PM KP Oli continued regional diplomacy with 19-24 June visit to China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed agreements on improving cross-border connectivity including through a new railway network. Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N), fourth largest party overall and second largest Madhesi party in parliament, joined govt 1 June with Chair Upendra Yadav appointed defence minister, giving ruling coalition over two-thirds parliamentary majority. Some leaders of Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), largest Madhesi party in parliament, also expressed openness to joining govt but senior leader Rajendra Mahato outlined need for constitutional amendments as precondition and criticised SSF-N for weakening Madhesi movement. Home Ministry 7 June decision to closely monitor national and international NGOs and cancelling registrations of those engaged in “political activities” criticised by activists and civil society for undermining free speech. Similar concerns raised following cancellation of a talk show on state-run Nepal TV reportedly at direction of Information Minister Gokul Baskota following questions about his property holdings on the show. Govt request − citing completion of peace process − for closure of UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) liaison office criticised by some for being poorly communicated; request was accompanied by concurrent accusatory media reports about office’s role; DPA 14 June announced office to close within three months.
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.