Today Nepal and China agreed to expand and consolidate bilateral cooperation focusing mainly on trade, transit, investment, energy, tourism and infrastructure development, according to a statement issued by Nepal’s Foreign Ministry. The agreement was reached during a meeting between Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Minister Kamal Thapa and the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing. “China has expressed its willingness to seriously examine Nepal’s proposals for importation of petroleum products from China and has advised the respective companies of the two countries to jointly examine the matters relating to price, transportation and other logistics,” the statement says. Soon after this ministerial agreement, Deputy Chief of Nepal Oil Corporation Sushil Bhattarai and Under Secretary Navaraj Dhakal of Ministry of Commerce and Supplies were called (by Foreign Minister Thapa) to Beijing to sign an agreement on importing petro-products from China. Both Bhattarai and Dhakal have reached Beijing on Friday.
The Chinese side informed that travel advisories issued in the context of earthquake in Nepal has been lifted with immediate effect and hoped the number of Chinese visitors would increase significantly in future. Nepal reciprocated by announcing that visa fees for Chinese tourists visiting Nepal will be waived.
Prime Minster KP Oli is invited to visit China next year.
Post-earthquake reconstruction will be accelerated, and both Araniko Highway and Syafru-Rasuwagadhi Highway will be repaired.
Trade and investment cooperation will be strengthened.
Long-term oil and gas trade between the two countries will be explored.
Existing ports will be repaired and rehabilitated.
The process to sign a Transit Transportation Agreement will be accelerated.
A feasibility study will be conducted on Free Trade Agreement.
Cultural exchanges will be furthered.
Most relevant parts of the press statement issued by the Foreign Ministry:
The Chinese Foreign Minister… expressed China’s strong desire to see a peaceful, stable and prosperous Nepal. He further said China would continue assisting Nepal in her development endeavours.
The two sides discussed the importance of exchanging high level visits between the two countries. The Chinese side has conveyed the invitation to the Prime Minister of Nepal to visit China at an early date. There will be a high-level visit from China to Nepal as well next year.
Expressing happiness over the development of bilateral relations and cooperation over the last 60 years, the two sides agreed to expand and consolidate bilateral cooperation focusing mainly on trade, transit, investment, energy, tourism and infrastructure development. They agreed to upgrade and operationalize the existing border points and develop the other border points to promote connectivity between the two countries. The Chinese side has agreed to give priority to the reopening of the Tatopani-Zhangmu border point, which has been disrupted after the April 25 earthquake.
The intergovernmental mechanisms have been tasked to advance negotiations on the proposals on free trade area, transit and Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (BIPPA) which were discussed during the meeting today.
China has expressed its willingness to seriously examine Nepal’s proposals for importation of petroleum products from China and has advised the respective companies of the two countries to jointly examine the matters relating to price, transportation and other logistics. As a friendly gesture, China will make available additional fuel to northern areas of Nepal bordering Tibet Autonomous Region.
The Chinese side informed that it would soon take up agreed projects for post-disaster reconstruction as per its pledged assistance during the International Conference on Nepal’s Reconstruction. China has announced its willingness to support Nepal’s industrialization process through reconstruction. Hon. Mr. Thapa thanked the Government of China for extending generous support to Nepal’s socioeconomic development over the years. He also appreciated the spontaneous and prompt support received from China in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake of Nepal.
The two leaders discussed the ways for promoting people to people contact. In this context, the Chinese side informed that travel advisories issued in the context of earthquake in Nepal has been lifted with immediate effect and hoped the number of Chinese visitors would increase significantly in future. The Hon. Deputy Prime Minister reciprocated the friendly gesture of his Chinese counterpart by announcing that the Government of Nepal would waive visa fees for Chinese tourists.
…Mr. Lok Darshan Regmi, Finance Secretary of Nepal and Mr. Zhang Xiangchen, Vice Minister of Commerce of China signed the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation under which China would make available 900 million RMB as grant assistance for the implementation of the projects of repair and maintenance of Araniko Highway and other projects of interconnection and interworking. It may be recalled that this assistance was announced by the Chinese President during his meeting with his Nepalese counterpart in March 2015 in Boao, Hainan.
The Indian blockade of Nepal (#IndiaBlockadesNepal) has been running for over three months now. Being landlocked, most of Nepal’s imports come via India. Although international laws provide landlocked countries the right to unrestricted passage to the sea, India has been unquestioned by the international community on the way it is putting an entire country of about 28 million in “ventilator support”, in the words of senior Indian journalist Anil Yadav. The blockade has created a humanitarian crisis, apart from economic and political ones.
By blockading Nepal, India is supporting a group of protesters in Central Terai of Nepal. The blockade has caused massive suffering to people all over the country. Economy has been destroyed and might take years to recover. Jobs have been lost, investors have pulled out, major infrastructure and development projects have been badly affected and put out-of-schedule, and education of millions of kids has been disrupted. Industries have closed because of lack of security and raw material supply. Vaccination programs have also been disrupted. This shows the scale of suffering Nepal is facing because of the inhumane blockade by India.
The Modi government, together with Indian bureaucrats, diplomats, and intelligence officers have especially taken a harsh position, advocating that India should continue to pressurize Nepal this way.
Below, we present a selection of pictures and tweets to illustrate some of the hardships Nepali people have been put through by the blockade on Nepal by its big southern neighbor India.
Blockade is killing people
Amit Yadav, a kid from Eastern Terai, died because he could not visit a hospital for monthly checkup. Amit happens to be Madhesi-origin. Transportation has halted, especially in Eastern Terai but also elsewhere because of the blockade by India and the protests in some parts of Nepal that it has strengthened.
अमित यादव, बेगनाहशिवपुर-३, धनुषाका बालक अपरेसनपछि मासिक रगत जाँच गर्न बर्दिबास आउन नसकी २५ दिनअघि भल्व अड्किएर मरे । pic.twitter.com/jFnLU4vRjM
The protesters have burnt several ambulances. The pictures in the tweet above show two vandalized ambulance. The first one was carrying a kid in critical condition, who died because of the protesters.
Earthquake victims have a harder time
Several earthquake victims have died this week due to cold. Earthquake victims cannot buy food, fuel, and construction material to build shelters because of the blockade. They are having to sleep outside. A harsh winter in the hills is worsening their condition. Nepal suffered two big earthquakes earlier this year, before India blockaded imports, making it almost impossible for relief to reach earthquake victims. Humanitarian organizations cannot operate under such lack of essentials.
Schools have been closed for months. In the Terai, school kids are used by protesters for violent protests and vandalism. Elsewhere, schools cannot operate because of lack of fuel and other essentials. The following placard reads “Live and let us study.”
Kids are collecting essentials for their families. In the following picture, they are carrying firewood as fuel has become scarce.
Violence and vandalism strengthened by blockade
The blockade has strengthened and supported a violent protest going on in the Terai region of Nepal. Protesters attack journalists, police and ordinary citizens with Molotov Cocktails. Even Indian police has entered Nepali territory and fired at Nepali citizens and police.
A Madhesi lawmaker was attacked by the protesters. Several other political parties and people with differing opinion are regularly threatened and attacked in the protest areas. Protesters have almost banned political activities and campaigns by other parties. The President of Nepal was also humiliated and attacked by protesters.
दुखद घटनाः नयाँ संविधान लिएर गएका सांसद हरीचरण साहलाई मधेसी मोर्चाका कार्यकर्ताले गौरमा कालोमोसो दलेर अपमान गरेछन् । pic.twitter.com/3W730FRgpH
Ordinary Madhesi are also suffering because of the Indian blockade that has strengthened a violent protest in the Terai region. In the first picture below, the protesters burnt a moterbike, along with its owner Dilip Chaudhary. The second picture shows Bablu Rajbanshi burnt by the protesters.
The blockade has strengthened the violent protests, which has invited state police to safeguard highways and public property. Protest organizers have publicly provoked and called for violence and use of weapons. In retaliation, police action has sometimes been brutal and in violation of human rights. Several protesters and onlookers have been killed by police action. On the other hand, several police personnel and civilians have been attacked, lynched and killed by the protesters. The picture below shows a Madhesi family holding a picture of their dead son.
Violence and Tension at the Nepal-India border
Indian border police beat up Nepali police personnel and confiscate pistol.
In the following pictures, this side of the gate is Nepal and the other side is India. Stones are being pelted on Nepal police personnel from the Indian side of the border. In the first picture, Indian security personnel are standing guard at the border, providing security to the attackers.
बेलहिया नाकामा छिमेकी मित्रराष्ट्रले हामीलाई यसरी सहयोग गरिरहेछ, भारतीय भूमिबाट आक्रमण गर्नेलाई जोगाउन पहरा दिएर! pic.twitter.com/TJQ4SAVx5g
There’s acute shortage of cooking gas and food supplies. Restaurants have modified their menu because of the blockade. Only limited items not requiring a lot of fuel are on offer in restaurants. Many are cooking on firewood. Several businesses have closed permanently, leaving many jobless during festival season and the ensuing winter.
Traveling has become very scary and deadly. There are much fewer buses running and most of them are packed beyond capacity. Protesters regularly vandalize passengers, buses and private property. Because of lack of fuel, traveling conditions are harsher than usual, resulting in increased accidents and added difficulty for the elderly, sick, women and children. Buses carry petrol in small cans, adding the risk of fire and death. As seen in the pictures, passengers including small kids are forced to travel with great risk on top of buses
Protesters emboldened by the Indian blockade regularly destroy buses plying in the Eastern Terai, in a gross violation of human rights. Almost all buses traveling there have damaged windows and windscreen. Many people have been injured and killed during the violence meted out against innocent travelers on highways. Buses often travel without any windscreen, making it extremely chilly and uncomfortable inside. Travel is possible only at night, and every night passengers are greeted with stones, Molotov cocktails and other objects thrown at them.
In this picture, an international cricketer of Nepal is seen at the arrival lounge of Nepal’s airport with an electric induction stove. He bought it while on a trip overseas. Those who can afford have switched to such electric heaters because cooking gas is no more available in the market.
Goodwill between neighbors is lost as younger generations witness Indian aggression
Indians are not at risk in Nepal. Nepalis have remained calm throughout the blockade and been sensible to separate the ordinary Indian people from their brutal and bully government.
But while previous generations faced several Indian blockades and harbored a generally hostile attitude towards Indian intentions in Nepal, the newer generations were more open and cosmopolitan in nature. Now that they have witnessed the Indian aggression at a very difficult time in their country’s history, the sense of optimism has suffered a great setback. People are very discouraged and this will reflect directly in the coming generations’ view of their big neighbor to the South. There have been several spontaneous protests and social media campaigns against the blockade both in Nepal and in the cities of Europe or USA with large Nepali diaspora.
The blockade has put to display Nepal’s own ugly sides. Nepal’s politics is messy, like in many similar countries. Here are some examples.
A professor defends the burning of ambulances and death of kids because of protesters blocking ambulances as needing to be seen “in a context”. This is very much reminiscent of how the violence unleashed by Maoist rebels during their insurgency was defended by its apologists.
Former Prime Minister and Maoist politician Baburam Bhattarai leads a group of so-called “civil society leaders”, which includes Dr Devendra Raj Pandey, CK Lal, Krishna Hachhethu, Pitambar Sharma etc. Bhattarai is a seasoned politician and the ideologue of the violent Maoist insurgency. He hardly fits the generally accepted definition of “civil society member”. But currently his cohort is cashing on the Indian blockade to revive his political career in the guise of a new political force. Bhattarai resigned from his parliamentary seat immediately after the promulgation of constitution, showing neglect to the people of his constituency, who are among the worst hit earthquake victims. He was also one of the leading politicians involved in the drafting of Constitution.
At other events, similar group of “civil society members” has gone so far as to say that Nepal is to be blamed for everything and India has imposed no blockade. This group includes the likes of Daman Nath Dhungana, Sundar Mani Dixit, CK Lal, Lokraj Baral. They were speaking at events organized by or in the presence of Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Mr. Ranjit Rae. Many in Nepal allege they work in tandem with the Indian bureaucracy and intelligence agencies to do a “narrative control” in Nepal. Perhaps, this is what observers meant while referring to the many “covert and overt” weapons India has at its disposal against Nepal ?
The level of disrespect and interference in Nepal’s internal politics by India has gone so far that the blockade started with India demanding changes to Nepal’s newly drafted constitution. This headline from Indian Express just before the blockade began.
While there is vehement denial of the blockade by Indian government, its operatives in Nepal and some of Nepal’s civil society members, enough evidence has been produced that show India is actively and directly forcing a blockade on Nepal. This is a picture of supply trucks queuing up at the Indian side of the border. Such queues stretch several kilometers and Indian security force selectively allow trucks to pass. Trucks carrying fuel are stopped on purpose. Indian journalist Anil Yadav produced a series of reports this month from a town near Nepal-India border.
The performance of Nepal’s own government has been very lackadaisical. A weak coalition cobbled up after the blockade apparently against India’s wishes, shows no creativity or initiative to make things easier for the people. Government ministers and the Prime Minister are frustrating the ordinary people with their rhetoric full of lofty dreams but no matching action. In all this, the opposition party sees an opportunity to replace the government formed just months ago.
The following cartoon published in a Nepali newspaper shows the Prime Minister busy talking, doing nothing.
The dominant narrative promoted by a section of ethno-centric activists and intellectuals is that Nepali civil service is dominated by Hill Bahun/Kshetri and that the Madhesis are excluded and underrepresented.
This is the mixture of lies and half truth. A comprehensive research considering caste, ethnic and gender dimensions of Nepali society shows a different picture. The Nepal Social Inclusion Survey 2012 (NSIS) ranks different caste groups of Nepal on the basis of their representation in government services in proportion to the size of their population.
[Added on 21st December for clarity: the research states, “on the basis of percent of households with access to government jobs”. See Note below for more]
[Additional Note on 22nd December: The second picture below is a ranking based on representation compared to the size of population. The table is from the same study. The first chart is based on percent of households.]
Three high-caste Madhesi groups are at the top of this list.
Top 10 ethnic groups over-represented in Nepali civil service when compared to their share of population. Madhesi groups rank at the top. Picture source: Setopati [Picture added on 22nd December].
The study reveals that some Madhesi communities: Rajput, Kayastha and Tarai Bahun have more representation in Government jobs than their share of population and are among the top seven most represented population groups of Nepal. Among the top seven ethnic communities, only two are Hill (Pahadi) communities. The remaining are Madhesi groups.
“The Madhesi B/C [Bahun/Kshetri] has the highest percentage (29.1%) in government jobs, which is followed by the Newar (26.3%), Hill Chhetri (21.5%) and Hill Brahmin (15.8%).” The findings of the multidimensional study state, “Dalits, including Madhesi and other caste groups, are well below the average.”
The study very specifically points out that Halkhor and Dom, two other Madhesi groups (ranked at positions 1 and 3), are mostly involved in public services of a low level (cleaning jobs). This suggests that other groups at the top level, including the Madhesi groups like Kayastha, Terai Brahmin, and Rajput do not share such characteristic.
It is important to remember that Madhesi(representing 20% of Nepal’s population) is not a single homogeneous population group. There are huge disparities within different Madhesi communities and their levels of progress. Several Madhesi groups (like Dalits) are among the most backward and disadvantaged in Nepal. At the same time, several other Madhesi groups (like Madhesi Brahmins, Kayasthas, Rajputs) are ahead of all other ethnic groups in Nepal in terms of Human Development Index (HDI), education, wealth, access to government services and opportunities.
The study reports that Hill Dalits, which is a broad group, are in the lowest position and Muslims only slightly above them.
NSIS shows that there is no domination of a single caste in Nepali civil service. Out of 98 individual caste groups covered by the survey, 20 castes have more representation in civil service than their shares of population.
According to the study, “Government jobs” covers employment by the government at both the national and local levels, according to the survey. “At the local level, it covers jobs in VDCs, municipalities, DDCs and other government line agencies. However, the level of job is not specified, therefore, including all levels from sweepers to officers.”
It is important to understand whether there is inclusion in government employment, because it is one of the pertinent institutions for governance, the survey states. The study was carried out by Central Department of Sociology/Anthropology of Tribhuvan University and published in March 2014. It was funded by the Royal Norwegian Embassy (RNE) in Nepal through Social Inclusion Research Fund (SIRF)/SNV. The list of people who led the study can be seen in the picture below.
Note (Added 21st Dec 2015):
The study cited in this post is based on the number of households having access to government jobs. Our initial post missed this detail. All questions regarding the study and methodology should be directed to the concerned research teams. For more clarity, we are adding some statistics of some ethnic groups below.
According to the Population Census of Nepal 2011, average household sizes for some ethnic groups are:
Kayastha 5.1, Madhesi Brahman 5.1, Rajput 4.1, Thakuri 4.9, Newar 4.5, Chhetree 4.7, Hill Brahmin 4.2.
The Human Development Index (HDI) values (published by UNDP) for some ethnic groups are: Hill Brahman 0.557, Hill Chhetri 0.507, Madhesi Brahman/Chhetri (includes Rajput and Kayastha) 0.536, Madhesi Other Castes 0.460, Newar 0.565. The chart is included below for reference.
KATHMANDU – Major disruptions in food and fuel imports across its southern border with India have severely affected Nepal’s supplies and caused a worrying increase in food prices, says the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
A border blockade to protest Nepal’s new constitution began in September. Trade has now slowed to a trickle in the landlocked country, causing a food and fuel shortage that is in its third month. With Nepal heavily dependent on imports, especially from India, severe shortages are now being felt in local markets. The cost of some basic food staples, such as cooking oil, rice, lentils, sugar and salt have soared in recent weeks as supplies dwindle.
“If trade remains restricted and food prices continue to rise, a serious humanitarian crisis will be hard to avoid,” said David Kaatrud, WFP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.
“People are struggling to feed their families as the cost of food rises beyond their grasp. Coming so soon after the recent earthquake, this crisis could severely test people’s ability to cope, and may lead to an increase in malnutrition.”
On average, the prices of lentils, pulses and cooking oil have increased by more than 30 percent since August and more than 50 percent since last year. In remote areas, including parts of the country worst hit by the 25 April earthquake and aftershocks, the price of food commodities has increased even further, doubling in some cases. For example, in Gorkha, a community close to the earthquake epicenter, a 25 kg sack of rice now costs 5,000 Nepali Rupees (US$46.80) – up from 2,500 Rupees (US$23.40) before the blockade. The price of cooking oil and sugar has also doubled in the town.
At the same time, the price of fuel has sky rocketed across the country. The cost of refilling a cylinder of cooking gas has increased from 1,500 Nepali rupees (US$14.00) before the blockade to between 8,000 and 11,000 rupees (US$75 and US$102) today, an increase of as much as 630 percent.
“WFP urges all sides to once again allow the free flow of food items across the border to ensure that Nepalis, especially those who struggle on a day-to-day basis to feed their families, are not the ones who bear the burden of this protracted political stand-off,” said Kaatrud.
A quarter of people in Nepal live on less than US$1.25* a day, and on average spend 60 percent of their income on food. This means that most have only a limited capacity to cope with shocks such as disasters and soaring food prices.
Last month, WFP warned that the fuel shortage caused by the border blockages was hampering earthquake relief efforts. There have been severe delays in WFP efforts to provide food assistance to more than 224,000 earthquake-affected people. WFP has only been able to deliver one-third of food supplies earmarked for distribution by the end of the year. The delivery of non-food items, such as medicine and shelter material for winter, has also been severely affected by the dispute.
The constitution which has been adopted by almost 90 % of the deputies is a big success and a proof that after years of conflict and struggle, the way to a new and modern society is paved. The constitution comprises all basic rights which we in Europe esteem essential for a free and democratic society. Nepal can be proud of this document which symbolizes a cornerstone in its development.
How do you see the current situation in Nepal following the promulgation of new constitution?
First of all allow me to congratulate Nepal for the promulgation of its new constitution. The constitution which has been adopted by almost 90 % of the deputies is a big success and a proof that after years of conflict and struggle, the way to a new and modern society is paved. The constitution comprises all basic rights which we in Europe esteem essential for a free and democratic society. Nepal can be proud of this document which symbolizes a cornerstone in its development. Unfortunately, there seems to be a deficit in communicating its substance to the people. In my eyes, there is a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding about some of its articles. Moreover, as someone who has studied law, I can assure you that in the years to come, many of the clauses will be reviewed and clearly defined by the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court. There will be, as well, amendments of the constitution in future according to the needs of the society. It needs responsible political leadership to communicate this to the minds of the people instead of allowing the spread of rumors that create an atmosphere of public confusion.
As an Ambassador to this country I can assure you I would be happy if more would be done to inform the broader public about rights and duties of the new constitution and I appeal all relevant parties, after three months of different forms of protests, to reach a political compromise and bring an end to the ongoing horrible crisis.
People have already suffered too much, particularly all those who were affected by the heavy earthquake and are still fully dependent on support from the outside world. The present situation with its strangulation of people in need, children, elderly people and those living under harsh conditions in the mountains is showing signs of a violation of human rights.
With the promulgation of the new constitution, there is unrest in Madhes with border blockade; the supply of essential commodities is negatively affected, which is developing into a major humanitarian crisis. How do you look at it?
From my point of view, there is no doubt that the international community should raise its voice to prevent a major humanitarian crisis which will go beyond the suffering of the people after the heavy earthquakes in April/May. The borders to India must be opened as soon as possible to allow in medical supplies and shelters needs for the people living under critical conditions. By opening the borders, the transport sector of the country which has almost come to a complete stop because of the shortage of fuel, should start activities again and secure distribution of all essential goods to the people in need. It cannot be accepted that suffering people are held hostage in the name of a future design of the country. I’m very worried about the health and wellbeing of the most vulnerable people of Nepal.
As Federal Republic of Germany has been supporting institution building at Municipal and VDC level for last many years, do you have any plans to support developing provincial institutions in the present context?
I really hope that the ongoing supply crisis will end soon and leaders will thereafter focus more on reconstruction of the country and implementation of its constitution. Both efforts will show if Nepal will be capable of proceeding to a brighter future and safeguard stability. Institutions will have to be strengthened; there should be more delegation of decision-making processes. Nepal needs a service-oriented administration; wide-spread practice of immunity for misbehavior on all levels of the society should end. This requires a strong and independent justice system.
Regarding your question on a possible support to the development of provincial institutions, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that a federal system in its true sense needs a sound foundation of well-functioning municipalities. It is the municipalities to which citizens have the closest and direct contact with administrative structures. It is the municipalities from which citizens expect the best services for their daily needs such as access to water, waste and waste water treatment, health care, school facilities and much more. These services can be replaced neither by provincial nor by federal authorities. It is therefore obvious that first of all administrative structures on municipality level must be strengthened so that they can operate to everybody’s satisfaction.
In my eyes, a federal system finds its justification only if it leads to an improvement of services to citizens. The functions of provinces are focusing more on rules and regulations of regional matters. There is less direct contact of provincial authorities with citizens, same as for federal institutions. Therefore I’m convinced that the process of implementing federalism into the Nepalese environment could only and should start with all kinds of support for the municipalities. Since Germany and Nepal have a longstanding cooperation in support of institution building at municipal and VDC level, there is every reason to look into continuing this support.
As the new constitution demands new institutions and new legal system for its implementation, what do you suggest?
In discussions a team of German experts recently had with representatives of Nepalese authorities involved in the process of implementation of the new constitution, the focus was on three fields of possible support from our side: support of the legislative process, training of judicial staff and advisory services for establishing well-functioning administrative structures. The German IRZ, Institute for Judicial Cooperation, will be in charge of defining future projects in shaping new federal structures. There might be as well support for training facilities for trainers of administrative personnel. For the time being we have not yet concluded specific projects of cooperation but we are preparing them in the near future.
One of the problems in Nepal is the weak institutions at all levels. How is the German experience in this, from which Nepal can benefit?
Weak institutions are an obstacle for the development of a country. Progress and success of a society very much depends on qualified staff on all levels of the administration, on a set-up of rules and regulations understood and respected by the majority of people and a clearly defined mechanism for self-rule and availability of financial resources on municipal level. These are some of the most important sectors for stabilizing a country bottom-up.
Federal Republic of Germany has been providing much needed support to earthquake victims, how do you support in the post reconstruction phase of build back better?
The German Government has supported Nepal from the very beginning after the earthquake. In addition to 5 Million Euro humanitarian aid, amounts of 30 Million Euro for recovery and rehabilitation- on top of our ongoing bilateral programs- have been granted. Our rehabilitation support will mainly focus on three districts: Nuwakot, Dhading and Rasuwa and support primarily the health and energy sectors. We will, for example, ensure the reconstruction of several district hospitals and construct more than 40 health posts. We have also agreed to rehabilitate the central Load Dispatch Centre in Kathmandu and will work on the repair and extension of electrify transmission lines in quake-hit areas. For the past six months, we have also supported shelter and immediate needs of affected communities. Now it is important to move from recovery towards long-term rehabilitation.
As the Reconstruction Authority is yet to establish, has it made any difference in implementing the projects?
German Development Cooperation focuses its recovery and rehabilitation programs on those sectors in which we have been engaged in for a long time, such as health and energy. Hence, we have been fortunate to benefit from already-existing partnerships and networks. This has allowed us to deliver faster than others and to effectively support the people in need immediately after the earthquakes happened. However, the lack of an effective coordination mechanism and the lack of GoN guidelines for the reconstruction process severely limit the impact of what the international support could achieve. It is urgent that the authorities in Nepal step up efforts to put in place the institutional framework for a coordinated, accountable and effective reconstruction process. Otherwise, “Build Back Better” will remain only a slogan and the lessons learned from the recent disaster might quickly be forgotten.
Is Germany providing additional support to Nepal along with regular programs?
The commitments made for recovery and rehabilitation after the earthquakes came on top of our ongoing programs and will be implemented mainly in three of the earthquake-affected districts as I have already stated. At the same time, it is important for us to maintain our existing projects in the energy, health and economic development sectors with a geographical focus on the Mid and Far West.
What are the priority areas for German support in the context when Nepal has been facing a lot of challenges like poverty, food insecurity, climate change and disasters?
With the current priorities of Nepal-German Development Cooperation (health, renewable energy / energy efficiency and economic development and trade), we hope to contribute to addressing these problems and challenges that are most pressing for Nepal’s development. The ultimate goal of all our programs is poverty reduction and a more sustainable and inclusive socio-economic development of the country. Let me take the example of our long-standing support for renewable energies and energy efficiency in Nepal: progress in these areas translates both into positive social and economic impacts, while at the same time also addressing the issue of climate change.
Ian Martin was the head of Amnesty International before serving as UN special envoy to East Timor and Nepal. He acted as the inaugural head of UN Mission In Nepal (UNMIN) from 2006 to 2009. UNMIN was established to assist Nepal’s peace process following the peace agreement between Nepal government and Maoist rebels in 2006. Martin is a Cambridge educated Briton, whose controversial role in Nepal led the Nepal government to reduce UNMIN’s mandate, before finally ending the mission in 2011, on a rather bitter note.
Martin has been heavily criticized by Israel for a report prepared by his team in 2009. He led a UN committee of four to investigate incidents during the Gaza War. Israel was joined by the US in calling the report as biased. Israel’s criticism stated, “in both spirit and language, the report is tendentious, patently biased, and ignores the facts presented to the committee.”
For the first time after the time of UNMIN, some of their activities and unreported incidents have been brought to light in a book by a former senior UN bureaucrat. Kul Chandra Gautam, who served as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, has been involved with Nepali civil society and in the peace process. His book, “Lost in Transition: Rebuilding Nepal from the Maoist mayhem and mega earthquake” is out tomorrow. It has already created a lot of ripples in Nepal, including very approving reviews for its counter-narrative to the dominant view in Nepal that eulogizes violence and undemocratic means to grab power by destabilizing the state.
What follows is an exclusive excerpt from the book, detailing some role of UNMIN and its high officials in Nepal that very few people other than Gautam have been privy to.
… People began to see that UNMIN was unable to restrain the massive pre-election threats and violence by the Maoists against candidates of other political parties. Following the elections, and the installation of the Maoist-led government, people saw many illegal and criminal activities taking place in Maoist cantonments or by Maoist combatants outside the cantonments. UNMIN’s seeming inability to control or even monitor such activities began to erode the public’s faith in UNMIN.
A video-taped speech by Maoist Chairman Prachanda at a party training event in the Shaktikhor cantonment just prior to the 2008 CA election revealed how the Maoists had hoodwinked the UN into accepting much larger number of combatants than was actually the case, and how the party intended to use its cadres, including its ex-combatants, to influence the election. UNMIN’s credibility nosedived, when instead of protesting the Maoists’ cynical remarks disparaging it, UNMIN sought to defend itself and the Maoists by saying that Prachanda’s remarks “needed to be understood in a certain context”.
Some dramatic cases of criminal activities in the Maoist cantonments; the free access and use of the cantonments by Maoist leaders for political training and indoctrination; and the seeming inability of UNMIN to do anything about such actions, led to serious disappointment with its performance, especially given the Nepali public’s very high expectation of UNMIN. Increasingly a growing number of leaders of the non-Maoist political parties, civil society and the media became critical of UNMIN’s performance, many attributing a certain pro-Maoist bias on the part of UNMIN.
Worried about their poor judgment, in early 2010, I wrote a long memo entitled “Quo Vadis UNMIN?” and shared it with Karin Landgren, Ian Martin and Tamrat Samuel. I cautioned them about giving undue benefit of doubt to the Maoists and unfair criticism and pressure on NC/UML to be more flexible and compromising. I have retained copies of my long private exchanges with them – mostly by emails – in my files.
In essence, the UNMIN leadership listened to my views politely, but generally chose to ignore them.
UNMIN became so influenced by the circle of self-proclaimed “progressives” that it ignored and dismissed the views and advice of many Nepalis who had a much deeper understanding of and respect for the United Nations, including those who had served in senior positions in the UN system …
In September 2010, UNMIN had prepared a report of the Secretary-General to the Security Council (S/2010/453) on the status of Nepal’s peace process recommending further extension of UNMIN’s mandate. This report was so unbalanced and objectionable that four former Foreign Ministers of Nepal coming from different political parties – KP Sharma Oli, Chakra Bastola, Ram Sharan Mahat and Prakash Chandra Lohani – wrote a joint letter of protest to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
As former foreign ministers, and strong supporters of the United Nations, they registered their objection to the tone and content of the whole report and pointed out several specific paragraphs which were against the letter and spirit of Nepal’s Comprehensive Peace Accord and related agreements. They objected to the report’s treatment of Nepal’s national army on par with the former rebel force, whose members were in temporary cantonments awaiting integration and rehabilitation. They also objected to the report essentially treating the Government of Nepal on par with the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
Indeed, neither the UN nor most Western diplomats insisted with the Maoists that if they wanted their cooperation, they had to unequivocally renounce violence, accept political pluralism (not just “multiparty competition”), and abandon their declared objective of “state capture” through either ballots or bullets.
Martin’s implied assertion that Nepalis … could not think for themselves, reminded me of the former Singapore Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani’s book entitled “Can Asians Think?” Yes, I argued, Nepalis can think for themselves.
(Translation of a report by senior journalist Anil Yadav, first published in BBC Hindi. You can read the original report here. A Nepali translation of the report is available on the BBC Nepali website.)
Translated by nepalforeignaffairs.com team.
The slogan of Bajaj’s Pulsar motorbike roars, “Fear the Black.”
In these times of blockade on Nepal, Indian villages surrounding the border town of Sunauli just love this motorbike as the biggest means of petrol black-marketing into Nepal simply because its fuel tank holds 15 liters.
Unemployed and students hire a Pulsar for 300 rupees a day, get the tank filled for 70 rupees per liter and sell it for 125-130 rupees a liter in Nepal right across the border.
Whoever makes more trips makes the evening more colorful. Other motorbikes are also used for petrol smuggling but profits are small because they have smaller tanks.
These boys, driving their motorbikes in high speed, have started wearing masks, not to prevent the dust from the fields but to sneak out of the eyes of extortionate police and berating petrol pumps.
Travel agencies are seen killing time but drivers are making money filling tanks of their taxies.
Blockade on Nepal has produced young investors, whose stories you get to hear at petrol stations. A young man from the village Thuthibari near a small border check-post, 25 kilometers away from Sunauli, had bought a second-hand motorbike for 15000 rupees. Having paid it off, he is now sitting on money.
Nepal’s Madhesi protesters had shot a boy carrying diesel into Nepal from the neighboring village Bargadawa few days ago. The Pulsar-boys refrain from talking about him.
For them, this incident is an exception, which took place not because of smuggling, but of personal fights.
Those unable to manage a motorbike are using bicycles to pass jerry cans filled with diesel. It goes to the extent that the women and girls from poor families have made their day buying 5-7 liters petrol out of borrowed money.
A Chat-boy (Chat is an Indian fast food) has put his cart at the petrol station nearNautanawa bypass, just a little further from the Commandant Office of the Indian Border Security force-SSB.
Until last month, his cart would stand at the gate of a nearby school. The cart-men say, “Where the boys there the cart. Those who never had 10 rupees before are now making 1000-1500 rupees a day.”
Long queue of jerry cans was seen atanother petrol station. The waiting women were asking pump-personnel to fill faster so that they could go into Nepal across the No Man’s Land via paddy fields, do their business and return back before the evening grew dark.
Villages near the borders are quickly filling 1-2 cylinders of cooking gas at homes. One cylinder costs 720 rupees in the black market. It sells for a whopping 1500 rupees in Nepal’s Belahiya across the border. The prices go up to 2500-3000 rupees after they reach Bhairahawa and Kathmandu.
Flourishing black market has given hard time to the businesses in Sunauli. Their support boys have left jobs to join the new opportunity.
There is no sight of rickshaw-pullers in the villages near the border; labors are in scarcity in this season of wheat-sowing. The blockade on Nepal has bestowed them with an unprecedented money-making opportunity.
They want this situation to continue long. They often cite a famous, old saying which means: when you live in border, you make easy money and you need not worry for having no studies.
A villager standing near a private hospital in the town of Farenda said, “India has put Nepal on ventilator-support. The family members of such patients pay any amount of money to the doctors. Nepal is also paying to these villagers.”
Does Human Rights Watch (HRW) believe that people migrating within Nepal have no say about provincial delineation of the place where they live now, while those coming from India like Rajendra Mahato should have a greater say over delineation of the whole stretch of Terai?
Why is the narrative of Human Rights Watch (HRW) report biased for me?
First of all, I must accept that I have not read the whole report. But from whatever I have read, I strongly feel the narrative was biased. I can make no claims about the incidents, anyway, as I am not witness to any of the incidents. So, my issue is only about the narrative which does not look neutral.
The title is ‘Like We are not Nepali’ Protest and Police Crackdown in tarai of Nepal, with ‘Like We are not Nepali’ displayed prominently.
I find the title biased and provocative. I believe it’s a report prepared by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and not agitating Madhesis. Has HRW concluded that Madhesis are not treated like Nepalis? Has the state said so? Does the constitution say so? I believe one can’t give such a strong headline to a report investigating killing of civilians and security persons during violent protests.
I have always strongly condemned violence by both the state and protestors anywhere. But the Madhesis have been killed in places burning in protest, and the security persons have turned atrocious after the Kailali incident where security persons were brutally killed, as the HRW report also accepts. Madhesis have not been chased and killed, say in Kathmandu for example.
I’ve not seen HRW or any other HR organization, bringing a report titled ‘Like we are not American’ when black Americans have been killed, at peaceful times, by police on as trivial an issue as a routine traffic stop as in the case of Samuel DuBose on July 19 in Cincinnati. So, why such strong and provocative headline on death of Nepali citizens during the course of violent protests?
I don’t like to be personal. But I still find citing Prashant Jha’s work thrice to construct the context of violence and history of discrimination a little surprising knowing where he stands. But, HRW deems him to be neutral and I trust the HRW judgement.
“Some parts of Nepali society regard Madhesis as “Indian” due to their community’s close cultural and linguistic ties with India and their frequent intermarriage with communities in neighboring regions across the border, and some have questioned Madhesis’ loyalty to the Nepali state.”
I don’t regard Madhesis as Indians and am not here to refute Jha’s claims in the book. But the HRW uses this extract to build the narrative and then decides to not use the claim of Indian Union Home Minister Raj Nath Singh, who is a former BJP president, that there are one crore (10 million) Indians in Nepal. Singh also promises that Indians will be protected in Nepal. Here is the link
His claim has yet to be retracted. Indian Embassy in Kathmandu, though, has issued a statement saying the comments attributed to him do not represent the government position.
Singh’s comment was widely covered in Nepali media and social media. I can’t believe HRW missed that. My question is why did HRW decide to cite Jha to build a narrative to prove that Madhesis are not treated like Nepalis (rather like Indians) while ignoring claims of Indian Union Home Minister that seem to claim they are indeed Indians. It could at least have mentioned it to inform the readers, especially the uninitiated international ones, and let the readers decide themselves.
“The Madhesi movements of 2007 and 2008 were largely peaceful but also involved some acts of arson and other violence, while numerous protesters were shot dead by the security forces.”
The report says Madhesi protesters were shot but does not mention 28 Maoists killed by Madhesis in Gaur at the start of the movement. The movement was also directed against people of Hill-origin living in the Terai region- a large number of uninvolved Hill-origin people were forced to flee, if they could escape the violence and arson.
“These movements also gave rise to new Madhes-based political parties, which prospered in the 2008 Constituent Assembly election. However, these parties suffered multiple splits, resulting in their winning far fewer seats in the 2013 Constituent Assembly election.”
The HRW, after taking trouble to trace centuries of discrimination, seems to be economical with the CA Election 2013. It does not want to add why the Madhes-based parties split. It also ignores a crucial fact that the Prime Minister of that time, Baburam Bhattarai described the second CA Election (he announced elections for the second CA while dissolving the first) as a sort of referendum between those supporting ethnicity based federalism and those against it. The first CA was dissolved primarily due to the issue of ethnicity-based federalism after the parties were unable to garner enough support on either side to draft a constitution. The ruling coalition support ethnicity-based federalism, but did not have enough places in the Assembly. They wanted to increase their strength through the second elections. HRW, for some reasons, seem to not accept that the result of the second CA was not only because of the split in Madhes-based parties and the Maoists. The mandate was a resounding rejection of the ethnicity-based federalism and other issues that the Maoists and Madhes-based parties were supporting before the election.
“The Tharus were opposed by the Akhanda Sudur Paschim (United Far West) movement, largely composed of people who live in Kailali and neighboring Kanchanpur district but whose origins lie in the hills to the north.”
The HRW, citing it, seems to make a point that those who have migrated from hills to the plains are prevailing over the indigenous people. But then, the report does not mention that Rajendra Mahato, one of the top leaders of the current Madhes movement, was an Indian before becoming a naturalized Nepali. Mahato now is demanding that not just the district where he currently resides, but even Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari should be included in the Madhesh province. The right of naturalized citizens, particularly those coming from India, is one of the major agendas of the movement.
Does HRW believe that people migrating within Nepal have no say about provincial delineation of the place where they live now, while those coming from India like Mahato should have a greater say over delineation of the whole stretch of Terai?
“On that day, three Madhesi political leaders from the eastern plains—Upendra Yadav, Rajendra Mahato, and Amresh Singh—made speeches at a rally in Tikapur, Kailali’s second largest town, which were widely said to have included inflammatory language, angering Akhanda supporters.” (to watch these videos with English subtitles, click here)
Why is HRW using the expression “said to have”? Does HRW not find such language inflammatory? I find it hard to believe that HRW cannot find footage of the videos that the media has played widely, and verify authenticity.
I’ve not read the whole report but I didn’t find any mention about the announcement of incentive of Rs 5 million to the family of anyone who is killed in what I have read. I even searched the whole report using the key words million, 5 and 50, but found no mention of that incentive.
The HRW says security forces have used racial slurs against protesters. This no doubt is condemnable. The police personnel attacked, injured and lynched by the protestors include many of Madhesi origin too. But I find it surprising that the report does not mention Madhesi protesters using racial slurs. Did HRW try to learn from the security persons if they also have been racially insulted by protesters? Do the HRW want us to believe that Madhesi protesters protest with their mouths sealed or they are so controlled that they don’t retaliate even when security forces hurl racial slurs against them?
It is also surprising that the HRW does not talk about Indian blockade in the report. One of the editors of the HRW report, Tejshree Thapa tweeted that blockade is a political issue, therefore out of scope for HRW. So, if HRW does not acknowledge political issues, why build the narrative by citing centuries of discrimination by hill elites and so on? Are the violent protests in Nepal of apolitical nature? Isn’t the blockade on Nepali population a grave humanitarian crime? If political history has to be connected while investigating killings by police and protesters following differences over political document like constitution, why ignore an issue that can have (currently having) serious humanitarian repercussions?
The most surprising thing is HRW mentions
“The Nepali government has blamed India for the shortages, claiming that India is imposing an unofficial blockade in order to force the government to amend the constitution in line with the Madhesi demands. India has denied this charge, claiming that the shortages are due to protester blockades and a general lack of security for the trucks ferrying the goods.”
But does not send its men to visit all the border points to see if all of them have been obstructed by protesters or not. I would like to remind that goods were coming unhindered from Bhairahawa to Kathmandu before India started the blockade even as the border point in Birgunj was closed due to protests.
I believe HRW cannot be stretched for resources to send its men to see why the border points are obstructed, and adding one line to the above lines would not have completely transformed the report into a political one from that about human rights. I also find it surprising that the report, again in the parts which I have read, does not mention about protestors hurling stones from no man’s land.
Originally posted on Twitter by Prem Dhakal, directed to Human Rights Watch (HRW) and an editor of the Nepal report, Tejshree Thapa. The tweet can be viewed at this link. This UWB post has been published with Mr. Dhakal’s permission.
Indian government has been saying, even stressing continuously that it has not imposed any blockade on Nepal. But Nepal is suffering due to lack of cooking gas, petrol, medicines and other items of daily need.
Just visiting the border town of Sunauli (Sonauli) is enough to expose the carefully drafted statements of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
What kind of neighbors are you? No sooner had we made our constitution than you started to demand an amendment? – Nepali people
In reality this is a controlled blockade, whose remote controller rests at the hands of someone higher up. On the ground here, many games are being played out in that pretext.
Minister Swaraj told the parliament that trucks leaving India have been stopped by Nepal’s Madhesi protestors.
Although there’s no protest in Sunauli, only a fixed number trucks are allowed to pass every two-three days. The trucks with Nepal’s imports are lined up for more than 14 kilometres on the Indian side and reach much further than the town of Nautanwa. However, buses and other vehicles are passing the border from both sides as usual.
So why are the trucks stopped? To this and every other question, the officers from customs and border security force (SSB) respond that all is because of orders from above.
Whose orders from higher up? They respond to this question with such a laughter, which means- “are you so innocent as to not know what even a five-year-old kid in Nepal knows?”
Cross the border and ask the same question on the Nepali side. It elicits a stunning question, “what kind of neighbors are you?”, as if this journalist is representing the Indian government.
Then they say, “no sooner had we made our constitution, than you started to demand an amendment. When we refused, why did you stop our bread and butter?”
Custom officials claim that these days about 100 trucks are allowed to pass after inspection. But there are several details that go into determining the trucks that will be allowed to enter Nepal.
In Kolhui and Nautanhwa of the Maharajgunj district on the Indian side, LPG (cooking gas) trucks of Nepali and Indian oil corporations have been separated from the long queue of trucks and parked on nearby fields.
Trucks carrying medicines are prioritized and allowed to pass, but police stop trucks carrying petrol, diesel and cooking gas. Trucks carrying marble stones, cars and bikes are also being allowed to pass.
The biggest difficulty Nepal is facing is of fuel. And those who come to enjoy the spectacle of trucks queuing on the highway also admit that India wants to bring Nepal down to its knees by shutting down fuel and transportation.
Truck drivers say, police take bribes to select and allow trucks from among the long queue that has been standing for two months. The rates are INR 300 for normal trucks, 500 for big trucks, and more for containers. This is because the importing company in Nepal faces a loss of about INR 13,000 for every additional day a container is standing on the queue.
Is is estimated that goods worth INR 20 billion are queued up on the Indian side on the road of Sunauli border and Nautanhwa railway station.
There are attempts to unload goods from the trucks to smaller vehicles and carts in order to take them across the border.
Nepal’s businesses and factories are cancelling their orders because no-one knows when the blockade will end.
When asked about corruption, the police reply that the accusations are unsubstantiated.
The police say, “Our officers are getting calls from ministers and big politicians in the state of UP and the center. They ask us to allow trucks belonging to certain industrialists. When we allow such trucks to get out of the queue and pass because of our officers’ orders, we face these accusations.”
United Nations agencies and their aid partners based in Kathmandu have expressed their deepest concern over critical and growing shortages of lifesaving medicines and supplies across Nepal.
The agencies urged all sides to address restrictions on the import and free movement of essential supplies including vaccines, drugs and other medical goods as a means of respecting and facilitating the human rights to access quality health care services.
“The health and humanitarian implications of the present scenario are grave,” reads a joint statement by World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Department for International Development (DFID), German Development Cooperation (GDC, GIZ, KfW), and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
“In recognition of the right to timely access to quality health care services, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and as detailed in the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights General Comment No. 14 on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health, we emphasize the seriousness of the present situation and its humanitarian implications,” the statement said.