Nepal & Bhutan Brief (7/16)
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Political Developments:

Hinduism Can Be Revived If People Want: Bhattarai

1. Former Prime Minister and Co-ordinator of the Naya Shakti Nepal, Baburam Bhattarai, addressing a press conference organized by his party in Birgunj (March 26) said that Hinduism could be revived as the state religion in the country if people so desired. He went on to clarify that the constitution could be amended as per need. On the issues of Madhes, Baburam said this was a problems of all and has to be addressed by amending the constitution. Bhattarai said that his party supported the demand for two exclusive provinces in Tarai.

2. It may be recalled Bhattarai had resigned from UCPN(Maoist) in September 2015 in protest against the new constitution and floated a broad based political front named as Naya Shakti Nepal. He blamed Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli for creating a critical situation in Nepal and maintained that Nepal needed political solution at home to maintain good relations with neighbours. He also maintained that his organization a new foreign policy. The inaugural function of Naya Shakti, in November 2015, was attended among others by Upendra Yadav, Chairman of Federal Socialist Forum Nepal, Pradeep Giri, senior leader of Nepali Congress and Mahantha Thakur, Chairman of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party, giving an indication that the party will be more inclusive.

Chairman Dahal Ready to Accept Leadership of Baidya:

3. In an another significant development, Chairman of Unified Maoists, Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachand, has proposed to the leaders of Mohan Baidya faction of the Maoists, to reunite. He even offered leadership of the united entity to Mohan Baidya. Chairman Dahal also forwarded his request to the ongoing central committee meeting of Mohan Baidya led Maoist party. “I am ready to handover leadership of the Unified party to Comrade Baidya. Unity is only possible through common minimum agreement between the two sides,” said Dahal in his message. Talks between Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and leaders of Mohan Baidya’s party were held on March 27.

UML Leaders Madhav Nepal and PM Oli Urge NC TO Join UML-Led Govt:

4. Former Prime Minister and CPN-UML Leader Madhav Kumar Nepal has said that the Nepali Congress should join the incumbent government to make it a national consensus government. At a news conference, on March 21, He urged the newly elected NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba to join the government move together and give momentum to development and re-construction. “Let’s institutionalize the federalism and move together settling the disputed issues” Madhav Nepal added. Similar views were also expressed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli while addressing a programme organized at the Reporter Club, on March 30. He said that the best option for the Nepali Congress was to join his government and not to look for other options. The PM urged NC to stick to its pledges and correct its past mistakes. The PM said that he wanted to lead the government to bring relations with India back on track and take Nepal’s relations with China to a new height and he succeeded in his mission.

China Irks Madhesi Leaders:

5. China’s support for Nepal’s new constitution has been criticized by the Madhesi leaders ‘for hurting the sentiment of one third of Nepali population’. In a joint communique issued in Beijing, China regards Nepal’s new constitution as ‘a historic progress’. Rajendra Mahato told journalists in Kathmandu (March 25), “We are sad that China welcomed a constitution that is discriminatory against Madhesis and Janjatis.” A day before Prime Minister KP Oli left for China, Madhesi and Janjati leaders had met Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Wu Chuntal, and urged Beijing to mount diplomatic pressure on Kathmandu to amend the new constitution. As regards the 10-point agreement with China, Madhesi leader Upendra Yadav, also a former Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that Oli had failed to achieve anything important out of his Beijing visit. The PM had not signed any new deals; these deals were agreed upon, between China and Nepal, five yeas ago.

Nepal to organize International Conference on Budhism in May:

6. Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Ananda Prasad Pokharel said that in order to develop Nepal as the Centre for Budhism, a three-day International Conference on Lord Budha and Budhism is to be held, on May 19-21, in Kathmandu The government was preparing to conduct the conference with massive publicity of Lumbini and disseminate Budha’s message of world peace. A 501-member committee under Minister Pokhrel has been formed by the government. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, heads of states of neighbouring countries and ministers for culture, high-level representatives from different countries and organizations as well as Budhist scholars and monks are being invited to the event.

External Relations:

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s Visit to China:

7. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, paid an official visit to China from March 20 to 27, 2016. The 90-member PM’s entourage consisted of his spouse Mrs Radhika Shakya, Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister and minister for Foreign Affairs, Bishnu Prasad Pandel, Minister for Finance, Deepak Bohara, Minister for Commerce, Giriraj Mani Pokharel, Minister for Education, Members of Parliament, senior government officials, representative from the private sector and media persons.

8. During his visit, PM Oli called on President Xi Jinping; held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Li Keqiang and also met Yu Zhengsheng, Chairman National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative. His other engagements included Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2016 held in Hainan and address at Renwin University on the theme of “Nepal-China Relations in the Context of One Belt-One Road Initiative.” Oli said that Nepal was always in favour of one China policy.

10-Point Agreement:

9. Nepal and China, on March 21, signed 10 separate agreements and Memoranda of Understanding on using China’s sea port facility; building a regional international airport in Pokhara; exploring the possibilities of signing a bilateral free trade agreements; oil and gas reserves exploration in Nepal; transit transport agreement to be reviewed every 10 years; distribution of solar panels in Nepal’s rural areas; building, managing and maintaining Xiarwa Boundary River Bridge at Hilsa, Humla; strengthening intellectual property system; and co-operation and exchange information on banking regulations.

Joint Communique:

10. A 15-point Joint Communiqué was issued at the end of the visit highlighting a new agreement on fuel trade and extradition and endorsing Nepal’s new constitution that would usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. Nepal reiterated its ‘One China’ policy. The Joint Communique stated that the two countries would soon sign a petroleum trade deal under which Nepal will be importing one-third of its fuel needs from China. The two countries also agreed to sign an extradition treaty — something that China had long been pressing to curb Tibetan activities in Nepal. China has also agreed to carry out a feasibility study for the extension of the Chinese railway into Nepal. China is planning to link Kerung, the nearest Chinese trade point for Nepal, with its mainland by 2020 and Kathmandu is trying to persuade China to extend it further down to Pokhara and Lumbini.

Oli Woos Chinese Investors:

11. During the visit Oli urged Chinese investors to invest in Nepal, promising to facilitate and protect their investments. Addressing Chinese business leaders in Beijing (March 23), Oli explained why Nepal could be the best place for them to invest. Nepal is pursuing a liberal economy policy and the new constitution laid the policy foundation for encouraging foreign capital and technological investment in areas of important substitution and export promotion, Oli told investors that Nepal had now simplified administrative procedures, established Investment Board, ensured sector-specific incentives and was forming Special Economic Zones (SEZs) near the border to attract foreign investment. Oli also said that policies of minimal tax slabs, no income tax on dividends and export earnings, and exemptions of taxes, duties and dues on factors of production used by the export industry would ensure high returns from Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Transit Treaty with China Vital Achievement: PM

12. On his returns from China, on March 27, Prime Minister Oli claimed that unhindered access to sea through Chinese land as part of the transit transportation agreement for land locked Nepal was one of the important achievements of his China visit. Addressing media at Tribhuvan International Airport, Oli said that China welcomed the promulgation of the constitution, terming it a historic progress in the political transition of Nepal. He said that he visited the neighbouring countries to ensure their support for Nepal’s prosperity following the promulgation of constitution. He said that his visit to China had been successful in putting up framework for long-term economic co-operation with the northern neighbor. Refusing to get drawn into comparing Nepal ties with its two neighbours, PM Oli said, “we have a clear policy of not comparing our neighbours. We will expand and improve our relations with all friends on the basis of equality and mutual interests.”

Prince Harry’s visit to Nepal:

13. Prince Harry arrived in Kathmandu, on March 19 on a five-day visit to commemorate 200 years of bilateral relations between Nepal and the UK. He paid his respects to those who were perished in the earthquake last year, saying he would do whatever possible to shine a spotlight on the resolve and resilience of the Nepali people. Addressing a reception hosted by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, Prince Harry said that he wanted to show to people around the world, who wanted to help, that Nepal was a country open for all. During his meeting with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, on March 19, Prince Harry discussed various aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries and appreciated the Gurkha soldiers in the British Army. Prince Harry paid a courtesy call on President Baidya Devi Bhandari. Chief of Army Staff General Rajendra Chhetri, on March 22, presented a khukhri as a souvenir to the visiting Prince.

SAARC Foreign Ministerial Meeting Concludes:

14. The 37th Foreign Ministerial meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Countries concluded in Pokhara on March 16, with the declaration to convene the 19th Summit in Pakistan on November 9 and 10,2016. Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli inaugurated the concluding meeting of 16th March, the last day of the four-day-long foreign ministerial meetings of SAARC. The upcoming SAARC summit will endorse the decision on holding the event in November at an interval of two years. As the tenure of current SAARC General Secretary Arjun Bahadur Thapa was coming to an end, Pakistan put forward its candidate for the post. A decision on the matter will be taken during the next SAARC Summit.

Swaraj, Aziz Talk About Pathankot Incident:

15. Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and the Pakistan Prime Minister’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs, Sartaz Aziz, who were in Nepal to attend SAARC Foreign Ministerial Meeting held talks, on March 16. Their 20-minute meeting concentrated on the Pathankot incident. Sushma Swaraj told the media following the talks, “when I and Sartaj Jee met, there was discussion about Pathankot incident. Soon, a joint investigation team will be formed. On March 27, a Pakistan team will arrive in India, and the investigation will commence on March 28.”


There was nothing significant to report.

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