Nepal & Bhutan Brief (9/16)
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(Based on Media Reports)

NEPAL

Political Developments:

Federal Alliance Of Madhes Parties Submit Memorandum To PM nd Meet Diplomats:

1. Federal Alliance of Madhes parties, on April 27, submitted a 26-point memorandum to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli through Chief District Officers. The alliance stressed that only identity based federalism could resolve the current political problems. They called for implementation of past pacts signed with various stakeholders on this issue. The alliance stated in the memorandum that the new constitution was promulgated on the basis of numerical strength and the use of coercive power of whip by the political parties which violated the mandate of the past movements of indigenous nationalities including Madhesis, Dalits, Muslims, OBCs and minority communities. They added that the new constitution rejected the values established by Interim Constitution and agreements reached in the first Constituent Assembly. The alliance demanded identity-based federalism on the lines of the report prepared by erstwhile State Reconstructing Commission and the first CA’s thematic committee. The alliance has again batted for the 10 provinces based on identity and viability.

2. Earlier, on April 21, Madhesi leaders met with Kathmandu-based diplomats of nearly 20 countries and informed them about the fresh round of protests they were planning to launch if their demands were not addressed by the government immediately.

EC Proposes Bill To Fund Parties:

3. The Election Commission has prepared a draft bill to integrate laws related to political parties, proposing government funding for parties that meet certain criteria and regulating the political parties to make them transparent and accountable to the people. The draft bill provides for a political party garnering at least 1.5 per cent votes will qualify for state funding. A party that takes part in either federal or provincial parliament will benefit from the provision. Members of fringe parties have objected to the provision.

Civic Polls Not On Govt Priority List:

4. Before the promulgation of the new constitution, on September 20, the major political parties had agreed to hold the local level elections, which have not been held for 18 years, within six months. However, there is no sign of holding the polls even after seven months of the promulgation of the new constitution as no preparation has been made for drafting related laws and the government and major political parties are not even making any attempt for consensus

External Relations:

President To Visit India On May 9:

5. Nepalese President Bidhya Devi Bhandari is to pay State visit to India from May 9, on her first official foreign trip after assuming the office of the head of state in October last year. In New Delhi, she will meet her Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on May 10 and hold discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other Indian leaders. She will later fly to Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh to take part in the Simhastha Kumbh Mela Further details of the visit, size of delegation and other preparations are yet to be worked out.

Deuba Met Sushma Swaraj In New Delhi:

6. Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was on a week-long private trip to New Delhi in connection with his wife’s treatment, met Indian Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, on April 21.This was the first meeting between Deuba and Swaraj after he was elected as NC president. The EAM congratulated Deuba on his election and extended best wishes for the successful tenure. On his return home, on April 27, Deuba said that his party would play the role of a strong and active opposition. He clarified that his party was not into toppling the incumbent government to form a NC-led one. Deuba stressed on solving Tarai-Madhes problem through talks with the agitating Madhes-based political parties.

US Secretary Of State Kerry To Visit Nepal:

7. US Secretary of State John Kerry is likely to visit Nepal by the end of this year. Kerry indicated this during a meeting with visiting Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa at the US State Department on April 26. Thapa underscored the importance of exchange of high-level visits between the two countries to further strengthen bilateral relations. The DPM also apprised Kerry of the current political situation in the country, constitution promulgation and its amendments in detail as well as reconstruction and rehabilitation works being carried out by the government in the aftermath of the earthquakes last year. On his part, Kerry congratulated the Government of Nepal for promulgating the new constitution. While assuring support for peace, stability as well as economic development of Nepal, Kerry appreciated Nepal’s role in the maintenance of international peace and security through its contribution of peacekeepers.

UAE To Open Embassy In Kathmandu:

8. The United Arab Emirates, a major work destination in the Gulf for Nepalese, will open a resident mission in Kathmandu, on May 10. With this, three nations from Gulf, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE will have resident missions in Kathmandu. UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan will be visiting Kathmandu to inaugurate the embassy. The UAE at present hosts more than 200,000 Nepali migrant workers. The UAE is currently the third largest trading partner of Nepal.Opening of residential mission will ease visa/consular services for Nepalese who intend to travel the Gulf emirate for work and business. UAE embassy in New Delhi used to look after Nepal affairs.

Envoys To 21 Countries Named:

9. Nepal government named envoys for 21 countries which were either headless or the terms of ambassadors leading them were about to end. Two former ministers are among those nominated for the ambassadorial posts. Former foreign minister and CPN-UML leader Mahendra Bahadur Pandey has been named ambassador to China, while former minister and RPP-N vice-chairman Niranjan Thapa has been nominated to serve as Nepal’s ambassador to Russia.

BHUTAN :

India Hands Over NU 7.7 Billion For Hydroelectric Projects:

1. Indian Ambassdor to Bhutan, Jaideep Sarkar, handed over Cheque for NW 7.7 billion to the Economic Affairs Minister, Lekey Dorji, on April 13. Of the total amount, NU 7.7 billion is for the Mangdechhu hydroelectric power project and NU 370 million for the Punatsangchhu I hydroelectric power project. In the last financial year, the Government of India has released a total of NU 39.6 billion for three inter-governmental hydropower projects comprising both loan and grant. In addition, the Government of India also disbursed NU 246 million for Kholongchhu hydroelectric project during the year.

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