Women working to plant saplings in Rupani VDC of Nepal. These women get Rs 2 per sapling planted and they plant around 500 to 600 saplings a day. This has made them economically empowered. When women are economically empowered, they empower their family. Women get voice from economic freedom. When they do not have this work, they find work as labourers.

Monthly News Analysis – August 2019

CESIF Nepal Democracy and Federalism, Gender and Inclusion, Good Governance, International Relations, News Analysis, Security and Strategic Affairs Leave a Comment

Summary

The NCP merger seems to be coming to a close as the key issue of contention between the Maoist and the UML regarding the school department has been assigned to Ishwar Pokhrel. Some differences among leaders persist as the process of political settlement is ongoing. The internal competition among leaders, directly linked to the interests and incentives of external actors, especially the private sector and foreign interests, are spilling over into politico-economic interests and international relations as well.

Despite the Prime Minister’s deteriorating health, NCP appears more or less settled at the highest level. PM Oli has negotiated a power-sharing arrangement and has brought in Jhalanath Khanal closer; the former Prime Minister is now third in the party hierarchy. Bam Dev Gautam is the vice-chair, although not provided for by the party statute.

However, party organizations are yet to merge into a cohesive whole at the provincial and local levels. It is even more challenging for individuals socialized in two different political cultures to blend emotionally and work together. Party cadres will find it difficult to let go of their previous identity as UML or Maoists. It is yet to be seen how the merger affects their identities up to the local levels.

The opposition parties are focussed on internal issues. Nepali Congress is holding internal negotiations for the general convention, generating debates about future leadership and direction, especially regarding the issue of Hinduism, monarchy, and citizenship. The upcoming general convention of the Nepali Congress will have significant implications, not just for rejuvenation of the party but also for Nepal’s democratic future.

With regards to Nepal’s national security, it is a risk if nationalism-based terrorist organizations from Pakistan decide to retaliate on the Kashmir issue. Traditionally, there have been activities of Pakistan-based terrorist groups in Nepal to attack India. Similar incidents might happen where the Pakistani militants may use the open border for their advantage to launch attacks in India.

India appears to be reasserting itself in South Asia, including Nepal. The visit of India’s Foreign Minister Jaishanker was framed as an attempt to open a new chapter in Nepal-India relations as well.

China’s engagements in Nepal seem to have lost the pace and is being limited to Chinese interest in pushing forward commercial ventures the benefit of Chinese companies. High on the agenda is the much-talked-about visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping which will mean Nepal’s entry into a new partnership with China from where there will be no turning back. Nepal is at a historical high in terms of entering into partnerships and reap benefits through mutually beneficial relationship with the upcoming world powers in the immediate neighborhood.

A. NCP Merger

The unification process of the NCP faced a considerable amount of strain with leaders claiming multiple forces trying to play on the differences within the party and among the leaders. A group claimed that the “establishment” close to PM Oli was delaying the process.[1] They alleged that PM Oli wanted to limit to the two co-chairs the authority to complete the unification process.

The party is being run by an ad-hoc secretariat consisting of nine leaders: co-chairs KP Oli and Dahal, Madhav Kumar Nepal, Jhalanath Khanal, Bamdev Gautam, Bishnu Paudel, Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, Narayan Kaji Shrestha, and Ishwar Pokhrel. Dahal. Oli continues to have a major say in the political settlement process within the party, while others are struggling to assert themselves.

The merger process is directly linked to the question of political settlement of how the political elites in the NCP contest distribution and organization of power in the party, which then facilitates their access to rents and accumulation of power in the running of the state. This internal competition is directly linked to the interests and incentives of external actors, especially the private sector actors and foreign interests. The conflict and contest for a political settlement are spilling over into politic0-economic interests and international relations.

The key issue of contention between the erstwhile Maoist and the UML, the school department has been assigned to Ishwar Pokhrel. Nevertheless, differences among leaders persist as the process of the political settlement remains. On August 17, 2019, Dahal said he sometimes regrets unifying the party because a viable alternative communist party would have otherwise remained. He, however, said he was sure that Oli will abide by the past agreements.[2] On the contrary, a day later, PM KP Oli, in his parliamentary address, warned monarchists, defended the government’s performance and said he would lead the government until the next election.[3]

Bamdev Gautam Back on Centrestage: Good politics is always driven by a charismatic leader. However, politics is always equivalent to power. Willam Clay said, “This is quite a game, politics. There are no permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”[4] The same theory is being applied in the political career of Bamdev Gautam.

Gautam’s alliance with Oli marks a significant readjustment of power equations in the party. Although Gautam had strongly backed Oli during the last general convention, Gautam had grown closer to Dahal. For a long time, Gautam’s opposition had considerably weakened PM Oli in the party.

Once again PM Oli has negotiated a power-sharing arrangement. He has brought in Jhalanath Khanal closer; the former Prime Minister is now third in the party hierarchy, and Bam Dev Gautam as the vice-chair, although not provided for by the party statute.[5]

Chairman Oli also offered Bamdev Gautam to contest in the by-elections from Kaski-2.[6] Recently, the party picked Bamdev Gautam for the vice-chairman post.[7] Gautam also changed his political camp and taken responsibility for the chief of the organization department. [8]

Gautam remained powerless after defeat in the federal election in 2017 with a slim margin of 758 votes with NC’s Sanjaya Kumar Gautam.[9] Since then, Gautam has struggled in the party. Gautam made attempts to join the parliament through by-elections in the constituency of Kathmandu-7[10], Dolpa, and Pyuthan.[11] He failed those attempts as the chairman duo were not interested. The kingmaker of the NCP merger remained without any responsibility. On many occasions, he put forth note of dissents in the party and secretariat meeting, which the duo always opposed.[12]

NCP has now moved into a new discourse as it concluded on the names of the joint chiefs of the seven provinces and chief of departments. The time is good for Gautam. The change in the power dynamics of NCP’s ad-hoc secretariat of the top nine remains among the top eight now. Leader Bamdev Gautam has once again come back in the power play. Chairman KP Oli has brought in Gautam as the vice-chairman.[13]

With the new development, Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Nepal nexus have reduced grip in the party.[14]  The PM has strategically brought in Gautam-Dahal-Khanal with him and has a stronger grip on the party, while leader Madhav Nepal is alienated.[15]

On 16 August, the party secretariat promoted Bamdev Gautam to the post of vice-chair. Senior leader Madhav Kumar Nepal moved down to the fourth position.[16] Amid dissatisfaction, Nepal registered a note of dissent.[17] He demanded that the party follow ‘one leader, one responsibility’ policy as per the statute. Nepal also urged for correction of an earlier decision on responsibilities.[18] Chairman Oli was not happy with Nepal’s note of dissent. The rift further increased, which ended in a row between the two before the PM left for Singapore for the second round of treatments within a month.[19]

PM’s Health: PM Oli returned to Singapore for his health treatment again and is expected to stay for 7-10 days.[20] He had stayed in Singapore for nine days earlier this month. Although Oli claimed his health is well[21] and is only going for adjustment of medicine doses, doctors later said he required plasmapheresis to control the amount of antibodies, indicating that he may require a second kidney transplant soon. He had his first transplant in 2007. Usually, a kidney transplant requires a hospital stay of around 4-5 days depending on the condition. The prognosis of the second transplant is usually as good as the first one.

Given Oli’s health condition, one of the most important issues is the question of succession. President Bidya Devi Bhandari is alleged to have been actively involved in the design and implementation of the new political settlement in the party, where Bam Dev Gautam, who now heads the organization department, may become the de jure successor to Oli.[22] Gautam is once again back at the center stage of the NCP. Considering Oli’s deteriorating health, Gautam, the party vice-chair, is set on a path to succeed Oli to continue NCP Government until its full term. This would, however, require Gautam’s election from a vacant constituency.[23]

However, fears, interests, and needs of party leaders will continue to drive the party’s policies and practices. In particular, the Maoists leaders are beset by fear of prosecution over war crimes during the People’s War and International Criminal Court in Hague to maintain tight control over the party [24] and top-level political leaders expressed genuine concerns about the possibility of foreign countries using global human rights jurisdiction to prosecute individuals implicated in war crimes in the absence of transitional justice in Nepal. Such concerns will continue to determine the process of unification, policies, and potential alliances in the future.

NCP appears more or less settled at the highest level; however, party organizations are yet to merge into a cohesive whole at the provincial and local levels. It is even more challenging for individuals socialized in two different political cultures to blend emotionally and work together. Party cadres will find it difficult to let go of their previous identity as UML or Maoists. It is yet to be seen how the merger affects their identities up to the local levels.

B. Opposition politics

The opposition parties are focused on internal issues. Nepali Congress is holding internal negotiations for the general convention generating debates about future leadership and direction, especially regarding the issue of Hinduism, monarchy, and citizenship. The upcoming general convention of the Nepali Congress—likely to be held after 18 months—will have significant implications for the party’s rejuvenation and Nepal’s democratic future given the intense contest for leadership, its role as a democratic opposition, and its ability to compete with the communists. Many party leaders inisist that Sher Bahadr Deuba must retire if the party is to be reformed.[25] The Rastriya Janata Party, meanwhile, is holding unification talks with Samajbadi Party Nepal to provide an alternative to the Nepali Congress and the Nepal Communist Party but the strategy is generating internal dissent in the parties; the question of leadership is turning out to be a major sticking point.[26] If the merger takes place, the forces represented by Upendra Yadav, Baburam Bhattarai, and Mahantha Thakur, among others, has the potential to become the third pole in Nepali politics.

Some party workers of Biplav’s Communist Party of Nepal (Biplav), who have been arrested by the police, are “surrendering,” or renouncing the party and violence,[27] while an affiliate of the party has announced action against what it calls the “education mafia.”[28] The government continues to crack down on the party, arresting members[29] while the ruling Nepal Communist Party is trying to woo party workers into its fold. The police have filed more than 1781 cases against Biplav’s party workers.[30]

Internal dissent and differences within the Nepal Communist Party generated a discourse about the success of the current political system—Federal Democratic Republic—and the possibility of a “regime change.” Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda issued contradictory statements this month, sometimes warning[31] forces trying to reverse recent political changes, even as he warned that the current regime could be ousted from power if the communists did not mend their ways.[32] Similarly, Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli has also been attacking the pro-monarchy forces,[33] indicating that the ruling regime sees the pro-monarchy movement and Biplav’s maoist movement as a political threat.[34] PM Oli has been calling upon parties and leaders to bolster the current political system ahead of his visit to Singapore for medical treatment.[35] It could also be a strategy to garner political support from the mainstream parties and leaders by raising the spectre of the pro-monarchists and maoists. Meanwhile, PM Oli is trying to maintain control over the constitutional bodies by overseeing their fiscal matters.[36]

C. Security and Strategic Affairs

Citizenship Bill: The debate on equal provision for both foreign men and women marrying Nepali citizen to acquire Nepali citizenship is going on. Some lawmakers oppose it, stating it as an issue of nationalism, not equality. But, the issue is all about equality. The nation becomes weak in a true sense when equality and civil rights are denied to its citizens. If the leaders find it as a threat towards the nation, a solution can be found, not limiting the rights of citizens.

The Citizenship Bill registered in the House of Representatives a year ago is yet to be endorsed. This bill has remained stuck at the Parliamentary State Affairs and Good Governance Committee as lawmakers of ruling and opposition party have not yet decided on the naturalized citizenship for foreign spouses and their children.[37] Some lawmakers demand seven years of threshold period for foreign women marrying Nepali men while some argue immediate citizenship provision, as s/he would be deprived of public services including education, employment, and other rights. [38]

The Constitution of Nepal 2072 has clearly mentioned children of people who have citizenship by birth can get citizenship by descent, but the disputes are yet to be settled in the parliament.

More than half a million citizens remain deprived of opportunities for education, employment, government jobs, and even to open bank accounts.[39] The constitution of Nepal 2072 is said to be the most progressive constitution, but under this constitution, people are being deprived of their basic human rights. The parliament remains indifferent in promoting the rights.

Kashmir Issue: With the escalation of tension between Pakistan and India, the international communities have contradicting statements, leaving only China to support Pakistan. On the other hand, countries have been supporting India’s stance on the issue, saying that engagement in Kashmir is India’s internal matter.

India being a trade giant, most of the countries have economic and diplomatic relations with it. These countries do not want to put their relations at risk by siding with Pakistan. Even the allies of Pakistan from West Asia have described the issue to be India’s internal matter, as the country has recently concluded a major energy deal with India.

Indian government informed its neighboring countries including Nepal about the Kashmir issue. Indian ambassador to Nepal, Manjeev Puri briefed FM Pradeep Gyawali about the current status in Kashmir, while the foreign secretary of India met Nepali officials from the Nepali Embassy in Delhi to talk about the issue.[40]

Minister Gyawali said that the issue of Jammu & Kashmir should be solved through negotiations and dialogues, and Nepal is in favor of regional peace and stability, but Nepal has not made an official stance on the issue.[41]

Pakistan’s PM Imran Khan said that if India commits any type of violence, Pakistan will fight back till the end and will teach Delhi a lesson.[42]

China and Russia took a divergent stand on the Kashmir issue. China, in support to Pakistan, is trying to initiate the issue at the UN, while Russia stands to discourage any consultation regarding the subject. In an official statement, Russia clearly said that the issue should be solved bilaterally through diplomacy.[43]

Neither the government nor the media in Nepal have written about the issue in context to Nepal. Nepal making no official comments on the issue may have links with the recent visit of the RAW chief to Nepal. As the agendas for the visit was not made public, India might have warned Nepal about the official uprising initiated by India in Kashmir.

In connection to the issue, Nepal’s national security is at risk if nationalism-based terrorist organizations from Pakistan decides to retaliate. Traditionally, there have been activities of Pakistan-based terrorist group in Nepal to attack India. Similar incidents might happen where the Pakistani militants may use the porous border for their advantage to launch attacks in India.

Additionally, Nepal’s secular status is at risk as Modi made an attempt to seize power from the only Muslim majority region of India. It is evident that Modi is trying to push Hinduism in Nepal.[44] During his trips to Nepal, he visited Hindu temples and pilgrimages to promote the religion. If not fully, Modi might put some pressure on Nepal to promote Hinduism in the country.

D. International Relations

Nepal-China: China’s engagements in Nepal appear to have lost momentum although China continues to push forward commercial ventures that benefit Chinese companies. High on the agenda is the much-talked-about visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. If Xi Jinping visits Nepal, it will mean Nepal has entered a new partnership with China from which there will be no turning back. However, the visit remains uncertain until now, given Nepal’s lack of preparation regarding BRI, foreign policy, and security. In the last few months, there have been several set-backs for China. The third series of Sagarmatha joint military exercise with China, slated to be held in August, is uncertain. An online media reported that the two countries are yet to start formal discussions about the event.[45]

In June, Minister Barshaman Pun requested the Chinese ambassador to facilitate timely completion of projects awarded to Chinese companies.[46] He was referring to two Chinese contractors working in Trishuli A and Kulekhani III. The Chinese ambassador responded on Twitter with two photographs of Upper Tamakoshi, saying that the largest among the hydropower projects being constructed in Nepal is by a Chinese company, the Sinohydro Corporation.[47] According to ABC Nepal, Minister Pun’s request did not go well with the Chinese, and they questioned whether they were his own words.[48] In the last seven years, Nepal has received Rs 31 billion from China out of its total commitment of Rs 112 billion.[49]

The Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) is unlikely to request for Chinese help to construct storage facilities for fuel imports. NOC officials say the public enterprise will try to construct the facilities by itself.[50]

The Huaxin Cement Company which was reported to have obtained land through illegal means is now complaining of obstacles from political interest groups affiliated to a member of parliamentarian Rajendra Pandey. News media reported that if the situation continues, Huaxin could be forced to disinvest. While political interest groups close to PM Oli are supporting the cement company, those close to Madhav Kumar Nepal are opposing it.[51]

Informal conversations with western diplomats and officials indicate that the process of globalization has reached a stage where global cultural and economic integration will be tested by concerns about China’s rise. Adoption of deep technology and integration of infrastructure, trade, and financial connectivity may create a systemic and technological dependence on China from which developing countries may be unable to wean themselves. In addition, alliance with China could lead to the creation of a global bloc that ignores issues of human rights, freedom, and democracy, promoting totalitarian and non-democratic regimes.

However, on economic engagement with China, there are some positive developments as well. Union Pay has become the first Chinese company to receive a license as a payment systems operator. China is pushing ahead for the construction of the second phase of the Ring Road, while Chinese financial institutions are planning to increase investments in Nepal’s infrastructure sector.[52] The Chinese Ambassador also reviewed Chinese projects and the performance of Chinese companies in Nepal. Jhalanath Khanal is visiting China for five days in August at the invitation of the Chinese Communist Party.[53] While Nepal Airlines awaits to get a slot in China, Himalaya Airlines, patronized by PM K P Oli is planning to fly to five destinations in China from October, including the new Daxing airport in Beijing.[54] Nepal and China have completed the pre-feasibility study of the Ratmate-Kerung 5000-KV transmission line connecting China and Nepal, pushed first by PM Oli. Nepal is expected to continue the feasibility study for the 80-km long transmission line which passes through Langtang National Park. The Office of the Investment Board has given permission to two Chinese companies to prepare a detailed project report for the Rs 64-billion China-Nepal Friendship Industrial Park in Damak, Jhapa[55] after approving the investment proposal of Lhasa Economic and Technology Development Zone. The Park will be built on 2200 bighas of land.

President Xi’s probable Nepal Visit: In April, President Bidya Devi Bhandari went on a nine-day state visit to China and met the Chinese premier Xi Jinping extending an invitation to her counterpart for a state visit to Nepal[56]. Since then there has been much debate and deliberation in the country as to when Xi Jinping would decide to take up Bhandari on her invitation.

At the same time, questions have been raised on the kind of impact of such a high-level visit to Nepal. According to Dr. Dinesh Bhattarai, a foreign affairs expert, such a visit does not automatically equate that China is making Nepal its priority[57]. It means that amidst news of Indian PM Narendra Modi being invited as chief guest for Nepal’s Constitution Day, Xi’s visit will simply tip the scales back into a position of balance. A diplomatic visit must still be augmented by effective negotiation skills on the Nepalese end to bring to the table primary bilateral issues. Even with such a visit, if the leadership is unable to promulgate key projects under the BRI and create a working a working mechanism, the visit will have only served a perfunctory function.

In the purview of public diplomacy, a possible visit from Xi Jinping will create acute pressure on Nepal’s geopolitical importance and could warrant a response from India. However until a foreign policy is molded by the understanding for the Chinese the BRI is a pathway to promote commercial and business interests through Nepal to India, such visits will not have much effect[58]. Through the aforementioned understanding, Nepali foreign policy must act on a mutually beneficial plan that will reap satisfaction on both ends.   

While such discussions continue it is important to analyze how prepared the country is for such a high-level visit and where it lacks in diplomatic preparations. With ‘quiet preparations’ having allegedly begun for President Xi’s visit, some of the concerns were that of security, the Tribhuvan International Airport’s runway and arrangements for an appropriate stay for the Chinese premier[59]. The government officials have not been able to confirm if the visit has been confirmed, however, Chinese security teams have recently visited the country to assess the station with the police and the armed forces. Furthermore, the Non-Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) was asked to reschedule its Global Convention, earlier marked for October 13th to the 16th. Keeping all of these factors in mind, expectations are at an all-time high for President Jinping’s visit as he has already paid a visit to all other South-Asian countries and may visit Nepal as a detour after his visit to India[60]

Hong Kong Protest: Nepal will not be involved regarding the issue in any manner. Nepal firmly supports One China Policy and will never go against China openly. The protest involves indirect involvement of powerful countries, and Nepal should not interfere in the matter, putting its democratic image in jeopardy. 

The protest in Hong Kong kicked off to denounce the extradition bill but now has triggered a series of ongoing demonstration for democracy. Both the protestors and the security forces are using violent means, evolving the campaign into mass disruptions every day. The anti-government protest crippled Hong Kong airport as well. The peaceful demonstrations, in the beginning, have now turned out ugly with the protestors beating people and also forcing the airport to completely close down for two days.[61]

US President Donald Trump urged Xi Jinping to sit down and negotiate with the protestors.

Trump tweeted, “I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it.”[62]

In support of the protest, Foreign Affairs Committee of Britain suggested the British government to give full nationality to the citizens of Hong Kong.[63]

China reacted furiously on this issue and termed the protest to be ‘terrorist-like’.[64] China’s ambassador to London, Liu Xiaoming, announced that “China will not sit back and watch, and the country possesses enough power and solutions to quell the unrest swiftly.” Liu also warned other countries not to interfere in China’s internal matter regarding the protest.[65]

Nepal-India: After years of relative indifference to Nepal’s political course, foreign relations, and development process, India appears to be reasserting itself in South Asia, including Nepal. The visit of India’s Foreign Minister Jaishanker was framed as an attempt to open a new chapter in Nepal-India relations.[66] However, Nepal has already started several high-profile economic engagements with China, from which there would be no turning back. This means that the current regime would continue to try to engage both Nepal and India. Although Oli has warmed up to India’s overtures, his government is seeking to establish nationalist credentials by pushing forward the report of the Eminent Persons Group and announcing the intention to start Pancheswor from scratch as indicated by Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali at the Reporters Club.[67]

Nepal-India Joint Commission Meeting: The joint commission meeting is jointly held by Nepal and India to focus on expediting and planning an implementation of the efforts undertaken by the bilateral visits between the two countries. Nepal and India take turns to host the joint commission meeting. The first and third meetings were held in 1988 and 2014 in Nepal, while the second and fourth meetings were held in India in 1991 and 2016. The fifth one was recently held in Kathmandu.

Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali headed the 35-member Nepali delegation to the talks. The agenda for the meeting had been grouped under five categories-politics, security and border issues; connectivity and economic cooperation; commerce and transit; energy and water resources, culture, education; and the EPG report and others.[68]

The Indian delegation to the talks was headed by External Affairs Minister of India Subrahmanyam Jaishankar who arrived in Kathmandu on August 22 for the meeting. During his stay, Jaishankar called on President Bidya Devi Bhandari and PM KP Sharma Oli.[69] Minister Gyawali expressed that Nepal-India bilateral relations were now more focused on economic cooperation, evident from progress implementation of past agreements as Motihari-Amlekhgunj petroleum pipelines, integrated checkpoints in Birgunj and Biratnagar, and Arun III and Upper Karnali hydropower projects.

However, it is important to note that the Eminent Persons Groups (EPG) formed under Prime Ministers Modi and Oli has acted outside the Terms of Reference (ToR). According to the ToR, the 1950 treaty is within the ambit of the EPG. However, the group has decided to table the discussion for the 1950 treaty under a separate umbrella. This does not follow the spirit of the ToR and may cause problems in future discussions. The EPG also raised the issue of the Gurkha soldiers as they were involved in cross-border security around Kashmir.[70] It was also noted that due to the urgency of the Kashmir issue, there seemed to be a preoccupation with that over the bilateral talks with Nepal.[71]

Nepal and India signed various agreements with India, namely handing over cheques amounting to Rs 3.74 billion for two projects for post-earthquake reconstruction and postal highway project in Nepal. An MoU was signed between the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) of Nepal on food safety and standards. On the occasion, Indian government handed over a cheque of Rs. 2.45 billion towards reimbursement to Nepali government for post-earthquake housing reconstruction in Nuwakot and Gorkha districts. Similarly, the Indian government also handed over a cheque worth INRS 801.1 million (RS. 1.29 billion) to Nepal towards strengthening road infrastructure in the Tarai region.

India provided financial assistance for post-earthquake housing construction as the victims were still living in shelters. This financial commitment had been made by the Late Ms. Sushma Swaraj and had been pending for the last four years[72]. During the meeting, both sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations with a specific focus of connectivity and economic partnership, trade, transit, water resource, culture, and education.[73]

Minister for External Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali briefed the House of Representatives on the issues discussed and key decisions made. Minister Gyawali said that the meeting directed the secretariat to make necessary preparation for submitting the EPG report and foreign secretaries to come up with ideas to review the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty. Gyawali also shared that the government was in talks with the British government regarding the revision of tripartite agreement between Nepal, Britain, and India concerning British Gurkha soldiers.[74]

While in an interview with The Himalayan Times the minister confirmed that the meeting discussed border mapping, inundation, extradition treaty and EPG report in great details. The minister shared that there was no discussion on the Kashmir issue. Likewise, on Pakistan’s request seeking Nepal to speak on Kashmir as SAARC chair, he maintained that Nepal would focus on domestic matters and not get involved in other’s issues.[75] 

E. Democracy and Federalism

Nepal’s governance system took a new formation and entered the federal system after the promulgation of the Constitution in 2015. Four years later, the Federal Democratic Republic was ensured, the unitary mindset continues to defy the rules and the purpose of the federal design. As per the constitutional mandate, the government formed the National Natural Resources and Fiscal Commission (NNRFC) constituted with significant responsibility for the balanced development, budget, and natural resources management.[76]

However, even after one and a half year of the formation of the NNRFC, not much has been delivered with regards to natural resources sharing and ownership and various disputes remain unresolved. As per the commission’s recommendation, the government set budget limits for local and provincial governments. But some local governments complained that the allocated budget was not enough. The commission has to allocate the budget at any cost but it is creating disputes among the local governments on sharing natural resources. Due to lack of Acts regarding the natural resources distribution, disputes in the natural resource sharing is increasing with each passing day.

The disputes majorly are between federal with provincial, federal with local, and provincial with local governments. A number of disputes have been seen regarding resources such as rivers, jungles, and irrigation projects. The locals have put their effort and time to preserve natural resources. In this case, there is a lack of rule related to the sharing of natural resources. The federal and provincial government also have a claim on natural resources available in their provinces and localities. The government should share ownership base and benefits of the natural resources considering maximum rights to the ones who are nearest to the resources and who deserve it. The commission should come up with a modality on how to divide the usability of the natural resources among the users or else the disputes may cause serious conflicts and could cost dear to the newly established Federal Democratic Republic.

Governance and Development: The government is pushing for major infrastructure projects, even as cases of corruption and irregularities continue to pose serious obstacles.[77][78] There are problems in Kathmandu Terai expressway,[79] Beni-Jomsom-Korala road,[80] construction of roads in Kathmandu,[81] Melamchi drinking water project and Tanahu hydropower project.[82] Many public enterprises are facing critical problems. While Udayapur Cement has been shut down during peak season,[83] Nepal Telecom’s profit has fallen by 42 per cent[84] and Nepal Airlines continues to suffer losses forcing the government to form a study committee.[85] Another state owned enterprise, NOC is exploiting consumers by selling petroleum at double the purchase price.[86] Newly inducted Minister of Tourism, Yogesh Bhattarai is promoting Nijgarh as his priority.[87]

Judiciary: Former chief justices and justices said that there was a need to work jointly with the stakeholders to protect the integrity of the judiciary. The judiciary is in the critical stage because of its working style and the recent appointments made.[88] Former Judges Forum-Nepal plans to scrutinize some of the recent judgments passed by the Supreme Court to inform the public as to how those judgments contradicted the jurisprudence established in the past.[89]

The recent action of the Judicial Council (JC) against some judges of Biratnagar High Court (BHC) has sparked a debate in the legal sector. Experts have called for striking a balance while taking punitive action against the erring judges.[90] The JC had taken punitive action against some BHC judges for passing erroneous order in the 33.5-kg gold smuggling and Sanam Shakya-murder case.

However, in another JC action, expressing dissatisfaction over the investigation into his judgment, Judge Jiwan Hari Adhikri, who was serving at the Pokhara High Court, tendered his resignation to Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana. Adhikari decided to put in his papers stating that some people tried to drag him into controversy.[91] He was being probed by the Judicial Council for issuing orders beyond his jurisdiction in a case filed by Gorkha Brewery.[92]

Tharuhat Movement: August 24 marked four years since the Tikapur incident when nine people, including a police officer and a toddler, were killed. The clash was a result of festering discontent among Tharus against a campaign called ‘Akhanda Sudurpaschim’, or Undivided Far West which was backed by the leaders of major parties. Despite the protests, the constitution was passed on September 20, 2015, with the Madhesi parties refusing to sign the document. An amendment was passed on January 23, 2016.

In a bid to maintain social harmony and deal with the emotional and psychological trauma of the violence, a three-day Tharuhat/Tharuwan conference was held there from August 24-26, 2019.[93] The conference ended with the formation of 101-committee National Tharuhat Tharuwan Front (NTTF) and a 15-point declaration demanding the unconditional release of Tharu people, along with Tharu MP Resham Chaudhary and 11 other, who are serving jail terms for their alleged involvement in the Tikapur incident.[94] Tharu leader Laxman Tharu, who is also the chairman of NTTF said that the Tharu movement is for all the indigenous and marginalized people and that the 2072 constitution be amended and the Lal Commission report be made public.

Further, the front will launch a promotional campaign for its expansion in the first phase, corner meetings, rallies, and demonstrations will be held in Tarai districts in the second phase. Stick and torch rallies will be held in Tharu-majority regions and non-cooperation agitation will be launched targeting the government in the third phase.

During the inaugural session of the conference, Baburam Bhattarai, Sanghiya Samajbadi Party Nepal leader, said that the Tikapur incident was purely political in nature and it happened during a struggle for rights. The security situation was tight as even former Prime Minister Baburam Battarai had to go through thorough security checking from the armed police. The armed police could be seen in many parts of the town and at every entry point to Tikapur as well.

F. Gender

Trafficking in Person: The government of Nepal stopped issuing work permits to domestic help on July 2016 for Gulf countries and Malaysia. However, the protectionist measure of the government has failed to deter agents active in sending women to those countries for domestic works through illegal means as the government officials collude with agents of human trafficking. It was reported that around 35,000 persons, including 15,000 women and 500 girls were victims of human trafficking in 2018-19.[95] The crime continues to thrive due to government’s inability to crack down on trafficking rackets.

Parliamentary panel study reported that as much as 60% Nepali women employed as housemaids in the Gulf left for the destination from Tribhuvan International Airport on tourist visa. Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) arrested an immigration official from Kathmandu Airport for allegedly colluding with agents to grant departure permissions to youths on tourist visas for labor abroad.[96]

In a bid to control and prevent human trafficking, the federal government, Ministry of Federal Affairs, and General Administration directed all local levels to implement the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission.

The human rights watchdog in its report on ‘Trafficking in Persons-2019’, had made a number of recommendations to the federal government, provincial governments, and local levels to reinforce the fight against human trafficking.[97] 


[1] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2019/02/743868

[2] http://manigal.com/some-decision-taken-unwillingly-to-strengthen-party-unification-prachandawith-video/12410/

[4] https://www.forbes.com/quotes/9781/

[3] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/19/prime-minister-oli-s-parliamentary-address-leaves-his-party-wondering

[5] https://baahrakhari.com/news-details/211217/2019-08-19

[6] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ncp-nc-intensify-search-for-candidate-for-kaski-2-by-elections/

[8] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/17/ruling-party-finally-picks-its-department-heads

[7] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/17/ruling-party-finally-picks-its-department-heads

[9] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2017/12/10/bam-dev-gautam-loses-to-ncs-sanjaya-in-bardiya-1

[10] https://setopati.net/political/132143

[11] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/85323/

[12] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/bamdev-opposes-oli-dahals-joint-political-document-registers-his-own/

[13] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/17/ruling-party-finally-picks-its-department-heads

[14] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/17/there-s-a-semblance-of-calm-in-the-ruling-party-but-the-storm-is-not-over-yet

[15] http://annapurnapost.com/news/135126

[17] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/disgruntled-leader-nepal-to-present-note-of-dissent/

[16] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/jhalanath-khanal-no-3-in-nepal-communist-party-ncp-hierarchy/

[18] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/leader-nepal-registers-note-of-dissent/https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/21/nepal-s-note-of-dissent-is-likely-to-reignite-conflict-within-ruling-party

[19] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/prime-minister-nepal-trade-barbs/

[20] https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/08/22/156646078662614752.html

[21] https://twitter.com/kpsharmaoli/status/1160835242745188352

[22] For example, on of Oli’s key supporters, Mahesh Basnet publicly stated that Bam Dev would become the next PM. See https://www.reportersnepal.com/2019/08/335552

[23] The government has announced by-elections for November 30. https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/government-to-hold-by-elections-on-november-30/

[24] http://www.kanakmanidixit.com

[25] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/88682/

[26] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/rastriya-janata-party-nepal-samajwadi-party-nepal-likely-to-merge-before-their-general-conventions/

[27] http://annapurnapost.com/news/135813

[28] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/86717/

[29] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/22505/2019-08-13

[30] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/86733/

[31] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/86680/

[32] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/dahal-foresees-communists-downfall/

[33] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/oli-threatens-action-against-pro-monarchy-activities/

[34] https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/08/20/15663117522766441.html

[35] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/pm-calls-for-strengthening-fdr-system/

[36] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/88443/

[37]https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/08/28/156695594623117688.html

[38] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/citizenship-bill-stalls-over-naturalisation-through-marriage/

[39] https://ekantipur.com/news/2019/08/26/1566782166924354.html

[40] https://setopati.net/political/150230

[41] https://www.timesnownews.com/international/article/kashmir-issue-should-be-resolved-through-dialogue-nepal-fm-pradeep-gyawali/472381

[42] https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/south-central-asia/237775-pakistan-respond-indian-aggression-kashmir

[43] https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/russia-backs-india-as-china-takes-pakistani-line-at-un/articleshow/70685173.cms

[44] https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2019/06/07/nepal-india-relations-under-modi-ii/

[45] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2019/08/788247

[46] https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2019/06/25/energy-minister-pun-urges-more-chinese-investment/

[47] https://twitter.com/PRCAmbNepal/status/1143522767712636928

[48] https://www.abcnepal.tv/posts/93780

[49] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/22609/2019-08-14

[50] https://www.bbc.com/nepali/news-49161486

[51] https://www.onlinekhabar.com/2019/08/785085

[52] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/chinese-ambassador-yanqi-meets-finance-minister-dr-khatiwada/

[53] https://deshsanchar.com/2019/08/21/239136/

[54] https://kathmandupress.com/exclusive/himalayan-air-beat-nepal-air-to-fly-china-route

[55] http://ibn.gov.np/investment-board-approves-rs-64b-industrial-park

[56]https://www.nepal24hours.com/president-bhandari-invites-the-chinese-president-xi-jinping-to-visit-nepal/

[57]https://english.khabarhub.com/2019/01/41422/

[58]https://theannapurnaexpress.com/news/with-nepal-lacking-preparations-china-yet-to-confirm-xis-visit-1824

[59]https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/authorities-start-quiet-preparation-for-visit-of-chinese-president-xi/

[61] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/12/world/asia/hong-kong-airport-protest.html

[60]https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/authorities-start-quiet-preparation-for-visit-of-chinese-president-xi/

[62] https://www.businessinsider.com/trump-china-xi-end-hong-kong-protests-quickly-humanely-2019-8

[63] https://www.trtworld.com/asia/30-years-after-denying-it-to-hong-kong-nationals-uk-offers-citizenship-29030

[64] https://www.afp.com/en/news/15/china-slams-hk-airport-protesters-terrorist-doc-1ji93r2

[65] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/08/trump-warnsrisk-violent-chinese-crackdown-hong-kong-190816011733439.html

[66] https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2019/08/22/nepal-and-india-to-start-a-new-chapter-in-bilateral-ties

[67] https://www.reportersnepal.com/2019/08/336966

[68] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-india-joint-commission-talks-to-focus-on-expediting-past-pacts/

[69] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/fifth-nepal-india-joint-commission-meet-concludes/

[70] https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/08/opinion/irritants-in-india-nepal-relations/

[71] https://eurasiantimes.com/india-nepal-ministerial-level-meeting-fails-to-make-impact-due-kashmir-issue/

[72] https://eurasiantimes.com/india-nepal-ministerial-level-meeting-fails-to-make-impact-due-kashmir-issue/

[73] https://mofa.gov.np/press-release-on-fifth-meeting-of-the-nepal-india-joint-commission/

[74] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/lawmakers-draw-govt-attention-on-contemporary-issues-3/

[75] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/nepal-india-relations-have-reached-new-heights/

[76]https://www.lokaantar.com/samachar/35963

[77] https://nagariknews.nagariknetwork.com/news/86019/

[78] https://nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/21964/2019-08-07

[79] https://kathmandupost.com/national/2019/08/07/physical-infrastructure-ministry-s-interest-in-kathmandu-tarai-expressway-is-delaying-dpr-endorsement

[80] https://kathmandupost.com/gandaki-province/2019/08/07/upgradation-work-of-beni-jomsom-korala-road-at-snail-s-pace

[82] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/contract-termination-delays-construction-of-tanahu-hydro/

[81] https://kathmandupost.com/valley/2019/08/18/almost-all-kathmandu-valley-road-expansion-contracts-likely-to-face-termination-in-less-than-a-year

[83] https://nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/21973/2019-08-07

[84] https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/08/16/nepal-telecom-s-profit-falls-42-percent-to-rs10-20-billion

[85] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/government-to-form-task-force-to-study-status-of-nepal-airlines-corporation/

[86] https://www.nayapatrikadaily.com/news-details/23420/2019-08-23

[87] https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/construction-of-nia-will-start-soon-minister-bhattarai/

[88] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/ex-cjs-say-judiciary-at-critical-juncture/

[89] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/former-judges-to-scrutinise-supreme-court-judgments/

[90] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/jcs-actions-can-undermine-independence-of-judiciary/

[91] https://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/tainted-judge-adhikari-resigns-over-controversial-judgment/

[92] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/pokhara-high-court-judge-quits-before-probe-ends/

[93] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/tharuhat-tharuwan-conference-begins/

[94] https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/tharuhat-tharuwan-national-conference-concludes-in-tikapur/

[95] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/implement-nhrcs-recommendations-mofaga-tells-local-bodies/

[96] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/officer-held-for-aiding-illegal-migration/

[97] https://thehimalayantimes.com/kathmandu/implement-nhrcs-recommendations-mofaga-tells-local-bodies/

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