Tensions with India persisted and new border issue with China emerged. Tensions with India, which had abated in Aug, threatened to escalate again after Nepal’s Ambassador to China Mahendra Pandey 28 Sept accused Delhi of encroachment into Nepali territory and blamed Indian media of spreading “fake propaganda” to undermine Nepal-China relations. Border issues with China arose with 23 Sept reports of Chinese security forces allegedly constructing several buildings inside Nepali territory in the northern district of Humla; Nepal’s MFA and China’s embassy in Kathmandu denied reports, contradicting local officials’ accounts. Ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) 3 Sept nominated senior leader Bamdev Gautam to upper house of parliament in bid to ease internal party divisions; legal experts criticised decision for contravening 2015 constitution outlining that upper house appointments are partly in place to address under-representation of minority groups; Supreme Court 23 Sept issued interim order halting appointment, citing need for “serious constitutional explanation”. During his address to UN General Assembly, PM KP Oli 25 Sept urged support for Nepal’s re-election to UN Human Rights Council; human rights activists have persistently called out govt for curbs on civil liberties and for failing to deliver on human rights commitments made in 2017 prior to first Human Rights Council term. Federal govt 28 Sept took over control of policing within Kathmandu valley despite protests from provincial leaders that move infringes on their constitutional rights; move seen as latest govt effort to undermine federal structure and further shrink provincial authority.
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.