August Analysis: International Relations

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In the month of August, the Agnipath scheme controversy resonated in Nepal and India. The Indian government enquired Deuba government to send their views on the scheme, in this response the Foreign Minister Khadka held a meeting with Ambassador Srivastav and requested India to stop the recruitment until all political parties reach consensus on this issue. Alongside this, Foreign Minister Khadka’s to hold a bilateral talk with the State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China H. E. Mr Wang Yi leading their respective delegations in Qingdao, China three days visit to China. Over the years, China’s strategy in extending its influence over Nepal and Nepali communist parties to keep these parties under its influence, however China has also tried mending its relationship with the Nepali Congress as it was evident with its few approaches for e.g., inviting high level congress leaders in its both visits were also identified. Apart from this, Minister Khadka’s visit included signing few agreements with his counterpart – 800 million RMB (NRs15 billion) grant assistance to Nepal was signed, bilateral talks

was exchanged and according to news sources no improvement on BRI was recorded during the visit.

Timeline of Major Events

DateEvents
August 3, 2022Nepal dragged into Taiwan Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan
August 11, 2022Nepal airlines at loss due to rusted Chinese planes
August 12, 2022Foreign Minister Khadka visited China for high-level meeting
August 19, 2022Nepal awarded the West Seti and Seti River project of 1200MW to India after China withdrew
August 23, 2022Nepal fails to provide its view on Agnipath Scheme
August 25, 2022Diplomats concern over Transitional Justice bill

Nepal-India

Agnipath scheme put on hold 

The Angipath scheme echoed in the parliament of Nepal few days after India announced. On June 2022, when Modi government launched the scheme and it asked the Deuba led government to provide its views on the scheme which was also applied to Gurkhas as it has special relation with the Gurkhas. However, the Deuba led government failed to provide any response. In addition to this, Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka held a meeting with Indian envoy on 24 August, 2022 to discuss Nepalese being recruited under Agnipath scheme which has been controversial in India itself and Nepal’s parliament. Opinions are lingering in Nepal as some believe it violates the tripartite between Nepal, India and British government and the other concerns were regarding the future of those Nepalese returning back the country. Furthermore, the questions were raised by the CPN-UML in the parliament. The member of parliaments was against the Angipath scheme due to their vested interest for making it as a political agenda and, adding national interest or issue of nationalism for the upcoming election.

Nepal awarded over 2.4 billion hydro project to India that was left by China 

The Government of Nepal officially handed over the West Seti Hypro power project and the Seti River project to India after China left nearly four years back. On 18th August 2022, MoU was

signed between the Investment Board Nepal India’s state-owned NHPC Limited to develop West Seti       and       Seti       River        (SR6)—joint        storage        total        of        1200MW. Upon signing the MoU between India and Nepal, it paves way for both countries to reform its tarted relation. The agreement served as the important apparatus to enhance the cooperation in energy sector and explore various means of trade and investment. In addition to this, India could also play a vital role in being a connecting factor for other South Asian to develop a regional trade between Nepal and Bangladesh. Nepal- Bangladesh and India holding discussion on expanding hydro projects and electricity trade. On 2021 September, two countries agreed to develop a transmission line by taking India on board. Following this discussion, there has not been any trilateral meeting among the involved countries but India has mentioned If India agrees to agreement there is chances of electricity trade between Nepal and Bangladesh. Likewise, it is also an opportunity to further deepen ties for the current government which has friendly diplomatic relation with India and Bangladesh in comparison to the previous Oli administration.

Nepal-China

Nepal dragged into Taiwan Controversy

The U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was mired in controversy despite of knowing that China-US relation was in a sensitive stage. The Chinese decry her visit and stated that it was a serious violation of one-China policy. Chinese government’s invasion to Taiwan has been heated debate over the decades among international politics forming various opinion and showing concerns to the Taiwanese. After the visit of Pelosi, the Ambassador Hou on Pelosi’s visit released a statement firmly opposing her visit to Taiwan. Besides this, Nepal government was also dragged unnecessarily in this matter quoting “China appreciates Nepal’s commitment to one-China principle and resolute opposition to Taiwan Independence”. 38 Chinese have been practicing assertive in Nepal’s foreign policy, this is a prime example of how Chinese are dragging Nepal into its internal matter. The statement by the Chinese Ambassador was condemned by the public personnel, intellectuals and academia’s, journos.

Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka visited China

The Hon. Dr Narayan Khadka paid three days visit to China to hold a bilateral talk with the State Councilor and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China H. E. Mr Wang Yi leading their respective delegations in Qingdao, China. This marked the first high-profile visit from Nepal to China ever since the formation of the Deuba government in July 2021.

While in the past few years, China’s main strategy in extending its influence over Nepal has been to court the Nepali communist parties and keep those parties under its influence, lately, China has also tried mending its relationship with the Nepali Congress. China’s new approach was evident during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Nepal last March, and also during the visit of Liu Jianchao – head of the International Liasion Department of the Chinese Communist Party – the last month. During both these high-level visits, Nepali Congress’s leaders were also prioritized, albeit not in equal measure to that of the communist ones. After the split of the Nepal Communist Party – which was formed with the merger of the CPN UML and the CPN Maoist Center – China has perceived that its influence over Nepal is gradually dwindling. For China, the parliamentary ratification of the US’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact which it had labelled as the “pandora box” was glaring evidence of its slipping influence over Nepal. Ever since then, China has realized that while pushing for the communist coalition could still be its long-term strategy in Nepal, a good relationship with the Nepali Congress is of equal importance – if not more. Through plenty of incidents it can be observed that Chinese influence immersed in domestic politics while NCP in the power as the Oli led government had voted in favor of Beijing’s new security law for Hong Kong that was introduced in the midst of Hong Kong pro-democratic protest

– which had provisions of harsh penalties for vaguely defined political crimes– at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR). The decision made by the Oli led government was against the Foreign Policy of Nepal as Nepal has adopted the NAM and it is evident that China’s political clout is growing in internal politics of Nepal.

On the other side, Minister Khadka’s visit was right at the time of the Taiwan crisis induced by the visit of the US Congress’s Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan – a semi-autonomous self- governing island that China claims to be its integral part. Minister Khadka’s visit to Taiwan was planned much before international media even began speculating over Pelosi’s visit. Therefore, on Nepal’s part, Minister Khadka’s visits carried no symbolic meaning in regard to the Taiwan Crisis. It was even reported that there were some deliberations on the part of Nepal’s government regarding the visit at the time of the heightened geopolitical crisis between the two superpowers. However, for China, the timing of the visit was an opportune moment to emphasize and highlight Nepal’s unequivocal adherence to the One China Policy. This is also evident from the fact that Nepal was unnecessarily dragged into the Taiwan Crisis – the statement of the Chinese ambassador to Nepal about the Taiwan crisis reiterated Nepal’s commitment to the One China policy while the statement of Nepal’s Foreign Ministry had only mentioned that Nepal was maintaining a close watch of the unfolding crisis in the region.

During the visit, Minister Khadka signed quite a few agreements with his counterpart – 800 million RMB (Rs 15 billion) grant assistance to Nepal being the major one. The agreement however wasn’t mentioned at all in the statement issued by China’s foreign ministry. And similar to that of Foreign Minister Wang’s visit and CCP’s International Liasion Head Liu Jianchao’s visit, this visit also marked no further development in regard to the implementation of the BRI agreement. The BRI agreement has been in limbo ever since 2017 but China has shown little to no interest at all in carrying the agreement to the implementation phase. While the Chinese statement stated that China is willing to carry forward the BRI agreement, the Nepali statement didn’t mention anything at all in relation to the BRI.44 This perhaps could have to do with the facts that – i) China’s repeated assertions of implementing the BRI agreement have essentially been rhetorical ones and ii) the Deuba government has had apprehensions regarding the BRI agreement – its loan component, and other provisions.

Nepal airlines loss due to Chinese rusted planes

The Chinese planes that arrived in 2014, have been on the grounds over two years. The Ministry of Finance have been paying the interests of the loans for the aircrafts. The Chinese planes were bought with hopes of generating revenues. The three 17-seater Y12e aircraft and two 56-seater MA60 aircraft—are parked at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu while the another one crashed in Nepalgunj and isunable to fly. The officials are still not sure for how long will the aircraft remain on the ground. The Chinese government made an agreement with Nepal aviation on November 2012 under which 7 years was grace period and payback period were until March 21, 2034. The grace period is over and Ministry of finance has started paying the interest. While the price of the unusable Chinese plane is high, the Government of Nepal should be careful and must conduct intensive inspection before buying any material from any countries.

Tatopani Rasuwagadhi border closed

China imposes unannounced ban on Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border. Photo: RSS.

China once again closed Tatopani and Rasuwagadhi border as the COVID cases spikes. Rasuwagadhi border was closed a week before Tatopani, the Custom Administrator said that no prior notice was given by the Chinese regarding shutting the border. The pandemic implication and closed border have severely impacted the traders, there has been zero human to human contact due to COVID and the trucks that were to deploy for Nepal has been stranded as the borders are completely shut down for trade. Due to this, businesses have faced turmoil as currently the festive season is lined up and there are no goods to sell in the market.

Discussion on Transitional Justice with Oli

The UN’s Resident Coordinator in Nepal, Richard Howard along with the ambassadors of the United States of America, The European Union, the European Union, Germany, Australia and Switzerland held meeting with Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, CPN (Maoist Centre) chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and CPN-UML chair KP Oli. The concerns expressed by those diplomats surrounded the exemption of perpetrators on serious violations of human rights in the proposed amendment to the Transitional Justice Act.

The transitional justice process has been on limbo since 2015. Then the supreme court had ruled that the law fails to meet Nepal’s legal obligation internationally and domestically on various grounds which includes the two transitional justice commissions to reprieve perpetrators of serious violations of international law. The new bill eliminates previously drafted amnesty provisions, but it would still be hard to prosecute the perpetrators that were responsible for serious violations of international law, those of; people’s war crime, crime against humanity.[1]

However, in response to the concerns of the respective diplomats, aide to Prime Minister Deuba asserted that diplomats were of the opinion that; if the victim is unsatisfied with the prosecution process by the Special court, the victim must be allowed to appeal the Supreme court. The transitional justice process should not be neglected by the parliament and the process has been prolonged over the decade. Nepal began its peace process since 2006 and the justice process is long over-due. If the bill is passed by the parliament with the necessary changes, it could be commendable as it sets up the positive benchmark in the public and international platform. The issue of transitional justice has faded away from limelight over the years – now that the elections are underway, this could be the right time on the part of the victims and the diplomats in pushing the government to pass the bill through the parliament.

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