Asia in Review Archive (2017-2018)


Date of AiR edition

News summary

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4 December 2018

Cambodia and Nepal sign agreements

(hg) Cambodia and Nepal signed four agreements to expand economic, diplomatic and political relations on occasion of the Asia-Pacific Summit 2018 in Nepal. Moreover, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari agreed to facilitate direct flights between their countries and envisioned further steps to deepen relations. Both countries have their good relations with China in common. [Khmer Times]


27 November 2018

World Bank support for Nepal

(ls) The World Bank provides financial assistance of $155.7 million to Nepal to invest in the construction and maintenance bridges and improving food security of vulnerable households and communities. The fund will be invested in strategic road networks and food and nutrition enhancement projects. World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region, Hartwig Schäfer, reiterated the World Bank’s commitment to support Nepal in its ambitious transition to federalism, as he concluded a five-day visit to the country. [Kathmandu Post] [Modern Diplomacy]

16 October 2018

Nepal and the China-EU lending race

(ls) Last month, the European Commission announced a new “connectivity strategy” for Asia that will likely increase lending for infrastructure by over a hundred billion euros over the next decade. Some analysts have suggested that this represents a strategic response to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In a thorough article, Peter Gill analyses the future trajectory of the Bank’s Asia connectivity strategy, taking the example of Nepal. [The Diplomat]

9 October 2018

Nepal has become a source country for trafficked women

(jk) Activists estimate that about 50 women are trafficked from Nepal to India on any given day, with the situation having deteriorated in particular since the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.

Many girls and women are trafficked to the Gulf countries, going through India with Delhi emerging as a trafficking hub. According to one activist, “Lack of evidence, out-of-court settlements, threats from traffickers and taboo have kept prosecution and conviction rates low”.  [India Today]

2 October 2018

Bhutan & Nepal: Readjusting priorities between China and India?

(ls) India’s neighbor Bhutan approaches the third general election in the country’s history on 18 October 2018. In September, voters had unexpectedly ousted the ruling People’s Democratic Party in the primary, along with it the pro-India Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay. That has awakened concerns over how the new government will manage its relations with China and India. In July 2017, geopolitical tensions surfaced when China began building a road along the sensitive Doklam Plateau on the Bhutan-Tibet border, which China claims as its own, without informing the Bhutanese capital of Thimpu. [Asia Sentinel]

Observers have held that a change in guard at Thimphu does not necessarily mean a pro-China tilt, however, it could lead to Bhutan trying to pursue a more equated relationship with both India and China. The Chinese may offer greater funding than India can afford. However, Bhutan may not be looking for huge investments. [DailyO]

Nepal’s quest for an alternate transit country with a view to reducing its dependence on India succeeded with the finalization of the text for the Protocol of Transit Transport Agreement with China on 7 September 2018. As per this text, China formally agreed to provide seven transit points – four sea ports (Tianjin (Xingang), Shenzhen, Lianyungang, Zhanjiang) and three land ports (Lanzhou, Lhasa, Xigatse) – to Nepal for trade with third countries. Nepal’s move towards China was sparked by India’s 2015-16 limitation of cargo movements through major India-Nepal border points. An analysis of the agreement has been published by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in New Delhi. [IDSA]

25 September 2018

Nepal: Ruling party seeks impeachment of new Chief Justice

(ot) Parliamentarians from the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NPC) have started a signature campaign in order to fill an impeachment motion against the nomination of Deepak Raj Joshee as Supreme Court Justice. In August, the Parliamentary Hearing Committee rejected Joshee’s nomination as Supreme Court Chief Justice.  [Kathmandu Post]

25 September 2018

Nepalese Army Chief lauds excellent ties with Pakistan Army

(hg) Nepal´s Army Chief has just joined the celebration of Pakistan´s Defence Day in Kathmandu to stress the “excellent relations at the army to army level” a move which comes after tensions arouse due Nepal´s surprise cancellation of joint military drills with India to hold exercises with the Chinese military instead. [Telegraph Nepal]

18 September 2018

Nepal faces shrinking civil society space and press freedom

(ot) Nepal’s civil space is challenged by a newly proposed set of draconian laws by which the ruling Communist Party tries to curb Western organizations’ influence while affecting pillars of democracy such as press freedom as well. Its new National Integrity Policy aims at tightening the government’s grip on international governmental and non-governmental organizations by imposing a tight regime to monitor organizations in focus. Their annual budget and programs would for instance require prior permission from the Finance Ministry while they would be restricted from sending reports to their headquarters without the Nepali government’s approval.

Moreover, the introduction of the new civil and criminal code has raised concerns over the restriction of press freedom. [The Diplomat]

For a longer historical overview of Nepal´s rights development see [Nepali Sansar]

18 September 2018

Nepal faces shrinking civil society space and press freedom

(ot) Nepal’s civil space and the pillars of democracy, including freedom of the press, equality, and liberty, are being challenged by a new set of draconian laws. The ruling Communist Party of Nepal is trying to curb Western organizations’ influence in the country. The new National Integrity Policy tightens the government’s grip on international governmental and non-governmental organizations. The proposed set of policies aim to closely monitor the organizations, require them to seek permission from the Finance Ministry for their annual budget and programs, and restrict them of sending their reports to their headquarters without the government’s approval.

In addition, the introduction of the new civil and criminal code has raised concerns over the restriction of press freedom. A number of provisions are problematic for the work of investigative journalists as well as photojournalists. [The Diplomat]

18 September 2018

Nepali Congress plans to power

(ot) The Nepali Congress has resolved to restructure the party in an effort to address the poor organizational set-up and factional conflicts believed to have been the caused its electoral defeat to the Nepal Communist Party last year. [Himalayan Times]

11 September 2018

Nepal’s New Army Chief: “Extremists want to destabilize Nepal”

(hg) Nepal’s newly appointed Chief of Army Staff warns of extremists aiming at turning Nepal into a failed state. The general who will serve in the new position for a three-year tenure refers to ‘elements’ that do not support the constitution promulgated in 2015: “These elements are working against national interest, albeit their activities are being closely monitored.” [Himalayan Times]

11 September 2018

Nepal doesn´t join India-led BIMSTEC military drill but conducts joint exercise with China

(hg) Nepal will not participate in the first ever ‘Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation’ (BIMSTEC) military exercise in India. The decision was taken just a day before the Nepal Army was set to travel to Pune, where the exercise will be commenced. [Hindustan Times]

Meanwhile, Nepal´s Army prepares for a joint military exercise with China starting next week under the label Friendship-2. [Times of India]

11 September 2018

Nepal gets access to Chinese ports

(hg) Sought to untie Nepal from its dependence on India for supply and connectivity, Beijing will allow the landlocked Himalayan nation the use of four of its sea and three of its land ports.

Additionally to two Indian ports, international cargo to Nepal can no pass to the four Chinese seaports. [Reuters]

Moreover, Beijing and Kathmandu are talking also to building a railway link, constructing an electric transmission line and are exploring a feasibility study for a free trade agreement. [The Kathmandu Post]

4 September 2018

Nepal: Doctors organize protest rally

(ot) Nepali doctors and other medical personnel have protested the new Criminal Code on Sunday. All medical services except for emergency care in hospitals were closed down on Sunday in the whole country. The new Criminal Code aims at reducing medical negligence by doctors and includes strict punishment for negligence or recklessness while treating a patient. The Code is understood as threatening to doctors that have to work under high pressure. The protests are announced to intensify until September and will last until the demands of the doctors are being met. [The Kathmandu Post]

28 August 2018

Criticism over Nepal’s new Citizenship Bill

(ot) Nepal has drafted a new Citizenship Bill that has come under criticism as it is said to discriminate against women on several levels. Several lawmakers have noted that the bill does not treat men and women equally when it comes to passing on their citizenship to their children. Women, for example, would have to make a statement that they do not know who the father of their child is to be able to pass on the Nepali citizenship to said child. [Himalayan Times 1] Others have mentioned positive aspects of the bill, such as equal lineage rights and an equal share of parental property for daughters. [Himalayan Times 2]

28 August 2018

Nepal: Crime reform and press freedom

(ot) The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) criticized Nepal’s new Criminal Code for restricting press freedom and expression. The new law prohibits, amongst others, slander and libel, even those that are satirical, as well as publishing private information without consent or taking photographs without consent. [Himalayan Times] [Channel News Asia 1] Last week, a man was arrested for posting pictures on Facebook that shows Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Oli’s head on a monkey and on a naked human body. [Channel News Asia 2]

21 August 2018

Nepal: New citizenship bill discriminatory against women


(ot) Nepal’s parliament is debating an amendment of the Nepal Citizenship bill that could make it difficult for women to pass on their citizenship to their children. Protestors took the streets of Kathmandu against the proposed bill, saying it treats women as second-class citizens. Women lawmakers have also sought revision of the discriminatory bill that violates the constitution which ensures equal citizenship for everyone. [Al Jazeera, The Himalayan Times]

21 August 2018

Nepal: NGO funding under increased scrutiny

(ot) The Nepali government is preparing a new national strategy for combating money laundering and terror financing that could result in the increased scrutiny of the financial transactions and activities of local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs). It will be the first time that NGOs are brought under the anti-money laundering regime, which met with some opposition. [Kathmandu Post]


14 August 2018

Nepal: Rights commission objects weak punishment for war crimes  

(ot) The National Human Rights Commission expressed its opposition to a number of penalty provisions in the proposed draft bill on transitional justice, saying that they are too lenient for the crimes. The Commission was particularly concerned with the provision that imposed only three years of community service as punishment for perpetrators of war crimes. It also urged the government to prosecute the crimes that were committed by the Maoist insurgents and the state security forces during the decade-long conflict. [The Kathmandu Post]

7 August 2018

Nepal: Rejection of chief justice candidate prompted warning of constitutional crisis

(ot) For the first time ever, the Parliamentary Hearing Committee (PHC) rejected the nomination of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. The PHC meeting, which was boycotted by Nepali Congress lawmakers, rejected the recommendation of the Constitutional Council led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to have Deepak Raj Joshee as chief justice of the Supreme Court. The PHC reasoned that Joshee failed to present his integrity, work efficiency, and behavior. [Kathmandu Post 1]

The Nepal Bar Association warned that the PHC decision directly interfered with the independent judiciary and could lead to a constitutional crisis and further legal difficulties. [Kathmandu Post 2]

24 July 2018

China-Nepal relations: Second joint military drill to take place in September

(ot) Nepal and China armies will have a joint military exercise, Sagarmatha Friendship-2, for the second time in September in China. The military drill aims at sharing expertise and skills in disaster management and fighting terrorism. The Nepal Army, which has long been holding military exercises with India and the U.S., has been increasingly extending military diplomacy and engagement with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. [The Hindu]

24 July 2018

Nepal: Civil society calls for amendments to transitional justice bill

(ot) The government of Nepal has recently introduced the amendments to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth, and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014, which have received criticisms from the civil society sector. Civil society organizations and human rights activists requested the government to introduce new legal provisions ensuring transparency of the appointment of members of the two transitional justice commissions. The two bodies include the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). They have been accused of failing to fulfil their duties after having been established for three years. The organizations and activists called for the commissioners to be chosen for their merits and credentials in the field of human rights. [The Kathmandu Post]

In addition, three international NGOs have raised concerns over the lack of a meaningful consultation process and shortcomings of the draft law which are not in line with international law and standards. They pointed out the law’s failure to ensure accountability, which will contribute to the issue of impunity. [Amnesty International] 

24 July 2018

Nepal: Civil society calls for amendments to transitional justice bill

(ot) The government of Nepal has recently introduced the amendments to the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth, and Reconciliation Commission Act 2014, which have received criticisms from the civil society sector. Civil society organizations and human rights activists requested the government to introduce new legal provisions ensuring transparency of the appointment of members of the two transitional justice commissions. The two bodies include the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons (CIEDP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). They have been accused of failing to fulfil their duties after having been established for three years. The organizations and activists called for the commissioners to be chosen for their merits and credentials in the field of human rights. [The Kathmandu Post]

In addition, three international NGOs have raised concerns over the lack of a meaningful consultation process and shortcomings of the draft law which are not in line with international law and standards. They pointed out the law’s failure to ensure accountability, which will contribute to the issue of impunity. [Amnesty International] 

24 July 2018

Nepal: Ministries given deadlines to complete laws on fundamental rights

(ot) Nepal’s Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs has given relevant ministries one week to present 17 drafts laws and amendments related to fundamental rights to the Cabinet for endorsement. The laws are necessary in upholding the 31 fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. They were formulated by the Law Ministry and sent back to concerned ministries for further changes. The ministries, however, have yet to complete the task.

The constitution also places a three-year deadline for the laws to be in place within three years of the charter’s promulgation on 20 September 2015. [The Kathmandu Post]

17 July 2018

Nepal: Top court voted to continue government’s protest ban

(ot) The Supreme Court of Nepal decided to continue the government’s ban on public protests at key places. The decision came after a petition challenging the government’s decision to ban such protests, arguing that it restricts people’s right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. [The Kathmandu Post]

10 July 2018

Nepali police urged to protect human rights

(ot) Nepal’s Minister of Home Affairs urged the Nepali police to commit to its responsibility in protecting human rights in crime investigations. The Minister said the government will work together with the police in upholding fundamental rights of the people. A report released by the National Human Rights Commission last year expressed dissatisfaction for the overall rights situation in the country. It highlighted issues such as the use of force by security personal during protests and official impunity. [The Himalayan Times]

The Himalayan Times






10 July 2018

Nepal: civil society demands revocation of government’s protest ban

(ot) Nepali civil society called out the government on its recent decision to allocate only seven places in Kathmandu for protests and to confine a hunger strike of an activist protesting against the government’s bid to reverse the gains in medical education. They accused the government’s restriction of peaceful protests as being unconstitutional and autocratic.

However, the Nepali government argued that democracy does not mean people could stage protests anywhere and that nobody is above the law. A writ petition has been filed at the Supreme Court demanding the revocation of the government’s protest ban. [The Kathmandu Post 1, The Kathmandu Post 2, The Himalayan Times]

3 July 2018

Nepal: Conflict victims oppose transitional justice law amendment

(ot) Victims of conflict and human rights activists raised serious objections to the proposed amendments to law concerning transitional justice, saying that it reinforces the climate of impunity. The amendment grants transitional justice bodies the discretionary power to reduce the severity of sentencing if the perpetrators help with the investigation, or apologize and express a commitment to not repeat their crimes. The draft amendment also provides for options of ‘open jail’ or ‘community service’, instead of incarceration. [The Himalayan Times, The Kathmandu Post, Nepali Times]

3 July 2018

Nepal: government proposes law on police administration

 (ot) The Nepali government has decided to draft two laws for the restructuring of police organizations to transform them into the federal structure as required by the constitution. The cabinet has agreed on drafting the bill related to performance, supervision, and coordination of Nepal Police and Provincial police, which will demarcate the functions, duties, and powers of the federal and provincial police. They also endorsed a proposal for the bill related to formation, operation, and terms and conditions of the Armed Police Force.

The development followed criticism for the repeated delay by the government to draft major laws implementing federalism adopted by the constitution promulgated three years ago. The constitution requires that the federation shall comprise of Nepal Police and a provincial police organization for each province. [The Kathmandu Post, The Himalayan Times]

26 June 2018

China-Nepal ties deepening

(dql) In a move deepening India’s concerns over China’s influence in Nepal which it sees as its backyard Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to “continue to support Nepal’s efforts to safeguard state independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity” during Nepal Prime Minister Oli’s visit to China last week. The two parties also signed deals worth 2.4 billion USD. [The Economic Times]

26 June 2018

Pakistan among 10 worse countries for rule of law, Nepal takes regional lead

(ot) Pakistan has been ranked 105th place out of 113 countries in the Rule of Law Index 2017-18 issued by World Justice Project (WJP). The index gave the country poor scores on governance, corruption, fundamental rights, security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice, and criminal justice. In addition, it was placed at 5th out of 6 countries in the South Asia region (among Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka), while Nepal took the lead. The report also asserted that all of the countries in the South Asia region improved in the global ranks with the exception of Afghanistan, which stayed in 111th place. [Pakistan Today, The Himalayan Times]

26 June 2018

Nepal: Bill on formation of Administrative Court proposed

(ot) Nepal’s Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs registered a new bill proposing the formation of Administrative Court. If enacted, the Court will have the sole and wider jurisdiction over cases related to dismissal, transfer, and promotion of government officials. It will also help reduce the burden of the Supreme Court, who should only deal with cases related to fundamental and legal rights of the people. [The Himalayan Times]

17 June 2018

Nepal: Government closes down UN-DPA office with immediate effect

(ot) The government closed the United Nations’ Department of Political Affairs (UN-DPA) that was set up in 2011 to help the Nepalese government in its peace process. Considering that Nepal’s transition is completed  with the new Constitution adopted and elections held, the Nepalese government asked the UN staff to leave within three months. [The Indian Express]

17 June 2018

Nepal: No suspension of MPs facing trial

(ot) A weeks-long debate about the endorsement of the House of Representatives Regulation finally found an end in Nepalese Parliament. The ruling Nepal Communist Party proposal to include a provision that would suspend any MP accused of a crime carrying a jail sentence of three years and more met strong rejection by the opposition parties (Nepali Congress and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal). Finally, they reached an agreement: lawmakers won’t be suspended but they will be denied their pay and perks during trial. The endorsement of the regulation has paved the way for the formation of 10 House committees, among them the Parliamentary Hearing Committee which is indispensable for hearing of nominees for ambassadorial posts or constitutional positions before their appointment. The government had blamed the absence of the committee for not nominating candidates for appointment as the chief justice, chief of the Commission for Investigation of Abuse the Authority and ambassadors. [The Kathmandu Post]

10 June 2018

Nepal: Govt to tighten regulations on NGOs, INGOs

(ot) The Nepalese government has decided to tighten the regulations for Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and International Non-Government Organizations (INGOs). It said that some ill practices have increased because of a lack of monitoring. Local offices will then have to send reports about NGOs and INGOs and the property details of office bearers of these organizations will be made public. [The Himalayan Times]

3 June 2018

India-Nepal joint military exercise begins in Uttarakhand

(am) A joint military exercise between India and Nepal with soldiers from both countries conducting battalion level joint training sharing experiences in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

The military exercise, which is set to conclude on June 12, is called ‘Surya Kiran’ and is conducted alternatively in India and Nepal every six months. [The Times of India]

3 June 2018

Nepal: Investigation into war crimes gets tougher under new government

(jm) The Nepalese Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) might face new hurdles in its investigation process with the Maoist Centre, which merged with CPN-UML to form a single ruling party as one of the principal parties to the civil war under investigation. [The Kathmandu Post]

3 June 2018

Nepal PM: Ministers who can’t operate laptops within 6 months will be sacked

(am) Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has said that the Prime Minister’s Office will be made paperless within six months and warned that anyone at the Council of Ministers who does not know how to operate a laptop will be sacked. [The Kathmandu Post]

3 June 2018

Nepal: Presidential pardon for murder-convict, former Maoist leader

(am) Leader of the erstwhile CPN Maoist – later CPN Maoist Center and now part of the governing Nepal Communist Party – Balkrishna Dhungel has been granted presidential pardon from serving the rest of his jail sentence for murder.

Dhungel along with 816 other prisoners from across the country have been released on recommendation of the government for ‘good conduct’ on occasion of the 11th Republic Day. The Office of the President approved the government’s recommendation for mercy. [Himalyan Times 1]

The leader of the oppositional Nepali Congress Gagan Thapa has expressed his discontent over the release and blasted the government for taking a decision on a matter which is still under discussion in the courts. [Himalayan Times 2] 

20 May 2018

Nepal: Relaxation with India

(jm) After a troubled relationship with India after the 2015 blockade, Nepal and Indi seem to be on a path of relaxation after Nepal´s Prime Minister Oli´s visit in Delhi and the just ended follow-up visit of Indian Prime Minister Modi to Nepal. India has now agreed to implement past accords between the two countries without further delay and welcomed Nepal’s demand for four new air routes linking the countries. [The Kathmandu Post]

20 May 2018

Nepal: Ruling parties form a single communist party platform

(jm) After seven months of negotiations, Nepal´s two communist parties which are currently forming a governing alliance, reached an agreement of how to merge into one single party, the new Nepal Communist Party (NCP). It is supposed to be formed after the dissolution of the existing parties, the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Center and will ideologically commit to both, Marxism – Leninism and Maoism. In its Standing Committee of 43 members, 25 will come from Prime Minister Oli´s CPN-UML and 18 from the CPN-Maoist Center, while the two party – leaders agreed on a power sharing model according to which they will take turns to assume the posts of unified party chairman and prime minister respectively. [The Himalayan Times]

13 May 2018

India-Nepal relations: PM Modi’s visit

(ot) On Friday, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi arrived in Nepal on his 2-day visit to the country from 11 to 12 May. The visit is being seen as an attempt by the countries to soothe uneasy ties, particularly as China is strengthening its political and economic relations with Nepal. On the main agenda are talks on bilateral projects, including railway connectivity between the countries, inland transport, and agriculture. [The Times of India, The Hindu]

6 May 2018

Nepal: Communist parties´ unification moving on

(hg) After recent difficulties to formally unite, the leaders of Nepal´s two communist parties CPN-Maoist Center and Prime Minister KP Oli´s CPN-UML have finally agreed in a one-on-one meeting that the united communist party´s central comittee will be composed by almost the same number of each party’s members, although the CPN-UML is stronger and that the Sun, the symbol of CPN-UML will be the symbol of the new party.

Nonetheless, conflict remains over the Maoist leader´s demand to either to get the chair of the unified party for the next two years or a share of the power for the whole Oli’s Prime Minister term. A favorable date to announce the unification, May 5, Karl Marx’s bicentennial birthday, has passed without an announcement of the expected unification of the parties. [The Himalayan Times] [The Wire]

6 May 2018

Nepal/Bangladesh connectivity by new tunnel

(jm) At the third conference of small- and medium-sized enterprises from China and South Asian countries on Sunday, the Nepalese Minister for Industry, Commerce and Supply announced the construction of a tunnel linking Bangladesh and Nepal. [The Kathmandu Post]

29 April 2018

The China-India-Nepal Triangle

(hg) On occasion of the visit of Nepal’s Foreign Minister in China from April 16-21, [The Diplomat] addresses the ongoing Chinese-Indian competition over influence in Nepal with a thorough analysis that gives China the advantage over India. The most recent meeting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping might, however, slow the harsh tone of the competition down for a while. [The Diplomat]

22 April 2018

Nepal: A letter to the Prime Minister from Human Rights Watch

(ls) In a letter to Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli, Human Rights Watch pointed to several human rights issues in the country, including transitional justice, violence in the Terai region, rights of children and young women, impunity and security sector reform, gender and sexual minority rights, citizenship as well as refugee and migrant worker rights. [Human Rights Watch]

22 April 2018

China proposes India-Nepal-China economic corridor as South Asia remains strategic hotspot

(ls) China on Wednesday proposed an India-Nepal-China economic corridor with multi-dimensional connectivity through the Himalayas as it seeks to expand its influence over the new Nepalese government headed by Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli, widely regarded as pro-Beijing. China’s proposal came after visiting Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali held talks with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. During his last tenure as Prime Minister, Oli signed a transit treaty with Beijing in 2016 ending the decades-long dependence on India for commodity and energy supplies for his land locked country. He also sought railway connectivity between the two countries through Tibet which China is currently building. [Livemint]

S.D. Muni analyzes India-Nepal relations in the light of Oli’s recent visit to New Delhi. He describes how Oli discarded the widespread notion of Nepal’s dependence on India and repeatedly underlined the importance of sovereignty, equality, non-interference and interdependence in Nepal’s dealings with India. Muni argues that India eighbor that there is a limit to its muscular and aggressive diplomacy, which has alienated one after another eighbor and been exploited by China to its advantage in South Asia. He holds that India’s attempts to reach out to Oli have, therefore, been a serious exercise towards course correction in its neighbourhood approach. [The Wire]

An assessment by Stratfor sums up current India-Nepal-China relations, holding that Nepal has little choice but to maintain cordial relations with India given the deep economic and cultural links across their open border. India’s diminishing ability to influence Nepalese politics, however, points to its declining power in South Asia as China’s presence in the region expands through the Belt and Road Initiative. [Stratfor]

15 April 2018

Nepal: Government appoints new chiefs of police/paramilitary police

(hg) The government has appointed new chiefs of both police forces, the Inspector General of Police and the paramilitary Armed Police Force. They have been selected by a cabinet meeting called by Prime Minister Oli due to the mandatory retirement of the former chiefs of both security forces and are supposed to serve for four years.  [The Himalayan Times] Prior to the Cabinet meeting, PM Oli had held consultation with his Maoist Centre party Chairman and the Home Minister. [The Kathmandu Post 1]The Deputy Inspector General resigned a day after the appointments  as he has also been in the race having been ahead in the performance evaluation conducted by the erstwhile government. [The Kathmandu Post 2]The previous Nepali Congress government had promoted an inspector General last year whose appointment was stalled on the very same day by the Supreme Court which eventually annulled it by stating the appointment had been a unique example of “pick and choose”. [My Republica]

To command a loyal police force might turn out important for the new communist government in the future. It has made its choice now while still having been bound to select a candidate among the limited number of suitable candidates as defined by seniority and performance criteria and with regard of a system that foresees efficient legal scrutiny pertaining to the selection.

15 April 2018

India/Nepal relations reset?

(hg) The recent visit of Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s to India does not reverse an increasing closeness of his country to China but indicates that relations to India are also not in free fall.

In how far the attempted recalibration of bilateral ties will turn out to carry weight, especially with respect to the Chinese influence in Nepal, remains to be seen. Notably, the small and poor Nepal has yet another stature in Delhi due to the Chinese alternative. After all, the talks have been focused on connectivity and infrastructure instead of domestic Nepali politics, an area of keen Indian interest in the past.

Both leaders have reached an understanding to connect Nepal with India’s vast railway network and thereby with the sea, agreed at a time when it is foreseen that China’s Tibet railway will arrive at the Nepal northern border in 2020. Acknowledging the shared historical and cultural links Oli and Modi also inaugurated an Integrated Border Check Post and a cross-border oil pipeline, reached an understanding to expedite a much-delayed river project, a road network and a partnership in agriculture. The 69-kilometer pipeline to transport petroleum from the Indian state of Bihar to Nepal is expected to deliver 200 million tons of petroleum products to the energy hungry Nepal. [The Hindu] [Nepali Times]

Despite the recent reset, Kathmandu still joins Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” plan showing no sign to decrease its openness to China. Delhi, on the other hand, has achieved what it could achieve even if  that simply did not include a reset to Indian hegemony. India may keep some significant influence in Nepal, but it can hardly keep the country within its sphere of influence as matters stand.

15 April 2018

Nepal reassuring Beijing

.() While the prime ministers of India and Nepal met in Delhi, former Nepali Prime Minister Madhav Kumar, leader of Prime Minister Oli´s political party, CPN (Maoist Centre) – UML, has visited China to participate in the Shanghai Co-Operation Organisation (SCO) People’s Forum on ‘Promoting Regional Peace: Jointly Building a Community of Shared Future for Mankind’ attended by leaders from Nepal, India, China, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Turkey. [The Kathmandu Post] [The Himalayan Times]

The former PM and incumbent Nepali communist party head said that bilateral agreements with China would be implemented soon, adding that his Chinese counterparts were happy about the unification of the two Nepalese communist parties. Chinese party leaders are invited to participate in the party unification celebration planned for April 22. Soon China´s President Xie will also visit Nepal.  [Kathmandu Tribune]

8 April 2018

Nepalese PM Oli in Delhi amid soured relations

(hg) Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Oli, together with a high-level delegation, went to India for a three-day state visit on his first visit abroad after assuming office for a second time after fighting an ultra-nationalist election campaign much focusing on Indian interference in Nepali politics. During Oli’s first term, India-Nepal ties had reached their lowest point when Delhi pressured for the interests of Indian-origin Madhesis in the context of crafting the current Nepali constitution, allegedly supporting a blockade to put pressure on Kathmandu which, however, created widespread suffering in Nepal and caused bitter anti-Indian sentiments. Nepal has joined China´s Belt and Road Initiative in the meanwhile and is expected to formalize a number of projects under the scheme in the coming months. [Daily O] [The Kathmandu Post 1] [The Hindu] See for an exclusive interview with PM Oli on his India trip, bilateral relations and Nepali foreign policy [The Hindu].

For the legacy of the blockade of the Indian-Nepali border see [Nepali Times].

When Nepal promulgated its constitution in 2015 to mark lasting peace after years of civil war, India exerted pressure on Nepali leaders, who are mostly from the northern hills, to accommodate the demands of the plains, especially regarding the said Indian-origin Madhesis and to reverse the decision for a secular constitution. To comply with the Indian pressure from PM Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and declare Nepal as a Hindu state or to refrain from declaring it as secular was regarded by the leftist Nepali counterparts as an automatic invitation to the monarchy to return as the king is considered in Hindu political theology a reincarnation of a god. When dissenting minority groups started to block cargo trucks from India, Delhi used its border forces and customs to further block goods traffic in a time when Nepal still suffered tremendously from the consequences of a disastrous earthquake that had ravaged the poor country only month before. When PM Oli approached China for critical fuel supplies, Beijing promptly reacted, neutralizing the effects of the blockade which began then to be slowly lifted after five months in February 2016 as Nepal agreed to a few minor changes in the constitution. The very next month PM Oli visited China to engage in a dense partnership whose heart piece was a transit agreement allowing Nepal access to Chinese sea ports. But the anti-Indian resentment goes way beyond the episode as well reflected by Nepali editor quoted by the SCMP: “India wants to micromanage Nepal. They have to control all government appointments, they have to know everything. Their ambassadors behave like viceroys. Aren’t we a sovereign nation?” [South China Morning Post]

Significantly, even the Nepali, traditionally pro-Indian opposition, expects PM Oli to be treated respectfully during his visit. [The Hindu]

Now, China accounts for nearly 60 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI) with India being a distant second with US$36.63 million, followed by the US and Japan. [South China Morning Post]

According to recent news a Chinese company will finance a Nepal’s private sector-led Hydropower Project and comprehensively coordinate all design, procurement, construction and finance after another Chinese company has signed an agreement with Nepal’s People’s Energy Limited to develop another Hydropower Project. [Steel Guru]

Another Chinese financed energy project, a – currently only planned – dam project, the $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki plant in central-western Nepal, has become a major issue in the Delhi – Kathmandu – Beijing relations with PM Modi expected to refuse to buy the energy produced if it would be realized. The project had been initiated by former Nepal Prime Minister and Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, or ‘Prachanda’, but soon cancelled by his successor in office from the pro-Indian Nepali Congress, Sher Bahadur Deuba. [The Kathmandu Post 2]

The current Indian – Nepali talks are held after Pakistan has surprisingly advanced to reach out to both the Maldives and Nepal after Pakistan´s Prime Minister Abbasi has just headed to Kathmandu for a two – day visit only three weeks after Oli has taking over as Prime Minister. Abbasi was the first high profile foreign visit to Nepal´s new leader reportedly discussing also the Chinese Belt and Roads Initiative which Pakistan prominently joins. [Asian Tribune]

1 April 2018

Nepal´s government unhappy with EU

(hg) Prime Minister Oli commented on a critical report of the European Union’s Election Observation Mission (EUEOM) on the recently concluded elections of the House of Representatives and Provincial Assemblies it would undermine Nepal and its people.

The EUEOM report claims certain inequalities in the treatment of some of Nepal´s ethical and religious groups including Christians which were not considered for inclusion, despite comprising 1.4 percent of the country’s population. [The Kathmandu Post]

25 March 2018

Who is a terrorist? The politics behind labeling

(ls) Against the background of Nepali Maoists’ fight against monarchy and the fact that they were declared terrorists by the old royal regime, Dhruba Raj Adhikari argues how supporting the “war on terror” was the most convenient way for unpopular dictators in the Global South to gather legitimacy and support for their actions from the global hegemon, the US. In his commentary, he holds that terrorism committed by states and their agents has been responsible for millions of deaths worldwide in the last two centuries, but that state terrorism remained an under-theorized and under-studied concept as compared to non-state terrorism. Adhikari urges the reader that the politics behind labelling someone as a terrorist needs to be interrogated thoroughly. [Economic & Political Weekly]

25 March 2018

Nepal: How to eliminate caste-based discrimination

(ls) In this piece, Raj Pariyar examines how Dalits, who make up 13.8 percent of Nepal’s population, seem to have been forgotten over time, remaining underrepresented in mainstream politics and governance of Nepal. Due to elections conducted under the first-past-the-post system, Dalits, who live scattered around the country, won very few seats in comparison to their population. Also, the major political parties were not interested in Dalit candidates. Against this background, Pariyar demands more inclusive politics in Nepal. [The Kathmandu Post]

18 March 2018

Nepal’s orientation away from India

(hg) With the newly elected President Bhandari from the left alliance, the country is in firm leftist hands. Soon it will elect also a vice-president and last Sunday, Nepal’s recently elected Prime Minister K P Oli has gained a remarkable vote of confidence with a two-thirds majority in Parliament (208 votes out of 268). [Asia Times]Against this background, the old hegemon India is rapidly losing ground in Nepal, which is increasingly opening up to China. Unclear is only how much space India will lose, China will gain and what the impact is these developments on the regional order will have.

A breaking point for the special relations between India and Nepal was the 2015-16 blockade of the Indian-Nepali border after Nepal had promulgated a new constitution to the Indian displeasure. The new Socialist government of Prime Minister Oli in Kathmandu would only gain from serving the ensuing bitterness and the recent visit of Pakistan’s Prime Minister – the first foreign head of government to visit Nepal after Oli assumed office – only adds to Nepal’s increasing openness to China. Indian attempts to better relations to Nepal were too insignificant and came too late as Biswas Baral points out in The Diplomat. [The Diplomat] [Asia Times]

Oli’s willingness to cooperate with both China and Pakistan poses a serious strategic challenge to Delhi while another friend, Iran, seems to also opening to India’s adversaries.

18 March 2018

Nepal: ICJ concerned about impunity 

(hg) International Commission of Jurists, at the UNHRC’s 37th session, highlighted the continuing impunity and corresponding non-compliance with international law obligations. Stressing that more than 10 years after the civil war there has been almost absolute impunity for serious human rights violation. Similarly criticized the government’s failure to fulfil its obligation to enact domestic legislation to criminalise serious crimes in compliance with international law. [The Himalayan Times]

18 March 2018

Nepal’s Chief Justice sacked

(hg) Nepal´s beleaguered chief justice is fired after the country’s judicial council secretariat, a constitutional body, found that he had faked his date of birth to remain in office, after he had directed the country’s press council, an independent regulatory body set up by the government, to censor stories published about him and filed a contempt-of-court case against media representatives involved in the respective reports on his forgery. [The New York Times]

18 March 2018

Nepal: Prime Minister and opposition leaders on future domestic politics

(hg) Addressing a reception, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli just announced the possibility of constitutional amendments while issuing warnings the government would not tolerate any terrorist activities but also take stringent measures to control violence and crime with rape and corruption named as major challenges. [The Himalaya Times 1]

At the same time, former prime minister and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba stressed that the opposition party had a significant role for strengthening democracy while in other senior NC leader, Ramchandra Paudel, stressed the need for a responsible, this loyal and effective opposition urging the party´s lawmakers not to oppose anything. [Himalayan Times 2]

With this, the country´s constitutional democracy presents itself in a better shape than those others in Asia Pacific where opposition is equated with obstruction from the one side and principled enmity from the other. If the Nepali Congress can live up to the expectations created by its leaders remains to be the seen though.

18 March 2018

Nepal: President Bhandari re-elected 

(hg) Incumbent Nepalese head of state Bidya Devi Bhandari has been re-elected with nearly three-fourths (over 74%) of the total votes of the Electoral College backed by the governing left alliance of CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre. The Electoral College comprises members of Federal Parliament and provincial assemblies with 884 members, among them 879 eligible voters of which 862 participated in the election. President Bhandari was first elected in October 2015 after having served as vice-chairwoman of UML. She is the wife of former UML leader Madan Bhandari is a veteran politician who has also led the Ministry for Environment and Population and the Ministry of Defence as well as the UML’s All Nepal Women Association for around two decades. [The Kathmandu Post]

11 March 2018

Nepal: Closer ties with Pakistan, instead of India?

(ls) In a symbolic gesture, Nepal’s newly elected Prime Minister K.P. Oli received his first foreign visitor, the Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi – instead of his counterpart from long-time traditional partner India. After winning the election on a leftist ultra nationalist platform, having promised to diversify Nepal’s relations beyond India and deepen ties with others, particularly China, the move may be interpreted as a demonstration of Nepal’s increased independence in international relations. [Hindustan Times]

Meanwhile, as many believe that Nepal has finally entered an era of stability, Raunab Singh Khatri, in the Diplomat, points to a necessary transition in leadership which is soon to take place. Looking at Nepal’s recent, political development, while the election has signaled a transition from post-conflict society toward a period of stabilization, he argues that it is also an era of transition toward a new generation of political leaders from the “old watchdogs.” [The Diplomat]

4 March 2018

Nepal: largest newspaper pressured over criticism of chief justice

(hg) Nepal´s largest newspaper had been summoned for publishing a series of articles of the country´s Chief Justice who seems to have given different dates of birth on various documents. Hearing of the case has been rescheduled. [The Hindu]

4 March 2018

Nepal: In between Indo–Sino competition

(hg) A recent South China Morning Post article highlights once more the intensifying Nepali–Chinese relations to the disadvantage of India. [South China Morning Post]

Interesting news are reported from Pakistan whose Prime Minister seems to plan a two-day official visit in Nepal to congratulate Nepal´s new Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, news which have – surprisingly – explicitly not been confirmed by Nepal´s Foreign Ministry. [Pakistan Observer]

25 February 2018

Nepal: Historic Merger – The Communist Party of Nepal

(jk) Last week, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli was sworn in as new prime minister after his communist alliance won a landslide victory in the country’s first general election under a federal constitution. The alliance jointly commands 174 seats, almost a two-thirds majority in the 275-member lower house. Now, the alliance has announced a historic deal on a merger and plans to form The Communist Party of Nepal, based on Marxist-Leninist ideology. Whilst the details of the deal are not finalised, observers believe this could be a game changer in Nepalese politics and provide much needed stability in the future. [NDTV]

China, having advocated this move for long, will be pleased. Beijing will also be happy to hear the new PM restarting a hydropower project with the Chinese in an effort to reduce energy dependency on India. Oli was expected to look to China to the detriment of Nepal-India relations. Far from an all-out diplomatic upset, he is nonetheless keeping relations with India smooth as he is pursuing a fairly balanced hedging strategy, trying not to fuel zero-sum assumptions. Few doubt however, that under new leadership, China is now the preferred partner and it will increase its footprint in the country. [South China Morning Post]

Meanwhile, Nepal’s newly formed government has started informal talks with Rastriya Janata Party- Nepal (RJP-N) about the latter’s joining the government. Decisive question of these talks will be whether RJP-N’s demands of constitution amendment can be met. Ever since the constitution’s promulgation in 2015 Madhesh-based parties who later would merge into RJP-N demanded its revision to tackle marginalization of the Madhesi people. [ANI]

18 February 2018

Nepal’s New Prime Minister

(hg) Nepal’s president appointed veteran communist leader Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli as new prime minister after his communist alliance won a landslide victory in the country’s first general election under a federal constitution. The alliance jointly commands 174 seats, almost a two-thirds majority in the 275-member lower house. The 65 – year old Oli has already been PM between October 2015 and August 2016 when India imposed a five-month-long trade blockade on its landlocked neighbor to support the demands of one of the country’s groups, the Madhesis, who have close cultural, linguistic and filial ties with Indians across the border. That only catalyzed Oli’s turn to China and increased Oli’s political standing. [Nikkei Asian Review]Nepal will now be inclined to foster relations to both sides as much as possible while the trend clearly seems to favor China.

11 February 2018

Nepal: Religious freedom in the 2015 constitution falls short of international human rights standards

(jk) Nepal adopted a new constitution in late 2015, after a fairly open and widely held debate on its merits and discontents, it stated that it would uphold internationally accepted (western) human rights standards and that it grands basic human rights to all its citizens. A case in point was the decision to include LGBT protections into the charter. The level of protection of religious freedom in Nepal has come under some scrutiny however, as parts of section 26 of the charter are very vaguely worded and could be used and abused as seen fit by the powers that be. Human rights advocates have particular problems with the issue of religious conversion and the way it is dealt with in both the constitution but also the criminal code, which has seen some controversial amendments to strengthen the constitutional provisions. [Forbes]

4 February 2018

India working against the trend in Nepal?

(hg) After the overwhelming election success of the joint communist forces in Nepal which is widely assumed to give China a strategic advantage over India, the Indian government has worked quietly over the past two months to secure its stakes in the Himalaya state. After all, almost all of the Nepalese people live on the Indian side of the Himalayas, while Nepal takes up half of the mountain border between China and India.

Following PM Modi’s telephone call Nepal’s coming communist leader Oli immediately after his election, several high-level contacts were established between Delhi and Kathmandu culminating in Indian Foreign Secretary Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Nepal ahead of the now expected government formation. Oli, in turn, wrote on the occasion of the Indian national day to PM Modi that he was eager to work with the Indian government. [The Economic Times]

5 January 2018

Nepal: Still no government in sight

Political parties in Nepal have yet to agree on a new government after the historic election results at the end of last year. The landslide victory of the left-wing coalition has not yet translated into the formation of a new government due to procedural problems and some administrational weaknesses [The Wire]. For more in-depth analysis of the constitutional conundrum and the underlying factor for the instability in Nepal, please also refer to CPG’s online magazine COM’s late 2015 and 2016 issues and the interesting articles they contain on Nepal and its constitution [COM 05/2015; COM 06/2016].

5 January 2018

India and the new Asian order: Nepal, the Maldives and greater Sino-Indian relations

Against the background of the competition between the two major rising powers in Asia, China and India, the first two pieces looks at the Indian PM’s neighbourhood first policy and where it has had its successes and constrains [Carnegie]. Significant progress has been made and under Modi, India looks to keep strategic engagement at the top of the priority list.

But India is facing an uphill battle for influence in its neighbourhood with China also increasing its economic and political influence [The Diplomat]. The election of a “China-friendly” government in Nepal recently serves as a one example [Pacific Standard], as do the deteriorating relations between India and the Maldives [Asia Nikkei]. China’s motivations, as many feel in India, are all but exclusively benign and whilst Indo-Sino cooperation should be encouraged in general, it is important for India not to lose sight of the fact that China is a strategic competitor and will not do India any favours beyond what is good for China.

China is an absolute priority for Indian foreign policy and It is no coincidence that the next foreign minister in India will be a China expert, in fact a diplomat who was crucial in resolving the Doklam stand-off [Sputnik]. India, it is argued, must for instance be prepared for a border war [Outlook India] and recent steps such as the linking of all posts along the Chinese border are signs that this is considered a real possibility [Times Of India]. India must stay vigilant in its external relations and be careful not to cede the entire region to China in political, economic or cultural points [The Print / Inst. for Defence Studies and Analyses]. After the recent Doklam border stand-off, there is already a new stand-off, this time firmly inside Indian territory [Indian Express].


29 December 2017

India-Nepal relations: Nepal’s Communists await the reins of power as India mulls how to mend ties

(kg) Nepal’s ruling “Nepali Congress Party” was overwhelmed in provincial and parliamentary elections held in that country earlier this month, faced a debacle in the recently held elections as the two Communist political parties handily won the majority of votes. While Prime Minister Deuba says he is eager to turn over the reins of power to the Maoist winners, Nepal’s major parties have failed to forge consensus on the National Assembly Election to pave way for the formation of new government [The Himalayan Times].

Regionally, Nepal’s election of a Communist coalition to rule for the next five years is widely viewed as a major victory for China and a major defeat for India. The author of The Wire’s article asserts that some of the roots of this historic election outcome were planted by New Delhi: it failed on many fronts, stemming from its failure to appreciate the impact of a devastating earthquake on the Nepali people, and political interference to its backing of an uprising and use of an economic blockade against Nepal. The author argues Nepali-Indian relations are too circumscribed by a narrow political and security lens: the answer to better ties between the two countries may lie in India’s willingness and ability to employ “soft power”. This soft power would use non-traditional diplomatic efforts to reinvigorate cultural connections, tong shared histories, and a deeper understanding of the Indo-Nepali relationship [The Wire].

In The Diplomat, Harsh V. Pant argues that, while New Delhi will be viewing the developments in Nepal with some concern, for Kathmandu there was greater room for maneuverability now between China and India. According to his analysis, India could and should not prevent Nepal from developing closer links with China so long as Kathmandu remains cognizant of vital Indian interests [The Diplomat].

22 December 2017

India-Nepal relations: New Delhi fears losing Nepal to China after Communist return to power

The communist’s stunning upset victory in Nepal’s parliamentary elections is set to give New Delhi headaches for the next five years, Indian analysts fear. As India’s army faces off against Chinese forces on the Doklam Plateau and continuing political warfare regionally, India fears the incoming premier in Kathmandu will serve as Beijing’s proxy, a “vassal state”.  Since the communists took control of Beijing in 1949, Delhi found security in Nepal’s role of as buffer zone against Chinese influence [Asia Times].


15 December 2017

A Communist Nepal tilts the sub-region Left, and towards Beijing

A coalition of the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Centre (NMC) appears to have won the largest number of seats in the federal assembly, ensuring the return to power of former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to that post. Oli has eagerly sought China’s sup-port and investment in Nepal, and has promised to re-instate a major Chinese hydropower project that was ended by the ruling Nepali Congress in November. In the sub-region, India is facing re-trenchment of its political influence: China has benefited politically recently in the Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh as well as Nepal, and Beijing is exerting both political and military pressure on Bhutan [Scroll In]. The new com-munist government will be “beholden” to Bei-jing, asserts the next article. It will be a particu-larly difficult foreign policy problem for Dehli, at least in part because Oli blames his ouster as prime minister last year on India’s influence [The Times of India]. In the latest press reports, Communist Party-UML has the lead, while the National Congress Party is second [The Himalayan Times].

8 December 2017

One Belt, One Road initiative: Nepal, Pakistan wary of PRC investment – and Control

In the past two weeks, Nepal and Pakistan have rejected three infrastructure projects with China worth nearly $20 billion. They join a growing list of countries re-thinking Chinese infrastructure investment as Beijing aggressively pursues its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative [Quartz]. This article and the second article detail the common problems cited for countries refusing Chinese involvement in key projects: simply put, they don’t like Chinese pressure and they now realize that the infrastructure that is built will likely end up being controlled by China [Voice of America]. Nepal reflects the common pattern for China to sign controversial projects when a pro-China government is in place, only to have a new government cancel the contract once the opposition party takes control. A Dec. 7 vote could reverse the cancellation decision, if the Nepali Communist Party takes the reins of power again.

1 December 2017

Indian-Chinese relations: Cmpetition over Myanmar and Nepal

India’s leaders see Myanmar’s Rohingya refugee crisis and the situation in Rakhine as an opportunity for China to try to expand its strategic partnership with Myanmar and its influence in the region. China has offered to broker a deal between Myanmar and Bangladesh regarding the Rohingya, and to create economic projects in the ravaged Rakhine zone. In response, India kicked off a military exercise with Myanmar last week to keep the country’s military engaged. This was followed by 3,000 family relief packs delivered to Rakhine on Friday. With regional political and economic supremacy at stake, the contest between India and China for this strategic part of Asia is intensifying [Times of India]. Nepal announced this week that a state-owned power company will develop its biggest hydroelectric plant, after the government scrapped a $2.5-billion deal with a Chinese company, citing lapses in the award process. Nepal’s rivers, cascading from the snow-capped Himalayas, have vast, untapped potential for hydropower generation. The country is one of several geo-political battlegrounds between its giant neighbors China and India. The opposition Communist UML party has said it would hand back the project to China if voted to power after elections that began Sunday [Asahi Shimbun].

17 November 2017

Coming elections as constitutional turning point?

The coming provincial and federal polls on November 26 and December 7 – the first elections under the 2015 constitution after years of civil war – might become “historic” with a most likely communist dominated parliament after the two large communist parties formed the Left Alliance (see the last AiR). After the run-up to the elections saw a constitutional crisis caused by the breakaway of one of the two communist forces from the coalition government with the center-right Nepali Congress, the election will easily mark another transition.
While a failure of the elections could support the forces aiming at the restauration of the Hindu kingdom, the likely election victory of the Left Alliance over the weakened Congress could also lead to a major overhaul of the constitution. Possible would be a departure from the parliamentary system with the parliament electing both the prime minister and the (more ceremonial) president in favor of a strong executive. After all, both communist parties’ leaders fought for the annihilation of “class enemies” and “one-party dictatorship”.
The electoral contestation will however see not only a weak Nepali Congress but also a very volatile Left Alliance with Leninist as well as Maoist forces in an all but easy relationship. The possibility of profound constitutional changes after the 2015 constitutional compromise that concluded the civil war’s last chapter has, however, to be seen against the background of limited success of constitutional politics under the charter.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission that is doomed to cease to exist in three months for instance has not been able to take up any of the 61,000 human rights violation cases stemming from the Maoist insurgency very much because the Maoists refused to cooperate [The Indian Express].

17 November 2017

China: Belt and Woes

China is not experiencing all but love from its neighbours it seeks to cooperate with on huge infrastructure projects under its Belt and Road umbrella. Not only are neighbours wary due to four distinct areas of PLA reform and capability enhancements [Asia Times], some are not always so keen on infrastructure projects on their soil under Chinese terms. In Thailand for instance, the high-speed rail project has faced some real difficulties, as have projects in Indonesia and even Laos [The Nation]. Nepal, in a move this week, has signaled it will cancel a deal huge deal with a Chinese SOE to build a hydropower plant [South China Morning Post].

28 October 2017

Heading to a communist government?

Short before the provincial and federal legislature elections on November 26 and December 7 under the federal Constitution delivered two years ago the country faces serious rifts and volatility. The announcement of Nepal’s two communist parties – one Marxist-Leninist, the other Maoist – to contest the elections as an alliance led to an end of the coalition government of the Nepali Congress, a centrist democratic party, and the Maoists whose 17 ministers were immediately stripped off their portfolios by the Prime Minister. The ideological, personal and policy differences between the two parties irrespective they would be the country’s biggest party with the Nepali Congress being not less faction-ridden and seemingly unable to respond while former Nepali King Gyanendra Shah for the first time stakes claim to throne eleven years since the monarchy has been abolished after years of civil war. With Indian-Nepali relations still strained after India’s 2015 blockade and the king having been a trustworthy ally of the Indian government, the inter-communist rapprochement raises at the same time questions about Chinese influence behind the scenes [Al Jazeera, The Himalayan Times, The Indian Express].

22 September 2017

India-China relations: After the Doklam stand-off and the BRICS-Summit – tensions are far from over

While the recent BRICS-Summit turned out as a major factor in resolving the Doklam stand-off, India and China will continue to find themselves at odds over numerous issues (Quartz). As an example: China will likely finish a huge hydro-power project in the disputed area of Kashmir way ahead of schedule. The project is part of the Pakistan economic corridor. China presses ahead: “The Belt and Road initiative cannot be delayed or sidetracked by the territorial disputes.” Another example of likely further tension is a strategically important China-Nepal highway (Hindustan Times) built by China. Demographics may turn the tables in the long run in India’s favour however (The Strait Times II). Last, but not least India’s Army Chief of Staff has spoken twice publicly on India’s ability to wage a two-front war against China and Pakistan. Gautam Sen, a retired Indian defence accounts officer, considers possible strategic reasons of such a statement as well as the substance of its claim. The author argues that short-term posturing may be detrimental to India’s long-term interests (Mainstream Weekly).