Internal Political Developments
Maoist Combatants' Discharge Process Begins; Controversy after Maoist Commanders “Snatched” Cheques and ID Cards: The high level Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) has started the much-awaited process of discharging the former Maoist combatants who have opted for voluntary retirement by providing them the first instalment of the cash package on February 3, 2012. In fact, the process of making payment to the out-going combatants has faced disturbance after commanders of the Maoist combatants submitted their demand list to the Secretariat team. Certificates for the retiring combatants, special package for the disabled fighters, and the cash package based on current ranks of the combatants, were the main demands submitted by the commanders. Along with the completion of the process, all the 7,365 combatants choosing the voluntary retirement will head to their homes after the Maoist party hosts a formal farewell ceremony on February 11, 2012.
In the meantime, the process of bidding farewell to the former Maoist fighters has faced a new hurdle after the Maoist party allegedly attempted to pocket about half the money given to combatants opting for voluntary retirement. Dozens of retiring Maoist combatants on February 5, 2012 complained that their commanders snatched away pay cheques and identity cards. According to the media report, commanders snatched away account payee cheques of 26 combatants of the Jharana Smriti Brigade in Surkhet. It is said that the situation turned violent at the fourth division in Nawalparasi after the commanders forced the fighters to deposit 40 percent of the money. According to sources, the Maoist party was charging a certain amount of the package money only from those who remained absent at the cantonments for a long time and those recruited after the peace process began in 2006.Witnesses said that combatants were allegedly beaten up inside the camp by their commanders after they refused to follow the "order". "We risked our lives for the party's sake and now the party is doing injustice to us…The amount we are paid is peanuts. We are shocked that the party is trying to take it from us." the Kathmandu Post quotes combatant Dhan Bahadur Rana from Arunkhola, Nawalparasi as saying. According to Maoist combatants, the party asked for Rs. 200,000 and allowed the rest, a mere Rs 50,000 to be taken home. As per the agreement signed by the government and major political parties on November 1, 2011, each of the 7,365 combatants is to collect cheques worth Rs. 250,000 to Rs. 400,000 as part of the first instalment.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties have taken serious exception to the reported incidents of commanders seizing the cheques. They have demanded that the Prime Minister should hold a meeting of the special committee to dig out the truth. In a three-party meeting on February 5, 2012, leaders from the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal- United Marxist and Leninist (CPN-UML) said they were 'informed' of the Maoist party's attempt to capture pay cheques and identity cards of retiring fighters. The parties said the developments in the cantonments were 'fishy.'
Nepali Congress Settles its Internal Rift: The five-month long dissension between the party establishment and the Sher Bahadur Deuba faction in the Nepali Congress finally ended on February 4, 2012 after party President Sushil Koirala agreed to offer provisional leadership of some of the sister wings of the Party to the Deuba camp. The NC President Koirala offered provisional leadership of the Tarun Dal and the Mahila Sangh to the Deuba camp. In fact, the factional dispute of the NC had reached a new height after NC’s Central Working Committee meeting had on September 20, 2011 decided to dissolve four sister wings—Tarun Dal, Mahila Sangh, Adibasi Janajati Sangh and Prajatantrik Senani Sangh. Then, registering his dissatisfaction, Deuba had resigned from the party’s Central Working Committee on September 28, 2011. It is said that this step will improve relations between the two factions of the party.
Relations with India
Nepal, India to Begin Feasibility Study of Koshi High Dam Project: Officials from Nepal and India on February 4, 2012 agreed to carry out a joint feasibility study of ambitious multi-billion dollar project--Sapta Koshi multi-purpose project--by the end of 2013. It has been decided by a two-day meeting which was held in Kathmandu from February 3-4, 2012. According to the agreement, millions of dollars will be spent for the feasibility study in order to look into the nitty-gritty of the Sapta Koshi High Dam Multipurpose Project and Sun Koshi Storage-cum-Diversion Scheme, and India would bear most of the cost. The feasibility study will identify locations and routes of channels, their number, quality of construction materials and their availability, among other things. The study will also cover topological, geological and seismological surveys and drillings across the project sites and prepare an Environment Impact Assessment. According to sources, the much-talked-about multi-billion dollar project will combine irrigation facilities, a flood control system, power generation of 3,000 Mega Watts, a 269-metre waterway and construction of an 883 feet high concrete or rock-filled dam.
In fact, both the sides on 19 December 1996 had agreed to take the long-pending project ahead and carry out a pre-feasibility study. Following the agreement, a Joint Project Office (JPO) was set up in 2004 in Biratnagar to carry out the pre-feasibility study. But that study was delayed due to the Maoist insurgency and frequent obstructions. As per the pre-feasibility study report, a 269-metre high concrete or rock-filled dam will be constructed roughly 2.6 km north of Chatara. It is reported that the high dam is likely to submerge at least 82 villages located 500 ft above sea level. Also, the project has proposed three main channels for irrigation; two channels—east and west—will be constructed to convey water to India, while one channel on the east will provide irrigation facilities to three districts—Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari. Along with these main channels, other four separate subsidiary channels will be constructed to convey water to different parts of Nepal that will irrigate land up to Parsa district in the west.
Nepal-India Agrees to Strengthen Defence Ties; India to Offer Helicopters to the Nepal Army: In its fresh effort to strengthen defence ties with Nepal, India has agreed to provide two helicopters to the Nepal Army. It is said that Indian Defence Minister AK Antony made a commitment to provide two aircraft during Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar’s India visit on January 17-21. Briefing the parliamentary State Affairs Committee on January 31, 2012, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Gachhadar said India was keen to increase its support for the Army. He has also informed that Indian Army Chief General V. K. Singh will be visiting Kathmandu in the near future to sign a deal on increasing military cooperation. “The Indian Defence Ministry has committed to increasing its cooperation with the Nepal Army. They are ready to provide rescue helicopters and vehicles…A formal agreement on military assistance will be signed when the Indian army chief arrives in Nepal to attend a regional summit on disaster management,” said Gachhadar. According to sources, the new aircrafts, which will replace two five-seater Cheetah helicopters provided by India that are currently grounded, will be provided within this year. Nepali side had been pushing for the maintenance of those aircraft provided in 2001 to crush the Maoist insurgency then.
Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Gachhadar also claimed India has agreed to resume all kinds of defence support including lethal weapons as required by the Nepal Army during his recent visit. As everybody knows, India had scrapped its military assistance to Nepal following the royal takeover in February 2005 and has not supplied any lethal weapons to the NA so far. It had agreed to resume supplies during the meeting of the Bilateral Security Consultative Group held in Kathmandu in 2009. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Gachhadar informed that India has expressed commitment to provide three billion to four billion rupees for the construction of an academy for Nepal Police in Kavre. They have been stressing that there should be an Indian technical advisor for the project to be constructed in 500 ropanis already purchased by the Nepal Police.
Relations with China
Nepal cancels ‘crucial’ border talks with China: Nepal has unilaterally cancelled the proposed boundary talks with China which was to begin in Xian, China, from February 1, 2012. Once China refused to recognise Nepal’s stance over the missing Pillar No. 57 in Lamabagar, Rasuwa, Nepali side cancelled the meeting which was expected to finalise other outstanding border issues with China, including the height of Mt Everest and identification of the Nepal-India-China tri-junction at Kalapani in the Far Western Darchula district. The proposed five-day summit was also expected to prepare groundwork for the signing of the so-called Fourth Protocol of Nepal-China boundary maps.
By Uddhab Pyakurel