New govt’s regional diplomatic engagement continued with PM KP Oli completing state visit to India 6-8 April in ongoing effort to repair bilateral relationship and rebuild trust; visit included agreements signed to strengthen development cooperation. Indian PM Modi scheduled to visit Nepal 11-12 May; trip to begin in Province 2 – only province composed of Madhes-only districts along the southern plains. FM Pradeep Gyawali visited China 16-21 April, meeting with his Chinese counterpart to discuss increased bilateral cooperation through development of infrastructure projects, transport networks, and trade especially through Belt and Road Initiative. Despite several months of discussions, efforts to unify ruling UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) parties continued to be delayed due to power-sharing issues and differences over ideology; the two parties leading the leftist coalition missed their own deadline to finalise merger by 22 April; talks ongoing between UML Chairman Oli and Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal. Nepal Army formed board of inquiry to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of teenage girl in South Sudan by Nepalese peacekeepers deployed with UN peacekeeping mission there.
Since it was passed amid deadly protests in September 2015, Nepal’s new constitution has deepened ethnic, social and political fractures. The country’s national parties and protesting groups need to find ways to address constitutional disagreements and underlying disputes. There is a clear risk of escalating violence unless all sides understand that without compromise and good faith Nepal faces an existential threat.
Nepal’s major political parties must urgently agree on a roadmap to negotiate on federalism and write the new constitution, whether by holding elections to a new Constituent Assembly or reviving the previous body.
With the future of the Maoist combatants finally settled, Nepal’s peace process has gained momentum after a long stalemate, but challenges remain, particularly the design of a new federal state and evolving coalition and factional dynamics of the parties.
Nepal’s Maoist combatants urgently need to be integrated into the national security forces and rehabilitated or retired to consolidate the peace process.
The parties to Nepal’s fitful peace process have less than eight weeks to agree on integration of Maoist combatants and federalism before the term of the Constituent Assembly elected to draft a new constitution expires.
International Crisis Group worked regularly on Nepal from 2003-2012, publishing 33 reports in the period leading up to and following the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement that ended the country’s decade-long civil war. Since 2012, Crisis Group has maintained a watching brief on the country.