Nepal & Bhutan Brief (10/16)
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(Based on Media Reports)

Political Developments:

NC’s Failed Attempt To Topple Oli Govt:

1. Unified CPN-Maoist Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachand, had reportedly reached an understanding with the Nepali Congress to form a new government under his leadership. On May 5, NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba went to meet Dahal to discuss details on the formation of a new government. In a complete volte-face, Dahal told Deuba that he was not in position to form new government at this stage. The dramatic turn of events disappointed Deuba who was all set to take the centre stage in the formation of new government.

What Made Dahal Change his mind:

2. During party meeting on May 5, Dahal faced sharp criticism from senior leaders who alleged that he had fallen into the hands of foreign forces. The party ministers in Oli government were said to have even threatened to quit the party, if Dahal continued with his plans to topple the Oli government with NC’s support. A Maoist leader, requesting anonymity, told the media Dahal and senior leaders were under pressure from “other external elements” not to withdraw support to PM Oli. Dahal decided to back track. According to some party eaders, Oli has assured Dahal that he would pave the way for the latter to become the next prime minister after the budget was approved.

Rights Bodies Concerned Over 9-Point Agreement:

3. To continue support to the Oli-led government, UCPN-Maoist and CPN-UML, on May 5, signed a nine-point agreement under which the two parties decided to take initiatives to form a national consensus government with the objective of creating conducive environment for the implementation of the constitution and socio-economic transformation. They also decided to discuss and resolve the issue of Madhes-based parties including federalism, through political consensus. The 9-point agreement also includes initiation of a process to withdraw or give clemency on the cases filed during the conflict period. This has been criticized by the leading human rights groups, saying that it was against the current transitional justice process and aimed at protecting perpetrators of abuses during the decade-long civil war. In a joint statement, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International said that the political parties should not bargain away justice for victims of serious human rights abuses as part of an agreement to form a new coalition government. The two ruling parties had struck the agreement after an understanding to save the ruling coalition for the time being, the statement said. The statement further said that the agreement threatened to entrench impunity for those who planned and carried out killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and other crimes in Nepal’s civil war, just as the country’s delayed transitional justice process was finally about to get under way.

NC, UCPN(Maoist) and UDMF Against Civic Polls:

4. President Bhandari, announced, in the government’s policy and programme presented, on May 5, at the Parliament, that civic polls would be held in November/December, 2016 under the transitional provision (existing structures of local bodies). The Nepali Congress, which is the main opposition party, demanded that the civic polls be held only after restructuring the local bodies in accordance with the new constitution after forging political consensus. Unified CPN-Maoist Chairman Dahal, on May 11, also expressed discontentment at the government’s policy and programme for lacking clear vision in dealing with the issues of Madhes, setting up mechanism for implementation of government’s programmes and conducting civic polls. He said that the civic polls should be held after parties’ forged consensus and resolved constitutional complexities. Madhes-based parties have announced that they would not let local elections happen unless their demands were addressed-one of them being redrawing of provincial boundaries.

Gyanendra Hints at Political Re-emergence:

5. Former king Gyanendra Shah, on May 8, reminded that he had not left the nation and that he still had political interests. Issuing a statement on the eve of Prithvi Jayanti, the birth anniversary of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the former monarch, expressed his dissatisfaction over latest political developments. He added that he had handed over the ‘property of people’ back to them and left the palace in national interests and happiness, prosperity and satisfaction of the people. He reminded the politicians that he had not left his Nepali home and had not yet given up the responsibility towards Nepal and the Nepalese people. Meanwhile, Nepal Rastrabhakta Sangh, Parsa branch, on May 2, staged a rally in Birgunj, demanding reinstatement of monarchy. Chairman of the Rashtrabhakta Sangh, Janak Sah said that the rally would take round of Kathmandu valley and submit a request letter to former king Gyanendra Shah.

External Relations

Abrupt Cancellation of President’s Visit To India:

6. President Bidhya Devi Bhandari’s planned visit to India from May 9 was cancelled abruptly, on May 6. Following the cancellation the government, on the same day (May 6), decided to recall Nepal’s Ambassador to India Deep Kumar Upadhyay. The abrupt cancellation of President’s official visit and withdrawal of Ambassador caused much consternation as yet another event in the steady deterioration in relations between Nepal and India since the blockade began in September last year. Supporters of government argued that these moves were in retaliation against India’s alleged interference in Nepali politics. There were rumours in Kathmandu that India was behind the attempt to bring down Oli government and replace it with a Nepali Congress-UCPN(Maoist) coalition. Others, however, criticized these developments as displaying the Nepali leadership’s immature approach to foreign relations.

7. Upadhyay, a senor NC leader, was appointed ambassador by the previous Nepali Congress-led government Leaders of the current government claim that he was very uncooperative and was actively involved the move to change the government. Government was also unhappy with the way President Bhandari’s programme had been structured. However, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Kamal Thapa, on May 8, clarified that the recall of the Nepali Ambassador to India was not linked with the government’s decision to cancel President Bidhya Bhandari’s India visit. He clarified that the government had decided to cancel President’s visit owing to the death of six people and injury of more than 40 in a natural calamity in Ujjain in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh where Bhandari was supposed to attend a religious function. Clarifying other reasons for the cancelled visit, Thapa said the President was scheduled to reveal the government’s policy and programme and the preparations for her visit were incomplete. He said this incident would in no way complicate Nepal-India relations.

Beijing Sends Freight Train For Nepal:

8. China opened its first combined transport service (rail and road) to Nepal with a freight train departing from Langhou, the capital city of Gansu province, for Kathmandu, on May 11, 2016. People’s Daily reported that the final destination of the freight train was Kathmandu. The rail transport will change over to road transport in Shigatse (Xigaze), Tibet. It will take 10 days for the consignment to reach Kathmandu. The Journey includes of rail transport from Langhou to Shigatse, 564 kilometres of road transport from Shigatse to Kyirong and 160 kilometres of road transport from Kyirong to Kathmandu. Nepali officials and businessmen said though Nepal and China have recently signed Transit Transport Agreement, it will take great commitment from both sides to make this combined route commercially feasible.

Bhutan:

There was nothing significant to report.

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