Nepal & Bhutan Brief (4/16)
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Political Developments:

Sanatan Hindu State Movement Launched in Nepal:

1. The Rashtriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, a constituent of the ruling alliance headed by Kamal Thapa, has launched a movement for ‘Protection of Sanatan Hindu State-A National Need’. Thapa currently is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal in the Oli government. The movement has been launched to protest against, wht it calls, the unpopular decision to transform Nepal into a secular state from a Hindu State. Addressing a gathering of Hindu Awareness Campaign in Sunsari district, Kamal Thapa said that Nepal’s Hindu identity was rejected under pressure from foreign forces and the concept of secular state was imposed forcefully in the country in a conspiratorial manner. He added that his party (RPP) might have failed to reinstate country’s Hindu identity in the new constitution but movement to secure that identity would continue.

Morcha Sets Riders to Join Political Mechanism:

2. Leaders of the Samyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha (SLMM) have said that they were ready to be part of the ‘cross-party mechanism’ formed to revise the federal boundaries if the three major parties agreed to give it broader legitimacy with further clarity of its terms of reference. The SLMM had earlier rejected the mechanism which was formed, on February 18, under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, on the ground that the government did not consult them and that the move was aimed at appeasing foreigners. The SLMM leaders were expecting further negotiations over the legality and terms of reference after Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli returned from his visit to India. The SLMM negotiators have expressed readiness to participate in the mechanism if major parties agreed to provide statutory status to the mechanism by including it in the schedule of the constitution. They also demanded unequivocal assurance of at least one more province along the Tarai plains. SLMM allies are currently engaged in discussions to start another round of protests from March-end by taking along all disgruntled communities.

PM Oli Urges Morcha to Give up Rigid Position:

3. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli has urged the agitating Smyukta Loktantrik Madhesi Morcha to move ahead to resolve the problems facing the country through dialogue and consensus. He also said that it was the need of the hour to give full shape to the High Level Political Committee and resolve the contentious issues on urgent basis. PM Oli was addressing a programme on ‘Nepal-India Relations: New Dimension and Responsibility’ organised by International Concerns in Kathmandu, on February 28. “I urge the Morcha leaders to not create problems, but seek solution to them by stepping back from their rigidness”, he said. He further said that the constitution had not discriminated against Tarai people and it could be amended with time as per need.

External Relations

Prime Minister KP Sharma’s India Visit:

4. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli paid a six-day visit to India from February 19 to 24, 2016. This was Oli’s first visit nafter becoming the Prime Minister. On arrival PM Oli was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the visiting dignitary who held extensive talks with PM Modi. He met the Indian President, vice-President, other ministers and National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval.

5. The main objective of the visit was to remove misunderstandings and repair bilateral relations. Addressing a press conference on his return to Nepal on February 24, PM Oli told the media at the Tribhuvan International Airport, that though the Nepal-India relations witnessed frosty situation for some time, his visit was successful in wiping it out, and help restore cordial relations. He also argued that such situation would not repeat again. Earlier, while addressing the Nepali and Indian media and members of Nepali community at the Nepali Embassy in New Delhi on February 21, the PM claimed that he had accomplished the mission of his India visit and was satisfied with the progress. He said that his only objective was to clear the misunderstanding between the two countries. Addressing at a talk programme in New Delhi, on February 22, PM Oli thanked Narendra Modi for recognizing the new constitution as an important achievement of Nepali people. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said, on February 20, that Nepal’s constitution had a ‘significant achievement’ in Nepal’s democratic struggle following his bilateral talks with Nepal’s PM.

5. Referring to the recent stand off between the two sides following adoption of the constitution, the PM said that intermittent issues between the two countries should not lead us to actions that were unwarranted and impacted people’s daily lives adversely. He reiterated the country’s firm commitment to check any hostile activity directed against India from its soil. PM Oli said that Nepal wanted to take advantage from the two fastest growing economies. He also said that Nepal had no intention of playing the India or China card. “We at times hear from certain quarters that Nepal uses that or this card vis-à-vis its relations with neighbours. Such perceptions have no basis. There is no question of aligning with one or the other, we can’t do it and for us it is not a viable option either” PM Oli said.

Nine Agreements Signed During PM Oli’s Visit:

6. Nepali and Indian sides signed nine different agreements, on February 20, during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to India. Nepal’s Prime Minister Oli, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other top officials of both the countries witnessed the signing ceremony, while they jointly inaugurated the Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line. These nine agreements including two Letters of Exchange are on a wide range of bilateral issues which include energy trade, transit facilities, cultural exchanges, road construction, rail transport, post-earthquake reconstruction support and establishment of eminent persons group. Most of the agreements that have been signed are not new. They are related to continuation and execution of previous pledges between the two sides.

PM Oli visits Tehri, Bhuj and Mumbai:

7. PM Oli visited Uttarakhand to inspect Tehri Hydro Power Unit, on February 21 and Bhuj in Gujarat where he observed the post-earthquake reconstruction works carried out there. After seeing the reconstruction work, he said that it had increased confidence in him for reconstruction works in Nepal caused by devastating April 25 earthquake. Talking with the locals and journalists in the area, he said that reconstruction of Bhuj was the example of unity and sheer determination shown by the people of Bhuj. In Mumbai PM Oli visited the head office of Hindustan Unilever Ltd along with his wife, Radhika Shakya, cabinet ministers, ambassador of Nepal in India and business leaders from the country. He was briefed about the range of products and global marketing network of Hindustan Unilever. PM assured that the policies of his government would foster growth of existing and new industries in Nepal. He added that Unilever Nepal Ltd was an excellent example of how businesses had prospered and grown in Nepal and at the same time catalyzed local development through direct and indirect employment. (A detailed assessment on PM Oli’s visit has been separately uploaded on the VIF website.)

China Asked Nepal To Contain Anti-China Activities:

8. A high level security delegation from China visiting Nepal has formally requested the Nepali side to remain on high alert throughout the month of March to deal with possible anti-China activities taking place in Nepal when the Tibetans in exile observe March 10, to commemorate the 1959 Tibetan uprising against the presence of the People’s Republic of China in Tibet. The visiting delegation made formal request at the meeting of Nepal-China Security Mechanism and Co-operation held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu. Present at the meeting were officials representing all the three security agencies of the country, Nepal Police Force, Armed Police Force, Nepal Army, and representatives of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs. In response, the Nepali side assured that they would do everything possible to contain anti-China activities in the country.

Nepal to Get Major Chinese Investment in Solar Energy:

9. A Chinese billionaire entrepreneur and Laureate of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award, Huang Ming, on February 23, disclosed special solar projects planned for Nepal at the closing ceremony of “Make Nepal Green’ seminar. Huang Ming said that a formal announcement would be made during Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli China visit later this month. The seminar ended with the drafting of Kathmandu Declaration, which formulated a vision to promote and upscale sustainable agriculture, harness renewable energy, foster eco-tourism and develop information communication technology.

Bhutan

Political Development:

Opposition Accuses Govt. Of Unscrupulous Political Act:

1. As a part of its “Rising East” programme, the government recently formed an Eastern Development Committee comprising four cabinet ministers hailing from the east and announced the establishment of three colleges in the east. However, the opposition has raised serious objections against the initiative calling the programme rationalistic, discriminatory, divisive and in direct violation of the constitution. Opposition member and former labour minister, Dorji Wangdi said that there was no doubt that eastern region needed attention but balanced regional development had been one of the cornerstones of development objectives in the country. In a press release, the opposition said that there was now every possibility of other regions demanding similar special treatment. The press release further stated that this was an unscrupulous political act and set a dangerous precedent with real potential for demeaning national unity, harmony and integrity in the long run.

External Relations:

Nehru-Wangchuck Scholarship Programme:

2. The Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) received a sum of NU 15.5 million for the Nehru-Wangchuck scholarship programme from the government of India. The cheque was handed over by the Indian Ambassador Jaideep Sarkar to RCSC Chairperson on February 19. The Ambassador said that the scholarship programme was prestigious one and demonstrated the special relationship between the two countries.

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