External and internal political pressures on ruling communist party eased following thaw in relations with India and halt in intra-party tensions. PM KP Oli 15 Aug called Indian PM Narendra Modi to mark India’s Independence Day and, in first conversation between two leaders since border dispute began in May, mentioned looking forward to “meaningful cooperation” with New Delhi. Technical-level bilateral channels also reopened following 17 Aug eighth meeting of Nepal-India Oversight Mechanism (tasked in 2016 to oversee implementation of bilateral developmental projects) with Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi and India’s Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra; following discussions, foreign ministry officials proposed convening Boundary Working Group - joint entity formed by two govts in 2014 - which could pave way for formal dialogue on ongoing border row. Indian officials 20 Aug reportedly ruled out discussing contested territory along Nepal’s north-western border at Working Group level, instead preferring to address it between respective foreign secretaries. Meanwhile, leadership tensions within Nepal Communist Party (NCP) eased after internal task force formed by co-chairs Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal 22 Aug recommended Oli continuing as PM – with imminent cabinet reshuffle – while Dahal serves as party’s executive chair. NCP’s haphazard COVID-19 response continued to elicit widespread criticism with provincial-level officials accusing Oli’s govt of undermining transition to federalism after he 17 Aug empowered district administrators – instead of provincial leaders – with greater authority to tackle pandemic.
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.