration of the monarchy from the southern city of Hetauda on December 4, followed the next day by rallies in another southern city and the capital, Kathmandu. [Nikkei Asia Review]
The party has been holding demonstrations in major cities since last month. Sporadic pro-monarchy protests have previously been seen over the last 12 years, and the current wave of rallies started on a small scale in June in Kathmandu. [AiR No. 48, December/2020, 1]
A day after hundreds of people took to the streets in Kathmandu on December 1 to demand the restoration of the Nepalese monarchy, the district administration of Kathmandu imposed restrictions on protests and rallies, citing the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, the Ministry of Home Affairs the same day issued a circular to all district administrations throughout the country to quell the pro-monarchy demonstrations — by force if needed. Opposition lawmakers criticized the decisions, expressing concerns the move may be part of a larger plan to systematically narrow public spaces for protests in a way that curtails dissenting voices. [The Himalayan Times] [The Kathmandu Post 1] [The Kathmandu Post 2]
1 December 2020
Indian Foreign Minister visits Nepal
(lm) Indicating a thaw in bilateral relations between Kathmandu and New Delhi, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla visited Nepal on November 26-27, marking his first trip to the neighboring country since assuming office in January this year. The visit assumes added significance because it precedes a visit of Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe. Still, meetings with Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Foreign Secretary Pradeep Gyawali focused on relatively lower-hanging fruits such as infrastructure development and connectivity projects. [The Diplomat] [The Kathmandu Post] [The Hindu] [Hindustan Times]
While China and India are currently engaged in heightened border tensions in the Himalayas [see e.g. AiR No. 41, October/2020, 2], bilateral ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu had been strained over border-related issues since last November. For months, the diplomatic gap between the two countries widened further after New Delhi in May had announced the inauguration of a new Himalayan link road built through the disputed area of Kalapani that lies at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China [see e.g. AiR No. 20, May/2020, 3, AiR No. 28, July/2020, 2]. At that time, Indian observers had urged their government not to burn all the bridges between Kathmandu and New Delhi, arguing the dispute would push Nepal closer to China.
Resuming dialogue in August, Prime Minister Oli had laid the groundwork for his reformed India outreach, calling Indian Prime Minister Modi on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day [see AiR No. 33, August/2020, 3], and stopping the distribution of a new text book that included the country’s revised political map. Last month, the Samant Goel, head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) – India’s principal external intelligence service – made a trip to Nepal, piquing the curiosity of Indian analysts [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1]. Shortly thereafter, Indian Army Chief General Naravane also visited Kathmandu, meeting with Nepal’s political and military leadership [see AiR No. 42, October/2020, 3].
1 December 2020
Nepal: Hundreds join pro-monarchy rallies across the country
(lm) Hundreds of people took to the streets in Kathmandu on December 1 demanding the restoration of the Nepalese monarchy. Taking place against the larger backdrop of an ongoing power-struggle in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) [AiR No. 47, November/2020, 4], a series of similar demonstrations has been organized in major cities across the country over the past few weeks. [The Himalayan Times] [The Kathmandu Post]
1 December 2020
Nepal: After PM Oli, Chinese envoy meets communist party’s co-chair and Oli rival Dahal
(lm) While the power-struggle within Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP) continues to deepen, China’s ambassador to Kathmandu met with party co-chair and rival of Prime Minister Oli Dahal. This is not the first time that the Chinese ambassador has expressed ‘deep interest’ in the internal dynamics of the ruling party as rift between warring factions peak [see AiR No. 27, July/2020, 1, AiR No. 18, May/2020, 1]. [The Himalayan Times]
Last week, the Chinese envoy held separate meetings with Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and the prime minister. While he had hitherto refused to call for a Secretariat meeting, after talking with the Chinese ambassador, PM Oli agreed to hold a meeting of the nine-member body the following day. During the meeting, Oli declared either he had to step down as both party co-chair and prime minister if the allegations levelled against him by Dahal were proven right or else Dahal would have to quit party co-leadership.
Meanwhile, a 21-member delegation led by Chinese Defense Minister General Wei Fenghe arrived in Kathmandu on an official visit on November 29. Wei is the senior most Chinese official to visit Nepal after the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in October last year [AiR No. 42, October/2019, 3]. The visit also take place amidst accusations of Nepali opposition lawmakers who allege Beijing has annexed dozens of hectares from a district bordering Tibet. [see AiR No. 45, November/2020, 2, AiR No. 42, October/2020, 3]. [The Hindu]
The timing of Wei’s visit is noteworthy, coming on the heels of a trip from Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who visited Kathmandu on November 26-27 [see article in this edition]. [The Kathmandu Post]
24 November 2020
Nepal: PM Oli tells Secretariat members that he would not tolerate false allegations made against him
(lm) During a meeting of the Nepal’s ruling Communist Party’s (NCP) Secretariat, Prime Minister Oli told the apex body’s nine members that he would not tolerate false allegations made against him. Further elaborating, Oli announced to step down as both party co-chair and prime minister if the allegations levelled against him by party co-chair and rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal were proven right or else Dahal would have to quit party co-leadership. [The Himalayan Times 1]
The party’s Secretariat meeting concluded with the decision that would be given the opportunity to present his own political document during the next meeting scheduled for November 28. Thereafter, the NCP will hold its Standing Committee meeting on December 3 and Central Committee meeting on December 10.
In a document presented at a previous meeting, Dahal had accused the prime minister of failures, including Oli’s alleged backtracking on previous agreements and his failure to control the coronavirus pandemic to demand the premier minister’s resignation for the sake of party unity. [AiR No. 46, November/2020, 3]
Shortly thereafter, PM Oli called for delaying the then-upcoming Secretariat meeting, even asking the Party General Secretary to persuade Dahal to postpone the meeting and withdraw the document. Increasingly isolated, Oli then tried to woo some Secretariat members, in particular Madhav Nepal and Bamdev Gautam, offering the post of prime minister after the upcoming elections and party chairmanship, respectively, through the general convention. The next day, however, the prime minister suddenly agreed for a Secretariat meeting, a move coming as a surprise. [The Kathmandu Post 1]
Two events may have caused Oli’s change of heart: First, on November 11, the Supreme Court refused to issue an interim order, clearing the deck for Gautam, who was appointed a member of the country’s National Assembly (NA) in September [see AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4], to assume additional constitutional posts and to become a minister. Before the court’s ruling, observers had suggested that a potential reprieve could tilt the balance in the Secretariat in Oli’s favor. But for now, Gautam, who had turned his coat in the past [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1], appears to be standing firm and sticking with the Dahal faction. [The Kathmandu Post 2]
Secondly, the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, met with Prime Minister Oli on Tuesday evening, raising once again questions if the NCP is indeed still functioning on its own – an involvement in internal party affairs, which is not new. Throughout July, the Chinese ambassador had been going door-to-door in Kathmandu, paying visits to leaders of the NCP in order to prevent a party split and save Prime Minister Oli’s job. [AiR No. 27, July/2020, 1]
On November 21, the prime minister met with former Prime Minister and current President of Nepal’s main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), Sher Bahadur Deuba. The meeting has been interpreted by some observers as an attempt by Oli to seek the NC’s support to run a coalition government if the ruling NCP splits. [The Himalayan Times 2] [The Kathmandu Post 3]
17 November 2020
Nepal: At Secretariat meeting, Dahal asks PM Oli to ‘sacrifice’ for saving party
(lm) During a meeting of the Secretariat of Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP), party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal accused Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of failing in his responsibilities and demanded his resignation for the sake of party unity. At the meeting held on November 13, Dahal presented a 19-page document listing the instances of Oli’s backtracking on previous agreements and his failure to control the coronavirus pandemic. [The Kathmandu Post]
The situation in Nepal’s ruling party had massively deteriorated after Oli last week warned Dahal not to officially call for a Secretariat meeting without his consent, and even threatened to split the party if pushed to the wall by his rivals [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1]. On November 9, Oli had then called for a meeting of the six-member task force whose suggestions had ended the stalemate between him and Dahal, albeit temporarily [see AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4]. The meeting, however, could not take place, because two members belonging to Dahal’s faction refused to join [see AiR No. 45, November/2020, 2].
A letter written by Prime Minister Oli to Dahal was also presented during Friday’s Secretariat meeting. In the letter, dated on November 10, the prime minister refers to the larger power-sharing deal according to which he would lead the government for the full five-year term while Dahal would be the executive chair of the party and important decisions would be made in consultation between the two [see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3].
The next meeting of the Secretariat is scheduled for November 18, giving its nine members time to study three letters that had been exchanged in the past week between Secretariat members, laying bare the degree of ill-will among them.
10 November 2020
Nepal: Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister Oli pulls out all the stops
(lm) Increasingly isolated, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on November 9 called for a meeting of the six-member task force whose suggestions had ended the stalemate between the Prime Minister and his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, albeit temporarily [see AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4]. The meeting, however, could not take place, because two members belonging to the faction of Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) co-chair Dahal refused to join. [The Kathmandu Post]
The situation in Nepal’s ruling party had massively deteriorated after Oli last week warned Dahal not to officially call for a Secretariat meeting without his consent, and even threatened to split the party if pushed to the wall by his rivals [see AiR No. 44, November/2020, 1].
After a second meeting between the two NCP co-chairs had not yielded any results, except the message that negotiations would continue, Dahal, together with four other members of the party’s Secretariat on November 7 held an ‘informal’ Secretariat meeting. The next day, the faction wrote a letter to Prime Minister Oli, seeking consent for an official Secretariat meeting. After he received the letter, Oli refused to respond and instead met with the faction around NCP’s third senior leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal. During the meeting, Oli reportedly urged Nepal to help preventing a party split but Nepal remained non-committal, urging the prime minister to call the Secretariat meeting soon. [The Himalayan Times 1] [The Himalayan Times 2] [The Himalayan Times 3]
Before, despite having fallen into minority in all key bodies of the party — Secretariat, Standing Committee and Central Committee – Oli on November 4 held a meeting with some leaders close to him to make a push for adopting ‘People’s Multiparty Democracy’ as the party’s ideology. Read between the lines, the move was an earlier attempt to court Nepal, alongside other members of the now-defunct Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)) (CPN-UML). [The Kathmandu Post]
Proclaimed in 1993 as an extension of Marxism-Leninism, ‘People’s Multiparty Democracy’ refers to the political line of the now-defunct CPN-UML. This thought abandons the traditional idea of a revolutionary communist vanguard party in favor of a democratic multi-party system. Thus, it differs from the Maoist concept of a ‘People’s War’, drawn on by the now-defunct Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) (CPN-(Maoist)), which had fought a civil war against the Nepalese government between 1996 and 2006. During the post-election merger of the CPN-UML and the CPN-(Maoist) in 2018 [see AiR (4/2/2018)], both parties agreed to adopt a middle path, proposing ‘People’s Democracy’ as the NCP’s guiding principle.
10 November 2020
China, Nepal deny Nepali opposition’s landgrab accusations
(lm) China and Nepal denied on November 3 accusations of Nepali opposition lawmakers who alleged Beijing had annexed dozens of hectares from the district of Humla bordering Tibet, beginning in May. [The Straits Times]
Earlier this month, a fact-finding team of Nepal’s main opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), had visited the northern border of Nepal and concluded that China has in fact encroached approximately two kilometers of Nepali land. Thereafter, the NC accused the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) of trying to cover-up the issue by ignoring accumulated evidence. [AiR No. 42, October/2020, 3]
In September, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry announced an inter-ministerial team in 2016 had already found the buildings to be sited one kilometer within Chinese territory [see AiR No. 39, September/2020, 5]. Following the announcement, students in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu staged protests in front of the Chinese embassy [see AiR No. 40, October/2020, 1].
3 November 2020
Nepal: Contempt of court case registered against Minister of Health and Population
(lm) Nepal’s Supreme Court (SC) on November 3 registered a contempt of court case against the country’s Minister of Health and Population for allegedly defying the court’s directive to the government to provide diagnostic and therapeutic services to coronavirus patients free of charge. The first hearing of the case has been scheduled for November 4. [The Himalayan Times]
In response to an earlier petition, the SC last month had ordered the government to reimburse hospitals and labs providing provide diagnostic and therapeutic but the government soon thereafter decided not to bear expenses of all virus-infected people, leaving more than 25 percent of the population deprived of proper tests for COVID-19 infection. In addition, the government through an amendment also made family members bury the body of their kin if he/she dies during home isolation.
3 November 2020
Nepal: Ruling Communist Party once again edges toward a split
(lm) Tensions have resurfaced in Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP) following a meeting between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal on October 31.
During the meeting Dahal proposed that all outstanding issues should be settled through a meeting of the party’s Secretariat. The prime minister, however, said that meetings were not required, adding that he would take ‘serious action’ if the Dahal held a meeting and took any decision against him. But what is more Oli reportedly also proposed to split the part instead of dragging on with the existing differences. The following day, Dahal held a meeting with five of the nine members of the party’s Secretariat, informing them about a potential party split. The same day, Finance Minister Bishnu Prasad Paudel said that the party was facing a ‘serious existential crisis’. [The Kathmandu Post 1]
Before he agreed to a power-sharing deal in September [see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3], Prime Minister Oli’s position had become tenuous, with 31 Standing Committee members openly demanding his resignation as party chair and Prime Minister. Despite that fact that odds were stacked against him, Oli managed to pull off a coup by dragging Dahal into negotiations and winning over other Secretariat members like NCP party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam, who was appointed a member of the country’s National Assembly (NA) in September [see AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4].
In October, however, Oli seemed to have gone back to his old style of functioning again, unilaterally appointing a new Foreign Secretary and other diplomats, without prior approval from the NCP’s Secretariat. More recently, Oli came under fire for breaching diplomatic norms over his meeting with Samant Kumar Goel, chief of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW). The meeting, which preceded an upcoming visit of Indian Army Chief General Naravane, was the latest in a series of efforts by the prime minister to reset ties with neighboring India [see AiR No. 42, October/2020, 3]. [Times of India] [The Print 1]
A day after Goel’s visit to Kathmandu, Oli found himself at center of yet another controversy after his Vijaya Dashami greeting card ostensibly featured the country’s old map. Users on social media alleged that the Prime Minister’s office had deliberately removed the updated map after Oli’s meeting with Goel – a claim rejected by his office which said the revised map was distorted because of technical reasons. In July, Nepal unilaterally changed its map, showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders [see latest AiR No. 28, July/2020, 2]. [The Print 2] [The Indian Express]
Observers say that the NCP was bound to face the stop-go policies, arguing that the specter of factionalism continued to haunt the party ever since it emerged from a post-election merger of the CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)) and the Maoist Centre in 2018 [see AiR (4/2/2018)]. [The Kathmandu Post 2]
Moreover, Oli has always ensured to leave the door open, throughout the past months of political imbroglio, in case his rivals backtrack. Back in August, for example, when Dahal told party workers to prepare for the ‘worst’, a new communist party – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist – had been registered at the Election Commission at the behest of Oli [see AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2, AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2].
Citing a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country, the NCP meanwhile on October 28 announced that the meeting of the party’s Central Committee had been postponed for a month, now set to take place from November 30 to December 2[see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3]. [The Kathmandu Post 3]
20 October 2020
Nepal: Chinese encroachment in Nepal’s territory continues to spark tension
After an inspection team last month found that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had constructed at least nine buildings in Nepal’s northwestern Humla district, Kathmandu has set up six border observation posts (BOPs) along its border with neighboring China. Notably, in the last six months, Nepal has opened around 90 BOPs along its border with China and India, and is reportedly planning to set up at least 500 more within the next two years. [Times Of India]
Meanwhile, Nepal’s main opposition party, Nepali Congress (NC), on Wednesday accused the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s (NCP) of trying to cover-up the issue by ignoring accumulated evidence, adding that the NCP’s denial may constitute an act of treason. Prior a fact-finding team of the NC had visited the northern border of Nepal and concluded that China has in fact encroached approximately two kilometers of Nepali land. [The Himalayan Times]
Notwithstanding the findings, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month announced that an inter-ministerial team in 2016 had already found the buildings in question to be located approximately one kilometer inside the Chinese territory from the Nepal-China border [see AiR No. 39, September/2020, 5]. Following the announcement, students in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu staged protests in front of the Chinese embassy [see AiR No. 40, October/2020, 1].
20 October 2020
Nepal: Cabinet reshuffle ahead of Indian Army Chief visit
(lm) Prime Minister Oli has reshuffled his cabinet, attaching hitherto-Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokharel to the Prime Minister’s Office and appointing another three new ministers – a move that leaves Pokharel without portfolio. The reshuffle took place after co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal held talks with the prime minister, approving the move that he considers necessary to increase the efficiency of the government. [The Himalayan Times]
Observers see a connection between the decision to transfer Pokharel and the upcoming visit of Indian Army Chief General Naravane, scheduled for November 3, saying the transfer is part of an effort by Prime Minister Oli to reset ties with neighboring India. Pokharel, after all, had strongly opposed the visit, saying that both countries should first solve their boundary dispute. [Hindustan Times] [The Himalayan Times] [One India]
While China and India are currently engaged in heightened border tensions in the Himalayas [see e.g. AiR No. 41, October/2020, 2], bilateral ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu had been strained over border-related issues since last November. The diplomatic gap between the two countries widened further in May when New Delhi announced the inauguration of a new Himalayan link road built through the disputed area of Kalapani that lies at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China [see AiR No. 20, May/2020, 3]. In July, then, Nepal unilaterally changed its map, showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders [see AiR No. 22, June/2020, 1, AiR No. 24, June/2020, 3, AiR No. 28, July/2020, 2]. At that time, Indian observers had urged their government not to burn all the bridges between Kathmandu and New Delhi, arguing the dispute pushed Nepal closer to China.
Resuming dialogue in August, Prime Minister Oli had laid the groundwork for his reformed India outreach when he called Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to greet him on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day [see AiR No. 33, August/2020, 3]. More recently, the prime minister last month stopped the distribution of a new text book that included the country’s revised political map.
20 October 2020
Nepal: No-confidence motion in provincial parliament sheds light on balance of power within ruling party
(lm) After provincial lawmakers had registered a no-confidence motion against the Chief Minister of Karnali Province, both Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal summoned provincial NCP leaders to Kathmandu. The no-confidence motion was thwarted after lawmakers withdrew their support to the no-confidence motion. [The Himalayan Times 1]
Noteworthy, 15 out of 18 lawmakers who registered the no-trust motion were formerly associated with the now-dissolved Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) (CPN-(UML)), then led by Prime Minister Oli. In 2018, the party has merged with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) (CPN(M)), at the time led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, to form the now-ruling NCP. Against this backdrop, party co-chair Dahal met with Prime Minister Oli, urging him to direct lawmakers in Karnali Province to withdraw the no-trust motion. [The Himalayan Times 2]
13 October 2020
Nepal: New foreign secretary
(lm) The Nepalese government on October 9 appointed hitherto Acting Foreign Secretary, Bharat Raj Paudyal, the new regular Foreign Secretary. A career diplomat, Paudyal had joined foreign service in 1992 and is now succeeding Shanker Das Bauragi, who was appointed Chief Secretary of the Government of Nepal on October 1. [The Himalayan Times]
13 October 2020
Nepal, Bangladesh to sign preferential trade arrangement
(lm) During a virtual secretary-level meeting on trade and economic cooperation, Nepal and Bangladesh agreed to sign a preferential trade agreement (PTA) before year end. In March, both sides had initially agreed upon finalizing a bilateral PTA by June but plans had to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nepal would be the second South Asian nation next to Bhutan to sign a bilateral PTA with Bangladesh. [The Kathmandu Post]
October 8’s meeting also touched on ways to increase bilateral trade, including railway and air connectivity, and to improve cooperation to benefit the tourism sector in both countries, among other things. [The Daily Star]
6 October 2020
Nepal: Students protest against alleged Chinese encroachment into Nepalese territory
(lm) Students in Nepalese capital Kathmandu on Monday launched protests in front of the Chinese embassy against the alleged Chinese encroachment into the country’s territory. [Economic Times India]
Last week, an inspection team found that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had constructed at least nine buildings in Nepal’s northwestern Humla district, which borders the Tibet Autonomous Region. Notwithstanding the findings, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs soon thereafter said that an inter-ministerial team in 2016 had already found the buildings in question to be located approximately one kilometer inside the Chinese territory from the Nepal-China border. [AiR No. 39, September/2020, 5]
6 October 2020
Nepal: Political maneuvering between PM Oli and NCP co-chair Dahal continues
(lm) During a meeting on September 27 between the two co-chairs of Nepal’s Communist Party (NCP), Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Dahal reportedly asked the prime minister to replace all ministers in the cabinet, but Oli rejected the request. After a months-long dispute in the party [see AiR No. 18, May/2020, 1], the two co-chairs last month had agreed on a larger power-sharing deal, which also included a cabinet reshuffle [see AiR No. 37, September/2020, 3]. Apart from ministerial posts, the deal reportedly also entails a proper division of various other posts, including ambassadorial and constitutional positions. [The Kathmandu Post]
Recent political maneuverings clearly illustrate that the specter of factionalism continues to haunt the party, which emerged from a post-election merger of the CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)) and the Maoist Centre. Citing a Standing Committee member, the Himalayan Times reports that the three NCP senior leaders – KP Sharma Oli, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal – would each try to induct their loyalists who could brighten the prospects of their factional interests in local, provincial and parliamentary elections. Accordingly, among potential candidates for a cabinet position are the members of the six-member task force whose suggestions ended the stalemate between the Prime Minister and his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, albeit temporarily [see AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]. [The Himalayan Times]
Interestingly, the Council of Ministers on October 1 decided to appoint former Finance Minister, Yubaraj Khatiwada, as Nepal’s next Ambassador to the United States. Just two weeks ago, the government decided to appoint Khatiwada as special economic adviser to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli [see AiR No. 38, September/2020, 4]. [The Himalayan Times]
29 September 2020
Nepal: Oppositional Congress party criticizes MoFa’s handling of alleged Chinese intrusions
(lm) Nepal’s main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, on Thursday criticized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for issuing a hasty clarification on an alleged encroachment of Nepal’s territory by China. An inspection team earlier found that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had constructed at least nine buildings in Nepal’s northwestern Humla district, which borders the Tibet Autonomous Region. [Wion]
After locals had apprised the district authorities of the construction, Nepal’s Home Ministry sent an inspection team to visit the area on September 20. Finding that a border pillar was missing, the officials assumed that China had apparently taken advantage of the situation by encroaching into Nepal’s territory. A report prepared by the team was sent to the Home Ministry on September 22. In spite of the findings, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs the following day said that an inter-ministerial team in 2016 had already found the buildings in question to be located approximately one kilometer inside the Chinese territory from the Nepal-China border. [Times of India] [Swarajya]
Meanwhile, the border pillar, which was said to have been missing, was found the same day. [The Kathmandu Post]
In August, a report by the Survey Department of Nepal’s Agriculture Ministry had anew shed a light on China’s salami-slicing activities on border regions, claiming that Beijing has been encroaching on about 33 hectares of Nepali land at multiple locations spreading over seven bordering districts [see: AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4]. A report issued in November 2019, had found that four districts sharing a border with China – Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Humla – were seen losing territories in light of the diversion of rivers resulting from ongoing Chinese road construction in the Tibet Autonomous Region [see AiR No. 47, November/2019, 3].
29 September 2020
Nepal: Communist party leadership discusses cabinet reshuffle
(lm) The nine-member Secretariat of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) on September 20-22 convened to discuss ways to ensure the effective functioning of the government, including a cabinet reshuffle. The NCP has been discussing a Cabinet reshuffle for quite some months as the leadership was engaged in finding a larger power-sharing deal to defuse a crisis that had taken the party close to a split. [see AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2, AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4] [The Kathmandu Post 1] [The Kathmandu Post 2]
Members also urged Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to take the initiative to convene a Constitutional Council meeting and expedite the process of filling posts in constitutional bodies, including the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, National Women Commission, Madhesi Commission and Muslim Commission. [The Himalayian Times]
22 September 2020
Nepal: Government appoints Khatiwada as special economic advisor to Prime Minister Oli
(lm) Nepal’s government decided on September 14 to appoint former Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada as special economic adviser to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. Earlier this month, Mr. Khatiwada, who concomitantly was overseeing the Communication and Information Technology portfolio, had submitted his resignation, forestalling the end of his tenure by two days [see AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]. [Khabarhub]
Further, vice-chairman of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Bamdev Gautam has been appointed a member of National Assembly (NA), as President Bidhya Devi Bhandari formally endorsed Mr. Gautam’s nomination to the upper house of the parliament on September 17. Earlier, the government had recommended Mr. Gautam to the president, following a decision of the nine-member Secretariat of the NCP [see AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]. [The Himalayan Times 1] [The Kathmandu Post 2]
However, the nomination was challenged in Supreme Court (SC) On September 21 after two advocates had filed a writ petition with the court, seeking to quash Mr. Gautam’s to the upper house. The petitioners also sought an interim order against Mr. Gautam, urging the SC to bar him from working as an NA member till the case is adjudicated by the apex court. Pointing out that Mr. Gautam had lost the last first-past-the-post election to the House of Representatives in 2017, the petitioners argue that the decision to nominate him to the NA was not only against the verdict of the electorate, but, prima facie, was also a manipulation of the constitutional provision and the parliamentary system [see AiR No. 36, September/2020, 2]. [The Himalayan Times 2]
15 September 2020
Nepal: Ruling party resolves differences between PM Oli and co-chairman Dahal
(lm) The Standing Committee of Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP) passed on Saturday an agenda jointly prepared by the two co-chairmen of the party — Premier Minister KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal — to resolve the months-long infightings. Henceforth, Mr. Dahal will serve as an executive chairman of the NCP and be given full power to handle the party’s affairs. Moreover, while the party will not interfere in government affairs, on key governance policies and issues of national importance Premier Minister Oli will have to follow NCP guidelines. The decision clearly echoes the recommendations made by a six-member task force formed in August to end the stalemate between the two politicians [see AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4]. [The Kathmandu Post] [The Himalayan Times] [Business Standard]
Further, the 13-member panel decided to amend and subsequently endorse the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement signed between Nepal and the US in 2017, thereby following the recommendations of a three-member task force led by former premier minister Jhala Nath Khanal. Under the MCC, the US government agreed to provide $500 million in grants to support infrastructure projects in Nepal, while Kathmandu would chip in $130 million. What’s more, many NCP members believe the MCC to be part of Washington’s Indo-Pacific Strategy and thus may be used for military purposes to counter Chinese influence in the region. [Onlinekhabar] [The Diplomat]
Following a decision made by the Standing Committee, the next NCP General Convention will be taking place between April 7 to 12 2021; the next Central Committee meeting is to be held between October 31 to November 2 this year.
8 September 2020
Nepal: Finance Minister submits resignation
(lm) Finance Minister Yubaraj Khatiwada submitted his resignation on Thursday, forestalling the end of his tenure by two days. Mr. Khatiwada, who concomitantly was in charge of the Communication and Information Technology portfolio, had originally ceased to be a member of the National Assembly (NA) on 3 March but had been reappointed a day later by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to serve an additional six months. For the time being, the Prime Minister will supervise both ministries. [The Himalayan Times 1] [Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers]
The constitution requires a non-elected minister to obtain membership of the NA within six months after their date of appointment; a requirement that could not be met because Mr. Oli waved his prerogative to nominate Mr. Khatiwada to join the assembly. Preceding Mr. Khatiwada’s resignation, the nine-member Secretariat of Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP) decided on Thursday to nominate afresh senior party leader Bamdev Gautam to replace Mr. Khatiwada in the NA. [The Himalayan Times 2] [The Kathmandu Post 1] [The Kathmandu Post 2]
After six months of internal power struggle, Mr. Oli did not want to antagonise Mr. Gautam, whose six-point proposal helped swing the balance in the NCP in Mr. Oli’s favour, albeit temporarily, observers say. Prior to a meeting between the two politicians in late July, Prime Minister Oli’s position had become tenuous after 31 Standing Committee members had openly demanded his resignation as party chair and Prime Minister. A six-member task force formed to end the stalemate between the Prime Minister and his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal then made recommendations almost on the lines of Gautam’s proposal that Prime Minister Oli should complete his five-year tenure, while Mr. Dahal would be given full executive power over party affairs [see AiR No. 34, August/2020, 4]. [Nepali Times]
Whether Mr. Gautam can actually become the new Finance Minister is yet to be seen as some constitutional experts argue that the constitution bars a person defeated in the parliamentary election to be a minister or the prime minister. Mr. Gautam, still, won’t be the first politician to join the National Assembly despite having lost a parliamentary election. Nepal Communist Party spokesperson Narayan Kaji Shrestha, who also lost the 2017 elections, was appointed to the National Assembly back in January. [The Kathmandu Post 3]
25 August 2020
India is working on balancing against Chinese influence in Myanmar
(dql) For Delhi, China’s rise forms a constant challenge to India’s dominance of its backyard currently tested in Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. After India’s foreign minister visited Bangladesh last week to work on bilateral ties, Myanmar is the next country on India’s wooing list, a country where India and China compete for dominance.
Timing seems well for the Indian chief diplomat though. First, from a Myanmar perspective, India has handled its role in mediating between Bangladesh and Myanmar in the Rohingya issue rather well. Second, China is currently regarded as playing a dangerous role in relation to two of Myanmar’s insurgent groups. On July 2, the Myanmar commander-in-chief referring to the Arakan Army (AA) and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) alleged that terrorist groups in the country were being backed by ‘strong forces’ implying China. A military spokesperson then clarified the army chief was referring to the fact that AA and ARSA fighters had used Chinese made weapons when attacking the armed forces in a 2019 attack.
Another pain point Delhi could press has been revealed by Myanmar’s auditor general who had raised alarm over loans from China: “The truth is the loans from China come at higher interest rates compared to loans from financial institutions like the World Bank or the IMF” he was quoted, adding: “So, I would like to remind the government ministries to be more restrained in using Chinese loans.” Other criticism came up with regard to Chinese investment projects like the Muse-Mandalay Electric Railway built by a Chinese company or plans to erect a new Yangon city in cooperation with China.
These disturbances notwithstanding, China is present in the country as well and has also been working on deepening its ties with Myanmar with President Xi Jinping having visited the country at the beginning of the year.
To make things even more complicated, geostrategy and domestic politics are increasingly intertwined with Myanmar’s generals inclined to quest the Chinese card which becomes more attractive for Aung San Suu Kyi after having been put under pressure by the West over the Rohingya issue. [The Week]
25 August 2020
India-China relations III: Draft agreement with Nepal on Mount Everest measurement raises red flags in Delhi
(lm) In October 2019, when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal, both sides agreed inter alia on jointly announcing the re-measured height of the Mount Everest, which was then described as an “eternal symbol of the friendship between Nepal and China”. A draft agreement now revealed that Beijing wants Nepal to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which raises red flags within the Indian government. [AiR No. 42, October/2019, 3] [read the full joint statement here Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People`s Republic of China] [DNA India]
New Delhi, which is already worried about the wider presence of China in Nepal, is now concerned about a clause that calls for Beijing and Kathmandu to jointly collaborate on “surveying, mapping and geo-information management”. While China and India are currently engaged in heightened border tensions in the Himalayas [see above], bilateral ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu have been strained since November last year, over border-related issues. India already perceives Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s government to be more friendly towards Beijing. [The Wire]
Adding to the impression is a report by the Survey Department of Agriculture Ministry of Nepal, which claims that China has been slowly and gradually encroaching on Nepali land at multiple locations spreading over seven bordering districts. [Wion]
25 August 2020
Nepal: Months-long political imbroglio continues
(lm) After weeks of wrangling between Prime Minister Oli and his party co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the country`s ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) doesn`t seem out of the woods, despite a panel set up earlier this month suggested a formula to end the infighting. On Thursday, Mr. Dahal called on the Prime Minister to withdraw recent political appointments, claiming that Mr. Oli had made the decision unilaterally without prior approval from the party Secretariat. [The Kathmandu Post 1] [The Himalayan Times]
High-profile political appointments are made on the recommendation of the Constitutional Council – a key agency that recommends the appointment of officials at various constitutional bodies. In April, the Prime Minister had introduced an ordinance to amend the Constitutional Council Act, allowing the Constitutional Council to take its decision on the basis of majority, instead of unanimously. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Oli had to revoke the ordinance after coalition partners and some Cabinet members opposed the move. [AiR No. 17, April/2020, 4]
On August 14, Prime Minister Oli and Mr. Dahal appeared to have reached a tactical understanding to resolve the ongoing intra-party rift within the NCP, which saw Prime Minister Oli to complete his five-year tenure, while Mr. Dahal would be allowed to exercise full executive power over party affairs. Further, both leaders reportedly agreed on a cabinet reshuffle and to set up a six-member task force to provide a formula for the road ahead. The panel, which was endorsed by the party`s Secretariat three days thereafter, submitted its report on Saturday, in which it confirmed the deal made earlier in suggesting that party leaders should adhere to the one-man-one-post principle. Shortly thereafter, however, NCP key figure Madhav Kumar Nepal voiced his disappointment of the report, saying that it would merely postpone the problem instead of resolving it. [The Economic Times] [The Kathmandu Post 2] [The Kathmandu Post 3] [The Kathmandu Post 4] [Setopati]
While the appointments may be seen as an attempt by Prime Minister Oli to test the waters, it seems he also wants to leave the door open, in case his rivals backtrack. On Wednesday, the Election Commission gave the re-registered Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist (UML) its own election symbol making an eventual split of the currently governing party more probable. [AiR No. 18, May/2020, 1, see also AiR No. 32, August/2020, 2].
18 August 2020
India-Nepal relations: Dialogue resumed
(dql) Resuming dialogue after PM KP Sharma Oli’s decision to change Nepal’s political map to include certain Indian territories soured relations between India and Nepal, both countries held a virtual meeting on Monday to assess projects financed by India and being implemented in Nepal, including the East-West Highway from Mahendranagar to Mechi, considered a lifeline of Nepal, 22 bridges in the Kohalpur-Mahakali section of the East-West Highway, as well as eight village and urban roads and one bridge. [Economic Times]
In another sign of thawing relations between both countries, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli calling Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to congratulate India on its 74th Independence Day, adding that “Nepal looks forward to a meaningful cooperation between Nepal and India.” [Kathmandu Post 1]
For a critical assessment of the re-opening of communication channels between the two countries see [Kathmandu Post 2] and of Indian-funded projects in Nepal see [Brookings].
11 August 2020
Nepal’s ruling Communist Party edges further toward a split
(lm) Nepal’s Communist Party (NCP) – result of a post-election unification of the Marxist-Leninist and the Maoist communist party in 2018 and commanding almost a two-thirds majority – still struggles with a factional feud between its two chairmen, Nepal’s Prime Minister Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal, frequently called ‘Prachanda’. The latter insists on a one-man-one-post principle demanding that Oli either resigns as Prime Minister or co-leader of the party. After at least ten meetings between the hostile leaders, Prachanda told the party to prepare for the “worst” claiming that the majority of the Central Working Committee supported his faction while a new communist party – the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist–Leninist – had been registered at the Election Commission at the behest of PM Oli. [Hindustan Times]
To prevent a split, on Monday, sixty-three NCP lawmakers led by party vice-chair Bamdev Gautam have started a signature campaign to bridge the rift between the two rival leaders. [The Himalayan Times] After a Standing Committee meeting on July 28 did not bring a solution, success of the campaign might be doubted though.
4 August 2020
Nepal’s Army aims for increased business opportunities
(ls) Nepal’s Army has submitted a draft bill to the government for a revision of the Nepal Army Act, seeking legal clearance to invest money from its welfare fund in business activities. Current provisions bar the Army from investing in business enterprises, companies and infrastructure projects like hydropower. The move is controversial in Nepal as the Army has been becoming increasingly involved in contracts for various projects which otherwise are taken care of by civilian entities. Critics say that this leads to the armed forces losing their primary focus on providing security for the country. [Kathmandu Post]
21 July 2020
Nepal: Immediate halt of forced eviction of Chepang indigenous families demanded
(dql) Anmesty International has demanded that Nepalese authorities immediately stop “the forced eviction of the Chepang Indigenous peoples from their settlements and ensure those responsible for the destruction of ten homes are held accountable.”
The Chepang are an indigenous Tibeto-Burman ethnic group which mainly inhabits the rugged ridges of the Mahabbarat mountain range, a east-west mountain range of central Nepal.
Background of Amnesty International’s demand is the burning and destruction of Chepang families by authorities without prior warning. [Anmesty International]
14 July 2020
Nepal: While ruling NCP seemingly patches things up, new party officially registers
(lm) Amidst ongoing intra-party differences over issues of power-sharing, a crucial meeting of the Standing Committee of Nepal`s ruling Communist Party (NCP) to decide on the political future of embattled Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli was once again deferred on Friday. In an address to the nation later that day, Prime Minister Oli further downplayed the intra-party rift, saying such disputes were a “regular phenomena”. [The Hindu] [The New Indian Express]
Prior to the latest developments, supported by other senior party members, NCP Executive Chairman Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal `Prachanda` had publicly demanded Prime Minister Oli`s resignation over his recent anti-India remarks, saying the comments were “neither politically correct nor diplomatically appropriate.” [The Wire]
Meanwhile, a newly-formed Madhesi party – Madhesi are different groups of people with Indian ancestry living in southern Nepal for which India claims a kind of responsibility – officially registered with Nepal’s Election Commission. Formed after the merger of Samajbadi Party Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, the new Janata Samajbadi Party of Nepal (JSPN) holds 32 seats in the Lower House, making it the third-largest party, after the NCP with 173 seats and the main Opposition Nepali Congress with 60 seats. While it has supported the Constitutional Amendment Bill, passed by the Nepal government to alter the country’s political and administrative map, the JSPN has opposed the new Citizenship Amendment Bill pushed more recently by government. [AiR No. 26, June/2020, 5] [Hindustan Times]
The border blockade of 2015 whose imposition India is accused of by Nepal and which is still in vivid memory in Nepal goes directly back to disputes over the status and interests of Madhesi which remained unresolved when the Nepalese Constitution was approved by the Constituent Assembly in September 2015.
14 July 2020
Nepal-Indian relation further deteriorate
(lf/lm) Nepal’s diplomatic gap with India continued to widen over the course of last week, as New Delhi on June 24 sent a diplomatic note to Nepal to protest Kathmandu`s decision to unilaterally change the country`s map, showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders. [The Himalayan Times] [AiR No. 22, June/2020, 1], [AiR No. 24, June/2020, 3]
On Thursday, then, Nepal Cable TV operators stopped airing Indian news channels, accusing them of airing reports hurting the country’s national sentiment. Nepal also sent a diplomatic note to India, urging New Delhi to take steps against the broadcast of materials what it called “fake, baseless and insensitive as well as abusive” to the country and its leadership by a section of the Indian media. [NY Times] [Al Jazeera]
In the light of most recent events, observers urge India not to burn all the bridges between Kathmandu and New Delhi, as the dispute already pushed Nepal closer to China. Over the past months, the Chinese Ambassador to Kathmandu, Hou Yanqi, has been going door-to-door, paying visits to leaders of Nepal`s ruling Communist Party (NCP) in order to prevent a split and save Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s job. [AiR No. 27, July/2020, 1] [Business Standard]
7 July 2020
China’s continued involvement in Nepali politics to support the beleaguered prime minister
(ls) As the political pressure on Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli from within his party grows, China appears to get involved in the country’s domestic politics another time. China’s ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, met with President Bidya Bhandari and a senior politician heading the foreign relations department of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The meetings took place without the involvement of the foreign ministry, which is unusual. Analysts believe that Hou is engaged in efforts to bolster the position of the beleaguered prime minister as she allegedly already did in April and May at the height of political pressure against Oli. Back then, she met with Oli himself and the NCP’s chairman. [Hindustan Times 1] [Republic World]
Oli has come under increasing attacks from within his own party over his pronounced anti-Indian stance. In recent weeks, the Nepali government published a map that included territories that are disputed with India. Moreover, six new border outposts along the border with India had been set up. Two of these have now been withdrawn in what appears to be a move to appease Oli’s critics. China and India are currently in heightened border tensions in the Himalayas. [Hindustan Times 2]
30 June 2020
Nepal further stirs anti-Indianism with controversial Cross-Border Marriage Bill
(lm) Amidst ongoing border tensions with India, Nepal’s ruling Communist Party (NCP) on Sunday introduced a long-dormant Citizenship Bill to Parliament. The revised bill mandates foreign women married to Nepali men to wait seven years before becoming naturalized residents, while at the same time not granting Nepali women the right to similarly extend their citizenship to foreign husbands. The bill was recently approved by the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee and is now expected to pass in the lower and upper houses. [The EurAsian Times] [The Times of India]
As cross-border marriage is particularly prevalent along a southern plane known as the Terai region, pro-India opposition parties Nepali Congress (NC) and Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal (JSP) issued a note of dissent, citing fears that an amended citizenship law would ultimately reduce the population of the Terai region and diminish the plane’s political sway. [The Himalayan Times]
23 June 2020
Nepal: Constitutional amendment revising citizenship rules sparks controversy
(ls) The State Affairs and Good Governance Committee of Nepal’s parliament has passed a constitution amendment bill to grant naturalized citizenship to foreign women married to Nepali men only after seven years. Opposition parties opposed the amendment, saying it violates the constitution as well as political, social and cultural norms. [Himalayan Times]
The change is expected to especially affect families in Nepal’s Madhes region where cross-border kinship with India is common. Madhesi critics said the changes are racially motivated. The issue has created a heated debate over the privileges that the citizens of Nepal’s Himal region are perceived to enjoy in the Nepali society. Madhesis claim that they are discriminated against in Nepal’s diverse population. [The Hindu]
The move came about a week after Nepal had published a new map including territories that are subject to disputes with India. Tensions between Nepal and India have been rising over recent months, while China appears to gain more influence with the Nepali government. [AiR No. 24, June/ 2020, 3]
16 June 2020
Nepal II: Nepal to bar foreign tourists for joining youth-led protests in Kathmandu
(lm) The Nepalese Department of Immigration (DoI) will deport five foreign tourists and ban them from entering Nepal for two years after they joined protests against the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, officials said on Monday. [The Himalayan Times]
Nepal Police on Saturday had arrested three Chinese nationals and one each from the United States, Australia and Norway during a street protest in the capital Kathmandu and had later handed them over to the DoI for violating immigration laws. [Reuters]
16 June 2020
Nepal I: Lawmakers endorse map including disputed territory with India
(lm) Nepal’s parliament’s upper chamber on Sunday endorsed a proposal to consider a constitutional amendment to formalise and extend Kathmandu’s territorial claims over the Lipulekh Pass and other mountain territory claimed by both India and Nepal. The decision came a day after the Parliament’s lower house on Saturday had unanimously passed the constitutional amendment, paving the way for altering the Himalayan nation’s political map. Before it becomes part of the constitution, the revised map will also have to pass the National Assembly and be approved by President Bidhya Devi Bhandari. [SCMP] [Reuter]
The cross-party endorsement of a new administrative map prompted an angry response from India. In a statement issued on Saturday, India’s foreign ministry spokesman denounced Kathmandu’s effort to lay claim to what New Delhi describes as “Indian territory”. [Financial Times]
Nepal decided to issue its revised political map in May after New Delhi earlier last month opened a new Himalayan link road connecting its northern Uttarakhand state with Lipulekh on the border with Tibet that passes through the disputed area of Kalapani. [AiR No. 20, May/2020, 3] [AiR No. 22, June/2020, 1]
2 June 2020
Nepal: Government pushes ahead with constitutional amendment to approve new map
(lm) Nepal’s ruling Communist Party government on Sunday tabled a constitutional amendment bill in parliament aimed at formalizing the inclusion of the strategic north-western tri-junction with India and China – Kalapani, Limpiadhura and Lipulekh – within Nepal’s territory. The push follows on an all-party meeting earlier last week, which was convened by Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli who had sought a consensus on amending the constitution to include the disputed territories. [Al Jazeera]
On Saturday, then, the central committee of the Opposition Nepali Congress party voiced support for the government’s plan to allow the new contours of the border to be incorporated in its coat of arm. With the main opposition party endorsing the legislation, the amendment bill is expected to pass in the next days and to likely worsen the bilateral ties between the two countries. [The Wire]
Nepal’s latest diplomatic row with India erupted on May 8 when New Delhi announced the inauguration of a new Himalayan link road built through the disputed area of Kalapani that lies at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China. [Asia in Review No. 20, May/2020, 3]
For insights in a potential political time bomb in the form of Oli’s conflict with the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal (JSP) see [Swarajyamag]. The JSP is the primary party of the Madhesis who form over 19 per cent of the country’s population and have close kinship ties with India. JSP has been demanding an amendment of the Constitution to redraw the country’s provincial boundaries, grant official recognition to regional languages, address issues related to citizenship and expand representation in the National Assembly. Oli, however, is likely to reject these demands.
2 June 2020
Nepal: HRW demands revision of intelligence bill
(dql) Human Rights Watch has called on the Nepalese government to amend the Special Service Bill which, according to the human rights organization, risks providing the national intelligence agency unlimited surveillance and search powers allowing communications interception without judicial oversight. [Human Rights Watch]
19 May 2020
Continuation of India’s territorial and border disputes with Nepal
(jk) Last week, Asia in Review highlighted the story of the Indian Defence Minister inaugurating an link road through the Lipulekh pass, a territory disputed between India and Nepal and currently under control of Indian security forces. We also noted that Nepal has formally protested the unilateral move [Asia in Review No. 19, May/2020, 2], and since deployed members of its Armed Policy Force to patrol the area. [The Wire]
Over the week, the dispute has not died down and Nepal’s President Bidhya Devi Bhandari has claimed that a number of contested territories, including Lipulekh, belong to them. The cabinet endorsed a new map of the country this week including those territories in a clear sign of claiming sovereignty. [Zee News]
Observers in India have pointed out what they believe to be a distinct “China angle” in the developments as well, especially considering how close the pass is to the Line of Actual control (LAC) and after India’s Army Chief publicly stated that Nepal’s protest was at ‘someone else’s behest’, leaving little doubt he was referring to the PRC. [The Indian Express] Growing Chinese influence in Nepal is of course a concern for India and was only very recently highlighted by the actions of the Chinese ambassador to Nepal amid a serious government crisis as we highlighted then. [Asia in Review No. 18, May/2020, 1]
12 May 2020
India’s territorial and border disputes with Nepal, China and in Kashmir flaring up
(ls) Several incidents have put India’s disputes with neighboring countries and in Kashmir in the spotlight. Last week, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80 km link road through the Lipu Lekh pass, which is a territory disputed between India and Nepal but currently under control of Indian border security forces. Nepal protested against the move and announced to increase the number of security outposts and deploy more armed personnel to the border with India.
Nepal’s interests have suffered several setbacks in recent years. Back in 2015, India and China agreed to include the Lipu Lekh Pass as a bilateral trade route, without consulting with Nepal. And in 2019, India released a new political map including the disputed territories, which led to Nepal’s protest. [Kathmandu Post] [Economic Times] [The Hindu]
At the border between India and China, two small-scale violent incidents in Ladakh and Sikkim occurred between troops of the two countries. Soldiers brawled and threw stones at each other. The acts have led both India and China to send additional troop reinforcements to the area, while at the same time officials played the incidents down. The last major violent clash between the Indian and Chinese troops took place along the Pangong Lake situated between Ladakh (India) and Ngari (China) in September 2019. In 2017, there was a brawl between Chinese and Indian soldiers near Ladakh and the standoff in Bhutan’s Doklam in the same year. [South China Morning Post] [Times of India]
Turning to another hotspot, Kashmir, where Indian troops have intensified operations amid India’s nationwide lockdown. Indian troops killed four militants in gun battles, including Riyaz Naikoo, the commander of the biggest separatist group, Hizbul Mujahideen. News of the operation triggered clashes across the region in which dozens were injured. Authorities disabled mobile internet across the Kashmir region. [Reuters]
5 May 2020
Nepal’s Supreme Court reaffirms need to amend transitional justice law
(hg) Nepal’s Supreme Court ruled again on the sensitive matter of amnesties for grave conflict-era crimes in context of the country’s civil war. Rejecting a government petition the court asserted the overriding interest in securing truth, justice, and compensation for the thousands of victims of abuses by both sides who are still left without relief. Background is a campaign to revise the 2014 Transitional Justice Act and ensure its implementation and eradicate those provisions allowing for amnesties even for severe crimes like torture, rape, and enforced disappearance. The Supreme Court struck down these amnesty provisions in February 2015 already, prompting the government to petition the court to overturn the ruling. This petition was now rejected. [Human Rights Watch] [Nepali Times]
5 May 2020
Nepal: Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli under great pressure but remains in power – with a little help from a friend?
(jk) Continuing the pressures on PM Oli described in the previous Asia in Review, the past week saw a number of meetings between the various factions in the Nepal Communist Party looking for common ground. Even after withdrawing the ordinances on allowing political parties to split and easing the appointment of office bearers in the constitutional bodies, Oli stood to lose both his position as prime minister and party chair. [Asia in Review, No. 17, April/2020, 4]
The ruling Nepal Communist Party was formed after the merger of the CPN-UML (Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist)) and the Maoist Centre, with different factions now controlling various party institutions such as the Secretariat and the Standing and Central Committee. A Politburo has not yet been formed. The main rival faction, led by the second party chair and former PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal recently launched a campaign calling for Oli to resign, with a third faction in play led by senior politician Madhav Kumar Nepal. Both Oli and Dahal have over the last week tried to convince Nepal to join their respective side, offering him various posts and making promises. In Parliament, of the party’s 174 Members “around 78-80 are on Oli’s side and around 35-40 on Nepal’s side. The Maoist faction has 53 lawmakers.” [Kathmandu Post 1]
After it initially looked like Dahal and Nepal were set to push Oli from power, a last minute effort by Oli over the weekend seems to have secured him the premiership for now after he redistributed powers and positions within the party to different powerful faction leaders. Oli and Dahal in particular agreed to share power in that Oli is to focus on the government and Dahal on party affairs with “executive authority”. Dahal’s supporters followed his lead and withdrew their challenges against Oli. [Kathmandu Post 2]
An interesting international angle on the crisis last week was provided by the action of the Chinese ambassador to Nepal who “held a series of meetings with senior Nepal Communist Party leaders, expressing concern over the ongoing power play within the ruling party and seeking support to act as a bulwark against an international movement targeting China.”
Ambassador Hou’s series of meetings preceded the crucial ruling party Secretariat meeting on Saturday and the following events of the weekend where the crisis and Oli’s resignation was eventually avoided. While the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu stated meetings were nothing but “regular working communications”, the timing of the meetings as well as the fact that “the Foreign Ministry was not informed beforehand and no representative of it was present during the meetings” and as a result “no institutional records of the meetings [or] talking points” were made may raise eyebrows and seriously questions Chinese affirmations that they do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. [Kathmandu Post 3]
28 April 2020
Nepal: Prime Minister Oli’s struggle for power as corona crisis looms large
(ls) Last week, Nepal’s Cabinet endorsed a surprise ordinance allowing political parties to split if 40% of their parliamentary party voted for it. Another ordinance that was also approved related to the Constitutional Council, easing the appointment of office bearers in the constitutional bodies. Observers considered these as moves by Prime Minister K.P. Oli to counter his rivals in the governing Nepal Communist Party (NCP) and to distract from the economic fallout of the corona crisis. [Kathmandu Post 1]
However, after coalition partners and some Cabinet members opposed against the move, Oli had to backtrack and revoke both ordinances. The case illustrates Oli’s dwindling power. He is increasingly isolated within his own party. At the same time, the government has been accused of several corruption scandals which undermined public trust months before the corona virus started to spread. [Nepali Times]
Prior to the revocation, Dr. Bipin Adhikari, constitutional law expert and founding Dean of Kathmandu University School of Law, called the ordinance that would have amended the provisions related to the Constitutional Council unconstitutional. Nepal’s Constitutional Council is a key agency that appoints officials at various constitutional bodies, including the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority, the country’s top anti-corruption agency. [Kathmandu Post 2]
In another interview, Adhikari also commented on Nepal’s legal framework to deal with the corona crisis. [Lokantar] The country’s emergency powers invoked in the crisis have also been analyzed at [Verfassungsblog].
Economic insecurity caused by the impact on Nepal’s tourism sector and returning migrant workers pose the risk of pushing many Nepali households further into poverty. For the time being, foreign tourists will no longer be coming. Instead, Nepal stands to potentially see millions of now-unemployed nationals returning home from abroad. [The Diplomat]
31 March 2020
Is the corona crisis bringing Nepal closer to China?
(ls) As China claims to have brought the coronavirus outbreak under control, it has now reached out to Nepal, India, and 10 other Eurasian and South Asian countries to help out these nations in their respective fight against the virus. As for Nepal, these efforts may bring the country in closer cooperation with its big neighbor. The development highlights Nepal’s difficult choice between China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the United States’ Indo-Pacific Strategy. [The Diplomat]
24 March 2020
Nepal: Parliament to discuss legalization of Marijuana
(jk) After filing a motion in parliament earlier this year calling for legalization of cannabis and a lawmaker proposing a bill earlier this month to legalize marijuana in Nepal, senior members of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (NCP) are stressing the potential economic benefits to the country from re-legalizing. The legislation that is currently under review in parliament, calls for scrapping the 1976 Narcotics Drugs Control Act and with that, allow production, sale, and consumption of cannabis. [Newsd] [Nikkei Asian Review]
18 February 2020
Nepal: Former parliament speaker acquitted of rape charges – New speaker a murder suspect
(ls) A court in Nepal has acquitted the former speaker of parliament and senior Communist Party leader, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, on charges he raped a government worker. Mahara, a former leader of the Maoist rebels, had been elected speaker of the House of Representatives last year after the Communist Party of Nepal won a majority of the seats in elections in November 2017. [ABC News]
Mahara’s replacement will likely be Agni Sapkota, a senior member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and also a former Maoist rebel leader. He is accused of ordering a man’s death during Nepal’s civil war. Though several hearings over the case have taken place in the Supreme Court, he has not been officially charged. Civil and human rights activists said the case has made mockery of (the) rule of law and undermined human rights obligations. [Dhaka Tribune]
11 February 2020
Nepal: Controversial Politician accused of murder becomes Speaker of the House
(jk) For many years, human rights groups have tried to initiate an independent investigation in a murder case implementing a standing committee member of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The case dates back to 2005, but in the absence of a thorough investigation, Agni Prasad Sapkota continued his political career and has been elected as speaker of the house in late January. His predecessor is accused of rape, a fact not lost on those who lament a “culture of impunity” among Nepal’s top politicians. [The Kathmandu Post]
Nepal has a long way to go in a credible transitional justice process 14 years after the end of its civil war. [Al Jazeera]
4 February 2020
Nepal Supreme Court demands better protection of Nepalis working abroad
(ls) In a decision in January, Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the government to investigate cases of Nepalese workers who lose their lives abroad. The vast majority of such cases (about 1,000 per year) occur in Malaysia and Middle Eastern countries such as Qatar. The court issued an order against the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security and the Foreign Employment Promotion Board to include provisions regarding insurance and compensation to families in labor agreements with destination countries. Every day, about 1,600 Nepalese leave the country to work overseas. In many cases, they are subject to excessive recruitment fees, fraudulent jobs, abusive working conditions and mistreatment, and often have their passports withheld by employers. [South China Morning Post] [Himalayan Times]
21 December 2019
Nepal: Struggle over position of House Speaker
(ls) In Nepal’s House of Representatives, the post of the Speaker has been vacant since the former Speaker was arrested on charges of rape of a parliamentary colleague in September. Nepal’s Constitution requires that the Speaker and deputy must be of different parties and different genders. They are supposed to resign from their political parties so that they can lead the parliament impartially. The current deputy speaker is Shivamaya Tumbahangphe who was a member of the ruling Nepal Community Party (NCP), which wants her to resign: The NCP cannot contest the process of Speaker election as long as she is the deputy. However, women’s rights activists and politicians have termed the NCP’s demands discriminatory. The topic is followed closely throughout the country. [Nepali Times]
The level of discrimination against women in Nepal’s society and in the legal profession are described in an article published in [The Diplomat].
17 December 2019
Nepal demands renegotiation of Gurkha recruitment deal with Britain
(ls) Nepal’s foreign ministry has announced that it wants to review a military deal allowing its citizens to be enlisted in the British army. The announcement came just before a planned recruitment of Nepali women in the Brigade of Gurkhas for the first time in two centuries was initiated. Britain has been enlisting Gurkhas, a tribe from Nepal’s Himalayan foothills known for their fierce combat abilities, since 1815. In 2007, Britain announced plans to recruit Gurkha women for its elite force. However, the existing agreement does not allow Nepal to play any role in the recruitment process, which is the reason for Nepal’s call for renegotiation. [Reuters]
Here is a video about the British army’s recruitment selection process in Nepal. [YouTube]
26 November 2019
Video: India Nepal Relations in Shadow of Chinese Influence
(jk) A conversation with a former Indian ambassador to Nepal who looks at the historical evolution of India-Nepal relations and argues that the concern over increasing Chinese involvement in Nepal, and resulting threats to India, are exaggerated. While he sees “legitimate areas of concern”, India should seek avenues for cooperation with both. [The Wire]
19 November 2019
Nepal rejects Indian and Chinese maps that apparently appropriate Nepalese territory
(ls) India has released a new official political map at the beginning of November, which has been stirring criticism in Nepal recently, including from Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The updated map of India includes a major Nepali claim, an area known as Kalapani. However, this is not an entirely new development as India’s national mapping authority has been including the Kalapani and Navidhang areas in its maps since 1905, disregarding Nepal’s territorial sovereignty and a 1816 treaty between Nepal and the then East India Company. [The Diplomat]
In addition, protesters also took to the streets of Kathmandu after a recent government report indicated that China had encroached on Nepalese land. According to the document released by Nepal’s Survey Department, four districts sharing a border with China – Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Humla – were seen losing territories as Beijing expanded its road projects. [South China Morning Post]
The incidents vividly illustrate Nepal’s sandwiched position between India and China, which are, however, both seeking to deepen ties.
5 November 2019
The effects of American anti-abortion policies on Nepal
(ls) A detailed report on Buzzfeed describes the effects of conservative American politics on parts of Nepal’s health care sector. It lays out how, shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump was elected, he activated a “global gag rule” (GGR), banning US funding of foreign NGOs that provide abortion counseling or referrals. The article argues that, for a country like Nepal where the health care sector relies heavily on U.S. aid, the effects were very negative for women’s health. [Buzzfeed]
29 October 2019
Nepal refuses China on extradition treaty and is protecting Tibetan exiles
(jk) As previously reported, a couple of weeks ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping made important visits to two of China’s direct neighbours, India and Nepal [Asia in Review, No. 42, October/2019, 3].
While Xi and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not discuss political topics such as Kashmir and focused on improving economic exchanges, Xi and Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced a “strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity”, signed a number of MoUs, and celebrated promises of investing around US$500 million in different development projects [India Today], including US$21 million for the Nepalese Army in “disaster relief materials” over the next three years [Reuters]. It was the first Chinese president in 22 years to visit the country, and a rail link with Tibet was one of the focal points of the visit.
Nepal is home to thousands of exiled Tibetans, and their treatment has long been an issue of tension. After the visit however, it is important to point out that Nepal refused to conclude an extradition treaty that China was apparently after. [The Economic Times]
15 October 2019
Chinese President visits Nepal
(jk) After Xi’s India visit (above), he went on to Kathmandu to meet and discuss Beijing’s infrastructure development programme there. Among the more ambitious projects are a 70-km rail link that will connect Gyiron in Tibet with Nepal’s capital city and a proposed 28-km road tunnel that will more than halve the distance from Kathmandu to the Chinese border.
The visit was controversial for Nepal is traditionally a close ally of India and this was the first such visit in over two decades. The geopolitical and domestic political shifts of late are affecting Nepal which is looking to diversify its external relations.
Xi and Nepal’s President Bidya Devi Bhandari announced a “strategic partnership of cooperation featuring ever-lasting friendship for development and prosperity”. A number of MoUs were signed, in addition to a promise of investing around US$500 million in different development projects. [India Today]
An additional point of contention is the fact that Nepal is home to thousands of exiled Tibetans, who are facing and increasingly tough communist government that is moving closer to Beijing and “would never allow any anti-Chinese forces to operate in Nepal”. [South China Morning Post 1] [South China Morning Post 2]
8 October 2019
Nepal: House Speaker arrested over rape allegations
(ls) Krishna Bahadur Mahara, the Speaker of Nepal’s House of Representatives, has been arrested after he had resigned from his post following an accusation of rape by a staff of the parliament secretariat. The news of rape surfaced after a news website published a report on September 30, where the woman accused Mahara of raping her in her own residence. [BBC] [Himalayan Times]
The governing Nepal Communist Party had also asked Mahara to step down. He was the chief negotiator for the Maoists during the peace talks that ended Nepal’s decade-long civil war in 2006 and served as Finance Minister and Home Minister in successive Maoist-led governments after 2008. He was elected speaker after an alliance of the rebels and moderate communists won a landslide victory in the 2017 national elections. Throughout his political career, he was involved in several scandals and controversies. [Nepali Times]
24 September 2019
Nepal: Energy politics with India and Bangladesh
(ls) As relations between India and Nepal are deteriorating under Kathmandu’s communist government, the Himalayan country’s electricity export outlook is also worsening. Over the last four years, two foreign companies have pulled out of two hydropower projects due to the less attractive prospect. Despite signing a Power Trade Agreement in 2014 aimed at easing flows of electricity across the frontier, the process has been stalled by the lack of a policy framework on both sides. However, Nepal also sees Bangladesh as a potential buyer of its energy. Hydropower is one of Nepal’s major export sectors. [Nikkei Asian Review]
17 September 2019
India opens cross-border pipeline with Nepal
(jk) The leaders of India, PM Modi, and Nepal, PM KP Oli, have officially opened the first cross-country oil pipeline, allowing Nepal to receive direct oil-supplies from India without relying on trucks passing through often narrow border areas.
Nepal is heavily reliant on oil supplies from India and over recent years, protests and other disturbances at the Nepali-India border have often led to shortages in energy supplies.
India-Nepal ties are recovering after Oli’s first term in which India-Nepal ties had reached a low point when Modi pressured for the interests of Indian-origin Madhesi in the country, allegedly supporting a blockade to put pressure on Kathmandu to make specific changes to its constitution. The blockade created widespread suffering in Nepal, which had also just suffered a major earthquake, and caused many anti-Indian sentiments. [Live Mint]
10 September 2019
Nepal: Arrest of a popular journalist illustrates deterioration of press freedom
(ls) In Nepal, the arrest of one of the country’s most popular journalists has exposed widespread disaffection with politicians and the direction in which the country is headed more generally. Last month, police detained Rabi Lamichhane, a television show host, from his studio in Kathmandu in connection with the death of a former employee. Although the charges against are not directly related to his reporting activities, observers see the case as a crackdown on freedom of speech. A number of journalists have been arrested since the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) won national elections in a landslide in 2017.
Date of AiR edition
4 June 2019
Nepal: Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) voices concern over Nepalese government’s growing control on constitutional body and media
(jyk) Hong Kong-based AHRC has recently voiced its concern over Nepalese government’s attempt to pass an amendment bill that will give the government, led by National Communist Party (NCP), the discretionary power to intervene in the internal affairs of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), despite NHRC’s status as an autonomous constitutional body. NHRC was established to monitor and take independent measures against cases of human rights violation within the country, but its autonomy enshrined by the Constitution of Nepal will be undermined once the bill passes. The NCP-led government was also seen submitting the Media Council Bill that could let the government sue and impose a fine of up to one million rupees (about 9,000 USD) on medias and journalists under the charge of defamations [The Himalayan Times 1].
In similar concern over political entity’s growing influence on judicial branch, a group of lawyers have founded a new bar association called Independent National Lawyers’ Campaign (INLC) to replace the NBA (Nepal Bar Association), whose leaders are being overtly involved and loyal to the political parties. The INLC members seek to develop INLC into a neutral organization and expand its units across all regions. [The Himalayan Times 2]
28 May 2019
Four killed and seven injured in Kathmandu bomb attack
(jk) A Maoist splinter group is suspected to have conducted a coordinated three-blast bomb attack in the Nepali capital of Kathmandu, killing four people, past Sunday. The army has sealed off the area and is investigating the matter as no one has come forward yet to claim responsibility. [Nikkei Asia Review]
11 March 2019
Nepal: Agreement with Madhesi group to end violence
(ls) Nepali Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and CK Raut, a ‘Free Madhes’ campaigner and coordinator of the Alliance for Independent Madhes, have signed an 11-point agreement, according to which the group would cease their demands for a “free” Madhes and enter mainstream politics while the government would withdraw cases against him and his followers. Raut had for the last six years been actively demanding an independent Madhes for ‘liberation’ of the Madhesi people. However, there are several Madhesi separatist groups that are not covered by this agreement. [Kathmandu Post]
11 March 2019
Nepal: New strict legislation to regulate social media
(ls) A new law being introduced by the Nepali government will give the authorities powers to block social media platforms and remove or prosecute defamatory posts. The government has also tabled legislation that restricts civil servants from sharing their views in the media including social media sites. The Information Technology Bill would impose harsh sanctions for “improper” social media posts. The law also prohibits speeches and writing that are considered “contrary to the policies of the Government of Nepal or to undermine mutual relationship between the Government of Nepal and the people or the relationship with any foreign country”. Civil rights groups have strongly criticized the bill. [Himalayan Times]