Annual Analysis: National Security and Climate Change

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Timeline of Major Events

DateEvent
January 15Nepal raised the issue of Kalapani border dispute with India in the joint commission meeting.
January 27Nepal started vaccination drive after receiving 1 million doses of vaccines from India
April 29Nepal announced second lockdown after the authorities struggled to contain the rapid spread of virus
June 15Flash floods in Melamchi and Indrawati river destroyed Melamchi drinking water project and impacted hundreds of families
June 21Government lifted prohibitory orders with certain restrictions in place
August 9IPCC released a climate change reported which has warned code red for humanity
September 1A task force was formed by Deuba to study the border dispute in Humla
September 26The task force confirmed China’s encroachment in Humla district
October 17Unseasonal rain killed hundreds of people, displaced families, and damaged ready to harvest crops
October 29Nepali Delegation led by PM Deuba left for Glasgow to attend the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26).
November 2At the COP26, PM Deuba has urged the world leaders to recognize the climate vulnerability in the Himalayas and to put the mountain agenda at high priority in all climate negotiations
December 6Nepal reported two cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19

National Security

Security of Farmers and Vulnerable Communities

Farmers of Titang, Baglung Municipality-9 crossing Kathekhola on their way home after completing their field work. Photo: RSS

This year’s monsoon has led to the deaths of many people, caused damage to infrastructures and affected people’s livelihoods. The heavy rainfall damaged household properties and infrastructures such as Melamchi drinking water project, Bheri Babai Multidiversion project, and drinking water supply of Beni Municipality, among others. Similarly, the devastation caused by the floods and landslides has forced people from different parts of the country to migrate and seek alternative livelihood. The devastating monsoon was followed by the unseasonal rain which also wreaked havoc throughout the country. The rainfall which started from the third week of October, destroyed paddy crops in several parts of the country. It impacted the crops in several districts of Sudurpaschim, Lumbini, Karnali and Gandaki provinces. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, the damages to the paddy crops was estimated to be around NRS 8.26 billion. A total of 85,580 hectares of ready-to-harvest land has been swept away or submerged by floodwaters. Apart from the damages to the paddy crops, the production of other vegetables was affected which resulted in price hikes.

Earlier this year, the South Asian Seasonal Climate Outlook Forum (SASCOF) had forecasted that most of the region in Nepal would get above average rainfall. Similarly, the department of Water and Meteorology had forecasted the post monsoon rainfall, highlighting that the post monsoon rainfall isn’t unprecedented after a monsoon with heavy precipitation. However, the information failed to reach the public because of which they had to incur heavy losses. Furthermore, the rehabilitation and rebuilding processes put forth by the government have been slow as indicated by previous years. Although the National Security Policy of Nepal identifies preparedness of disaster management as a fundamental objective, the government has prioritized distributing relief funds rather than focusing on long term disaster management. Moving forward, the government should focus on properly communicating the risk of possible natural disasters to the vulnerable communities, developing proper infrastructures to make the disaster prone communities more resilient, and working with local communities to ensure proper preparedness and response in any instances of disaster. Similarly, the government should also provide insurance coverage for livestock and crops in case of any future damages to ensure the security of farmers.

Security of Nepali Citizens Abroad

One of the major security issues of 2021 was to ensure the security of Nepali citizens abroad, especially labor migrants. As a result of recent Covid-19 pandemic, millions of Nepali citizens were stranded abroad. The situation of the migrant workers was even worse in gulf countries like Kuwait and Malaysia. The government of Nepal largely failed to rescue the stranded citizens. The inability of government to ensure the security of Nepali citizens abroad was even more apparent in its attempt or lack thereof to rescue Nepali citizens from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

One of the fundamental duties of the government is to ensure the security of its citizens both within the country and living abroad. The National Security Policy of Nepal also prioritizes the security of people through ‘protection of peoples’ lives, property, health, livelihood, and prosperity’. However, the delays in repatriating the migrant workers along with the ineffective response schemes have highlighted that the safety and security of migrant workers has been overlooked by the government. The number of Nepali workers in Gulf countries who are facing imprisonment despite their innocence further questions the ability of the government to ensure the security of its citizens. According to a recent news, five Nepalis in Saudi Arab spent three years in prison after they were wrongfully charged with the murder of an Indian citizen. After spending three years in prison, they were later acquitted by the court. According to Krishna Neupane, the Secretary General for National Network for Safe Migration, these incidents are commonplace due to the lack of legal knowledge of the workers. Although the directive on the legal impunity of Nepali workers in foreign employment states that the state should represent the jailed workers, no initiative has been taken by the state to legally represent them, especially those that are wrongfully convicted.

Furthermore, the current pandemic has also shed light on the existing migration policy which puts a bigger emphasis on the out-migration whilst largely ignoring the reverse migration. One of the major issues with the imbalance in these policy frameworks is reflected in the rehabilitation and integration of the returnees in the society. Although the government launched a comprehensive reintegration plan, the effectiveness of the plan in helping the returning migrant workers to swiftly reintegrate in the society is yet to be determined. This plan, however, doesn’t include the undocumented workers, which make up a majority of the migrant workers in India. Similarly, Nepal’s dependence on other countries to rescue its own citizens from Afghanistan underscored its inability to ensure the security and limited diplomatic presence abroad.

Economic Crisis

Various economic indicators including foreign currency reserves, inflation rate, and rising liquidity crunch, among others point to the economic crisis that the country is currently facing. According to the reports, the foreign currency reserves fell to NRS 1101 billion ($11.1 billion), which is well below the figure for last year. This can be mainly attributed to the growing discrepancy between import-export, falling remittance inflows in the country, and decline in tourism. The loss of jobs due to pandemic along with the illegal channels such as hundi have negatively impacted the remittance inflows. A report published by FIU (Financial Information Unit) has also identified hundi as a major threat to the financial system of the country. Similarly, rising inflation rates as indicated by the rising prices for consumer goods such petroleum products and vegetables have left people questioning about the economic trajectory of the country. Nepali importers have faced several delays in the delivery of goods from China border which has increased Nepal’s dependency on Indian ports. The rising costs of shipping charges has further added to the woes of the traders. Similarly, the current fertilizer crisis is anticipated to add to the already existing problem. Despite these concerning indicators of the current economic climate, the finance minister, Janardan Sharma appears oblivious to the situation. Rather, he has accused his predecessors of leaving the economy in disarray; disregarding the fact that situation has worsened after he assumed the office.

It is important to understand that the current economic trends, without proper government intervention will have massive consequences from rising interest rates to increasing cost of domestic production. As indicated by the National Security Policy, economy is a key dimension of national security. Thus, to address this issue, the government should focus on five main sectors which include remittance, trade, tourism, FDI, and foreign support (assistance and aids). The government must direct its attention in controlling the inflow of remittance through illegal channels such as Hundi. Similarly, it should also focus on functionalizing the Trade Transit Agreement (TTA) with China which would help reduce Nepal’s dependency on India and also help address the issue of trade imbalance.

Covid-19 Crisis

Nepal started the year by rolling out the vaccination drive, after it received one million doses of Covishield vaccine from India. Only three months after starting the vaccination drive, Nepal announced a second lockdown due to the surging cases of Covid-19. The second wave of Covid-19 saw Nepal experience shortages of oxygen, ICU beds, and ventilators. The delta variant was responsible for the second wave which affected both younger and older population and had bigger ramifications on livelihoods, nutrition, food security, health, and education. Currently the country is facing the possible threats and associated risks of the new Covid-19 variant, Omicron. The concerns over the new variant surfaced after WHO classed it as a ‘variant of concern’. The variant was first detected in South Africa. After the discovery, many countries around the world have imposed travel ban on southern African countries. Following the news, Nepal has placed a travel ban on African nations. Despite these measures, Nepal reported two cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 on December 6.

Even though Nepal has been receiving the supply of vaccines, the vaccination rate is still low and has a long way to vaccinate its targeted population. It is imperative that the government learns from its mistakes in the handling of first and second wave to make necessary adjustments to be better prepared for the third wave. Since vaccines have proven effective against Omicron, the government needs to ramp up vaccination drive throughout the country.

Border Disputes and National Sovereignty

Despite the signing of Boundary Treaty in 1961, to delineate and demarcate the border scientifically, various border concerns have emerged along the northern borders in the last few years. The border concerns in Humla district surfaced in 2020 when K.P Oli was the Prime Minister of Nepal. A committee led by Chief District Officer, Chiranjivi Giri found that China had allegedly constructed nine buildings in Nepali land. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) concluded that the construction hadn’t taken place in Nepali territory. The denial of Oli government on the encroachment issues was condemned by the opposition Nepali Congress party. This was also widely seen as a way to appease the Chinese government. Following Deuba’s appointment as the PM, he formed a task force to investigate the issue, which confirmed that China had rebuilt and fenced certain boundary pillars without Nepal’s consent. Similarly, the report also highlights that the Chinese attempted to construct a 145 meters permanent canal in Nepali territory. The official report of the study is yet to be made public.

One of the fundamental objectives of National Security Policy is to safeguard Nepal’s borders. The government’s complete denial of any Chinese encroachment in Nepali territory (citing the findings of a study conducted in 2015), lack of transparency regarding the issues, and an attempt to silence the locals and media outlets on speaking about border issues has left serious questions on its ability to deal with the border security issues. Similarly, differing opinions within the coalition government along with the individual and party relationships with China has further hindered the possibility of resolving the issue. This also illustrates that border disputes have continued to get mired in partisan politics. Although the Home Ministry has suggested the Foreign Ministry to take up the matter with Beijing, it has remained quiet. China, on the other hand, has denied any instances of border encroachment. The denial of China regarding this matter and the unwillingness shown by the foreign ministry has created difficulties in resolving the issue. The Nepal-China border, along with the disputed area lies in a difficult geographical terrain which further complicates the process of proper inspection and surveillance. Thus, moving forward, a permanent body needs to be formulated to address the border issues through joint border inspection with the Chinese counterparts.

Climate Change

Conference of Parties (COP26) summit on climate change

Nepal’s PM Sher Bahadur Deuba led the Nepali delegation to the World Leaders’ Summit (WLS) for the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) summit on climate change in Glasgow on November 2. At the COP26, PM Deuba has urged the world leaders to recognize the climate vulnerability in the Himalayas and to put the mountain agenda at high priority in all climate negotiations. Furthermore, PM has also highlighted the need to ensure proper support for the most vulnerable countries by scaling up financial, technological, and capacity-building resources. Similarly, 12 donor countries have pledged $413 million for the Least Developed Countries (LDC) fund which includes Nepal, to help the communities be resilient towards the impact of climate change. Although it was pledged to provide $100 billion per year by 2020 to the developing countries, it hasn’t been met. Furthermore, around three quarters of the money by 2018 was in the form of loans rather than in grants.

To achieve the Paris Agreement goals, each country was tasked with drafting their own pledges depending on their unique circumstances and abilities which was termed as Nationally Derived Contributions (NDC). Nepal also submitted an ambitious NDC as a part of the Paris Agreement. The document specifies that Nepal aims to reach a net zero emission by 2045. To reach the goal, Nepal aims to meet 15% of the country’s energy demand through clean energy sources and maintain 45% of the total area under forest cover by 2030. Furthermore, another major agenda is to ensure the protection of all vulnerable people from climate change by 2030. However, these pledges are conditional upon financial support.

The NDCs submitted by Nepal has come under huge scrutiny for being too ambitious. The agenda for ensuring the protection of all vulnerable people from climate change is too vague as it doesn’t specify who the vulnerable population is and how their protection will be ensured. Similarly, NDC also fails to provide a proper roadmap to achieve these targets. Experts have argued that the agenda to maintain 45% of the total area under forest cover by 2030 is the only realistic agenda, as the current forest cover stands at around 40%. Although different developmental projects such as Nijgadh airport which entails cutting down of forests would severely hinder the prospect of achieving the target. Moving forward, the government should clearly identify short-term and long-term strategies, and come up with a proper framework to achieve the goals.

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National Security and Climate Change

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Commentary: National Security and Climate Change

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News Digest: National Security & Climate Change (February 3 – 9, 2022)

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April Analysis: National Security and Climate Change

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March Analysis: National Security and Climate Change

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February Analysis: National Security and Climate Change

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