Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nepal needs a helping hand, not charity

Despite the aid flowing into the country, infrastructure is woefully underdeveloped and life expectancy still appallingly low

Sunny Hundal Saturday October 04 2008 16:00 BST

Stuck between two of the most populous countries in the world who are growing rapidly, Nepal should in theory be benefiting from its strategic proximity to India and China. But the reality is somewhat different. It is one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, 90% of people live in villages where infrastructure and basic amenities are terrible, and political instability over the past two years or so has driven away many tourists – one of its main earners.
I arrived at the capital, Kathmandu, a few days ago and immediately fell in love. In that, I'm not alone. There are not only thousands of backpackers and tourists here at any one time, but the number of people who keep coming back or want to volunteer here is exceptionally high. In fact there's even a word for the latter – volunteer tourism.
Nepal has character, it has great scenery, and it has a hell of a lot of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working here. According to one estimate, their number jumped from around 220 in 1990 to possibly over 15,000 today.
With a population of only around 29 million, you would think that given the amount of aid poured into the country, things would be much better. And yet infrastructure is woefully underdeveloped and the average life expectancy rate is appallingly low.
I spoke to several aid workers here who were quite positive about the work being done in Nepal. But behind that optimism there is frustration and also an unwillingness to confront more difficult questions.
For example, the number of NGOs and international NGOs in Nepal is so large that they comprise almost 60% of the country's gross national product (GNP). Without them the economy would collapse. Some estimate that volunteers alone contribute up to 5% of GNP.
This brings up a whole list of questions and related problems. Given there is so much money flowing into Nepal, why hasn't the situation improved faster? Is there even a need for so many international NGOs?
A recent article in the Economist pointed to similar problems with aid in Africa - lots of money coming in as aid but question marks over its effectiveness.
Many, such as Oxfam and Action Aid have criticised governments in the past for not funding them and channeling the money directly to government projects or local Nepalese organisations.
They argue that they have developed years of expertise to effectively deliver aid and services much more effectively than the government can. Indeed, in many ways the third sector is a more desirable channel of delivering services such as housing, food and health services because they are also less prone to corruption.
But the flipside is that by developing their own parallel systems, the thousands of third sector organisations are not only replicating work done by each other, but also taking over the government's role. Surely it would be better over the long term that the Nepalese government itself develops the capacity and knowledge to provide the services it is meant to?
Even worse, international agencies are also fond of flying in their own "experts" when needed, rather than developing and growing local expertise. As the old saying goes – give the man some fish and he can feed his family for a day; teach him how to fish and he can feed them for a lifetime.
Even if the international NGOs are somewhat at fault, more blame can be laid at the door of massive donor countries such as the G8 – who provide a huge bulk of the money flowing into Nepal. Nepalese government officials quietly complain that they spend far too much time trying to manage the big donors and the projects those donors are running.
The World Bank, always fond of lending money to developing countries to build massive infrastructure projects they don't need (contracted out to western companies of course) and contributing to their national debt, is a big part of the same problem too. The money is coming in but the Nepalese government is finding that it has to spend a significant amount of time adhering to their demands and "managing donor business" as one put it, rather than running domestic affairs.
Tied aid is another big issue. The US government ties its own aid so that recipients such as Nepal are forced to spend a proportion of that money with those countries. As the Economist rightly points out, food aid from the US usually acts as a huge subsidy to American farmers, and even destroys local businesses. To top it off, the US government still considers Nepal to be run by terrorists even though this country is rapidly becoming more stable than it has ever been.
People are loth to criticise developmental agencies and foreign aid because they result in good work, but measuring their effectiveness and improving that is a real problem.
In some ways this is changing but then there are social issues too. The trafficking of women from Nepal into India remains a huge problem but neither country is devoting many resources into dealing with it. Groups like Mighty (Maiti) Nepal are trying to address it but have been criticised themselves for their approach towards HIV-positive people, compared to the Blue Diamond Society. As with everywhere, women and minorities face major hurdles and even the aid agencies aren't doing enough to combat it.
The international NGOs working in Nepal need to coordinate and realise that the country's future lies in the hands of local organisations, such as Brac and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. The Nepalese people don't need charity – they need a helping hand to make this gorgeous country live up to its reputation.
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Friday, October 03, 2008

Nepal: Koshi Flood - OCHA Saptari Situation Report, 02 Oct 2008

Key Developments

- Relief efforts slowed by Strike and upcoming 'Dashain' festival

- Government distributes money for festival to flood affected families

- Government registration is completed, but actual number in need of assistance remains an issue

- Growing concerns over WASH gaps (Toilets ) in Spur areas

- Suspected measles case reported

- Host communities restive, demands assistance


More than a month after the breach of Koshi River eastern embankment on 18 August the East West highway still remains closed. Many displaced families are living along the embankment wall and in neighbouring VDCs of Saptari district (particularly Bhardah and Hanumanagar VDCs) that was not flooded. Water level in some of the affected villages have receded, but not to sufficient levels to enable sustainable return.

Registration and Affected Population:

According to the latest registration done by the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRCS) volunteers and the District Administration Office (DAO), 20,284 individuals of Nepali origin representing 4,186 families have been displaced. An estimated 1900 families of Indian origin are also getting assistance. Data entry for the registration was done by students from St. Xaviers College and the District Electoral Office.

The displaced people are spread in 25 camps located along the East –West highway as well as the Spur areas located in the east of Koshi Barrage, Sunsari District, but accessible only from Saptari District. Humanitarian assistance is reaching out to these groups, but the number of the affected population who are living in host families and who might equally need assistance is unknown. Request for assistance, some laced with threat of violence are already being received from host populations as well as people from fishing communities who lost livelihood opportunities due to the river changing its course but are not displaced.

There is evidence that many people have succeeded in registering more than once and other needy cases missed out. The registration data requires verification and therefore actors with the relevant expertise need to jointly work with the government in the verification process.

Access/ Security Constraints

Strike/Bandh called by Madhesi Mukti Tiger (MMT) and Janamorcha Nepal hampered the relief distribution from 27-29 September. Because of the three day bandh, hiring of private vehicles to transport humanitarian actors as well as consignments was suspended. A vehicle rented by the District Public Health Officer DPHO to transport health workers was set ablaze in Bhardaha area of Saptari district on the evening of 28 September. OXFAM could not move to the camps and likewise, growth monitoring of UNICEF/CONCERN worldwide in the IDP camps was affected. WFP's food supply from the western part of the country was equally affected. However, WFP is providing food to those IDPs and district administration office has assured enough security to those food carrying convoys.

A group of people tried to vandalize Oxfam and MSF vehicles parked outside the Star Hotel in Rajbiraj (which is also Oxfam's field office). Local authorities and the police reported that these are ordinary criminals whose activities scale up around Dashain and promised to step up security.
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Maoist-led government has formally requested the various armed groups of the Terai region for talks

Nepal’s plea
Saturday, Oct 04, 2008
Prerana Marasini

KATHMANDU: The Maoist-led government has formally requested the various armed groups of the Terai region for talks.

A Cabinet meeting on Friday decided to form a three-member committee to start the process of dialogue with the 14 armed groups active in the southern plains.

The Terai-based groups have been saying they are fighting for the welfare of Madhesis, the people residing in the region.

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ideology takes a back seat

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Delhi had a Plan B just in case combative Maoist guerrilla leader--elected--Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Nepal Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ sprang any political or diplomatic surprises on his first official visit to India. In the mid-1990s, the only other Communist Prime Minister of Nepal, Mr Manmohan Adhikary, on a similar visit, was expected to rock bilateral relations. He chose not to do so and Prachanda followed suit even after he and his party had said many unpleasant things about India not too long ago.

Never has any Nepali Prime Minister attracted so much attention and curiosity as Mr Dahal who spent eight of his 10 years underground around Delhi and Haryana while in Kathmandu, a human rights activist and Maoist sympathiser, Mr Padma Ratna Tuladhar, was being passed off as the elusive leader. Shock and awe, the literal translation of ‘Prachanda’, were cultivated through anonymity and fiction.

His first overground visit to New Delhi was in 2006 when as leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) he told the Hindustan Times summit that the Maoists had abandoned the armed struggle for multi-party democracy. His every word and step was monitored carefully but no one ever dreamt that he would become Prime Minister. How we got this wrong is another story.

The Maoist brush with India started early. They realised that India would not allow a military conquest of Kathmandu and power could not flow from the barrel of the gun. Top Maoist leaders would frequently refer to India as ‘expansionist’, ‘imperialist ‘ and ‘colonialist’, warning their armed wing that ultimately they would have to fight the Indian Army.

Ignoring this stark reality, military hardliners led by Mr Dahal launched in 2005 the impossible Battle of Khara in far west Nepal against the Nepal Army — a modern day Charge of the Light Brigade — that ended in the biggest debacle of the war. It was the turning point of the people’s war and victory for the pragmatists favouring joining the political mainstream. India facilitated the political union of constitutional forces against monarchy and the election. This did little to woo the Maoists.

The anti-India tirade was maintained. In fact, it picked up in the run-up to the April election. Nine of the Maoists’ 40-point demands advocated in 1996 and recrafted for the election manifesto were India-centric, targeting unequal and lopsided treaties, especially the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, Gorkha recruitment in the Indian Army, border encroachments and iniquitous use of water resources from rivers emanating in Nepal.

The revival of the ‘equidistance policy’, an euphemism for the China card, figured prominently among the pet peeves. In an interview on Nepal television, Mr Dahal underscored the need for China balancing India in Nepal. His visit to China before India after being sworn in as Prime Minister raised hackles in New Delhi though officials pretended it was business as usual. His Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, former Deputy Commander of the PLA, has just returned from China with a $ 1 million military aid package.

After the recent floods in Nepal and India caused by Kosi, a river rising in east Nepal, Mr Dahal called the 1954 Kosi Treaty a “historic blunder”. The anti-India faction of the Maoists has called for an economic policy that looks beyond India. Party hawks had directed Mr Dahal to get the 1950 Treaty scrapped and ask India not to interfere in Nepali politics.

Maoists have reason to be angry with India. It was New Delhi that declared Maoists a terrorist organisation even before Nepal did and arrested their top leaders. But for the Indian Army’s military assistance and expertise to the Nepal Army, the PLA ran a good chance of reaching Kathmandu. Only King Gyanendra’s absurd coup forced the termination of the supply of military hardware to the Nepal Army but by then it was a bridge too far for the Maoists as the Army was fully fortified, backed by adequate reserves.

India’s unarticulated deterrent was not lost on the Maoists. Even after Jan Andolan II in April 2006, New Delhi, ignoring the people’s uprising against the palace, intervened, persisting with its twin-pillar policy of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy when the first pillar had collapsed.

Maoists have never forgiven India for delaying the end of Monarchy and not crediting them sufficiently for the historic transformations in Nepal. What is worse, India’s National Security Adviser told a television channel after the Maoists’ stunning success in the election that India was used to working with the routed Nepali Congress Party and wasn’t actually expecting the Maoists to win. The list of Indian omissions and commissions is long.

Fortunately for India, Mr Dahal’s coalition partners — three Communist parties and two Madhesi parties from the Terai, one of whose leaders is a former Maoist — and the Opposition Nepali Congress helped moderate the Maoist agenda for Mr Dahal’s visit. The lessons from Khara, three years of the peace process and the ultimate aphrodisiac, power, have taught Mr Dahal flexibility and pragmatism and turned him into a sophisticated politician.

The irony is how both the Maoists and India, at loggerheads, may settle down to accepting the compulsions of geography and ground reality. India made all the wrong calculations on the Maoists, Mr Dahal and his flock targeted Delhi. India is now engaging not just the Maoists but also other political parties. A number of Track I initiatives have been held in Patna, Delhi and Banaras as part of proactive diplomacy though New Delhi has lost much ground in the security sector.

Will the conversion of the Maoists into a political entity have a sobering effect on Indian Maoists and other separatist groups with which they had linkages? There is, therefore, great relevance of the ongoing peace process for Nepal, the region and the rest of the world.

Several challenges remain. Maoists continue to figure on the US Terrorists Exclusion List, now downgraded to Group of Concern even while Mr Dahal met President George W Bush in New York earlier this month. Taming Maoist hardliners and making others give up their bad habits will be as hard as taming Nepal’s turbulent waters that wreak havoc in India. As India lives in the spill-over zone of Nepal, New Delhi will remain a key stakeholder of the peace process and stability of the Government.

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Nepal's new Maoist government oust priests from selecting a girl to be a "living goddess"

The new 'living goddess' wants to be a nurse when she is older

Nepal selects 'living goddess'
29/09/2008 19:12 - (SA)

Kathmandu - Nepal's new Maoist government has taken over the task of selecting a girl to be a "living goddess", ousting royal priests from a role they fulfilled for centuries.

The strictly atheist Maoists gained power in the Himalayan country after the end of the civil war in 2006 and landmark polls earlier this year that brought down the world's last Hindu monarchy.

"Just because we are now a republic and no longer have a king or royal priest, does not mean we should end our traditions," said Keshab Bahadur Shrestha, a member of the government panel that selected the girl known as a Kumari.

The girl selected, Shreeya Bajracharya, is from Bhaktapur town, 30km west of Kathmandu. She is the six-year-old daughter of a farmer.

She met 32 strict criteria, including having "eyelashes like a cow" and a "voice as soft and clear as a duck", said Shrestha.

Bajracharya made her first public appearance at a religious festival in Bhaktapur on Sunday.

For centuries, residents from three medieval towns in the Kathmandu valley have worshipped young virgin girls from a Buddhist caste as the living incarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju.

The previous Bhaktapur Kumari, 11-year-old Sajani Shakya, upset traditionalists last year when she travelled to the United States to promote a documentary.

Religious officials said she had lost her divine status by travelling abroad and her term as Kumari ended in March with her symbolic wedding to a fruit.

Despite Nepal's new secular status, religious tradition remains deeply ingrained in a country where 80% of people are Hindu.

Last week, an attempt by the Maoist finance minister to cut a $200 government grant to Kathmandu's "Royal Kumari" festival caused rioting and prompted criticism that the Maoists were starting a "cultural revolution".

The Kumari in Kathmandu spends most of her time locked up in an ornate palace in the heart of the city, though last month Nepal's supreme court ruled that the practice violated the child's human rights Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, September 28, 2008

$1.3 Million in military aid for Nepal from CHINA

Sunday, 28 September, 2008, 12:07 AM Doha Time

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s northern neighbour China has announced a military aid of Rs100mn (over $1.3mn) for Nepal, the first military aid received by the new Maoist-led government of the Himalayan republic.
China’s Minister for Defence Liang Guanglie made the announcement during a meeting with his Nepali counterpart, Maoist Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa ‘Badal’ on Friday. Badal is on a visit to China at the invitation of the Chinese defence ministry to observe military exercise ‘Warrior 2008’.
The Russia-educated Badal, who was the military strategist of the Maoists when they were an underground party waging an armed war against the state, is the first defence minister Nepal has seen after a long time.
In the past, the portfolio was held by the prime ministers themselves.
Just as Nepal’s new Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ visited China soon after assuming office, Badal also followed suit.
Though Nepal’s official media reported about the military assistance yesterday, it was, however, not specified whether the aid comprised cash or military equipment.
Around last year, when the Indian government sent non-lethal military assistance to Nepal, it created a furore with the Maoists lodging vigorous protests and accusing New Delhi of trying to sabotage the peace process.
Badal, who also met Guo Boxiong, vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, the apex body in the Chinese armed forces, reiterated his government’s commitment to the One-China policy.
Badal also repeated the assurance given by Prachanda during his visit that Nepal would prevent anti-China elements - meaning mostly Tibetan refugees - from staging anti-China activities on Nepal’s soil.
Indian military officials would be closely watching Badal’s visit. Even though the Indian government says it is unperturbed about Prachanda choosing to visit China before India, the Indian military establishment is wary of Nepal’s China tilt over defence issues.
During King Gyanendra’s government, India took serious umbrage at the royal government going on an arms buying spree and paying the Chinese manufacturers hard cash while ignoring the mounting dues to India for the supply of arms at a high subsidy.
China had been the only neighbourhood country to supply arms to the Nepal army during King Gyanendra’s regime. The weapons were used to combat the Maoist insurgency as well as the pro-democracy movement started by the political parties together with the Maoists and civil society. – IANS

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Nepal crippled by strike against federal plans

Singha Durba, one of Kathmandu's busiest roads,

is deserted during a general strike September 28, 2008. Gopal Chitrakar

Sun Sep 28, 2008 3:23pm IST

KATHMANDU (Reuters) - Shops were closed and vehicles stayed off the roads across Nepal on Sunday during a strike called against a plan to turn the Himalayan nation into a federal state, officials and witnesses said.

Major political parties and the Maoist-led coalition government have agreed to split Nepal into several autonomous provinces under a federal structure after preparing a new constitution likely in two years time.

"A small and poor country like Nepal should not be turned into a federal state," said Chitra Bahadur K.C., chief of a leftist group, National People's Front, that called the day-long strike to oppose the plan. "The federal system will weaken national unity."

Activists pelted stones and set fire to half a dozen vehicles in Kathmandu. Others trying to enforce the strike also clashed with police but officials said there were no injuries.

Nepal abolished the 239-old monarchy in June, part of a 2006 peace deal with Maoist former rebels ending their decade-long civil war which caused more than 13,000 deaths.

During their war that started in 1996, the Maoists promised to create autonomous provinces but critics said Nepal had no infrastructure and resources required to turn it into a federal state.

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Nepal's Maoist government wages war on sleaze

28 Sep, 2008, 0833 hrs IST, AGENCIES

KATHMANDU: Nepal's new Maoist government has declared war on sleaze in the capital Kathmandu, saying the increasing numbers of massage parlours and nude dance bars are driving up crime and immorality.

The ultra-leftists pledged radical change in the impoverished nation after they won landmark polls in April which placed their former warlord leader as prime minister of the world's newest republic.

For Bamdev Gautam, Nepal's new home minister, that means battling Kathmandu's mushrooming adult entertainment sector, which he describes as a "breeding ground for depravity" and "at the heart" of an urban crime problem.

"This is a movement against social evils. We've seen the growth of vicious immorality among Nepali youth because of these late-night restaurants and dance bars," home ministry spokesman Modraj Dottel explained.

During the civil war, when government troops were battling the Maoists, there was a heavy security presence in urban areas and many residents felt safer.

But urban areas in Nepal have now been hit by a slew of kidnappings, muggings and knife attacks since the end of the
Maoist insurgency in 2006, with gangs exploiting political instability and a lack of policing.

The rise in sex-related businesses has also created more human trafficking, sexual exploitation of young girls and a rise in HIV infections, activists say.

Parts of the capital, like Thamel, the main tourist area, have turned into red light districts -- bad news for the Maoists, who promote themselves as champions of the poor and exploited.

Thamel is falling under the "control of gangsters and petty criminals whose sole purpose is to promote prostitution, vulgarity and dupe tourists and locals," said a notice by a Thamel residents' group placed in local papers recently.

"The residents of Thamel would like to heartily thank the home ministry and the government of Nepal for taking this great step to curb hooliganism, muggings (and) open prostitution," the residents said. Action is certainly being taken.

On a recent night in usually vibrant Thamel, the streets were empty by 10:30 pm, with police patrolling and locking up entertainment spots and chasing away customers. Still, not everybody is happy.

Bar and restaurant owners say they are worried the crackdown is discouraging foreign tourism -- a vital income-earner for Nepal -- by lumping legitimate nightlife businesses in with those offering sex.

Prabin Rayamajhi, who owns "De La Soul," a cosy bar in the heart of Thamel that offers alcoholic beverages but no floor shows or sex, said the forced early closing hours were killing business.

"I'm gradually letting my staff go as I can't afford their pay," he said, adding that otherwise he supported the need to control a boom of bars with names like "Pussy Cat Bar" and "Krazy Girl."

"If this crackdown continues, many legitimate businesses like mine will go under, throwing thousands out of work," he said.

Dance bars, the main target of the crackdown, are really feeling the pinch of the ultra-leftist government.

"I really don't know what I'll do if this place shuts down," said 23-year-old waiter Dev Bahadur Pulami in the deserted "Ice Dance Bar", as 12 women danced half-heartedly to an empty room.
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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nepal Constituent Assembly members protest against Maoists carrying arms inside ICC



Thu, 25 Sep 2008:

Kathmandu, Sept 25 (ANI): The Constituent Assembly (CA) members of Nepali Congress today raised serious concern over possession of modern weapons by Maoist cadres inside the premises of International Convention Center (ICC), where CA meetings are held.

Speaking at a meeting held in the Parliament, Nepaliongress leaders Arjun Prasad Joshi and Shobhakhar Parajuli said that some Maoist cadres are entering parliament with AK-47 weapons registered by the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), even after formation of the government under their leadership.

The police deployed for security could not seize the arms since they are sealed by the United Nations.

The leaders demanded that the Home Minister should clarify as to who is responsible for security arrangement at the parliament.

They also called it as rehearsal to impose their dictatorial rule and influence the Constituent Assembly proceedings during the Constitution writing process.

On Monday, police personnel at the third gate of the ICC had tried to stop a Maoist cadre possessing arms from entering parliament but failed, Kantipur reported. (ANI)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Nepal’s Maoists: What’s Next?


Nepal’s Maoists have entered the country’s political mainstream, following a war that killed thousands. But is one-party rule still their ultimate goal?

Maoists demonstrate in support of moves to abolish Nepal's monarchy and establish a republic, 28 May 2008. AFP

WASHINGTON—Experts are divided on the commitment of Nepal’s Maoists to democracy, following a 10-year civil war and elections in April that gave the party a majority of seats in the country’s legislature.

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is now the largest party in Nepal’s constituent assembly. And in August, the party’s leader, Prachanda, was named prime minister.

With multi-party elections and the abolition of Nepal’s monarchy this year, Nepal’s Maoists have now achieved their “core demands,” said Urmila Venugopalan, Asia Editor for the Country Risk division of Jane’s Information Group, in London.

“However, at the same time, I think there are genuine concerns that the Maoists have not completely dismantled their parallel power structures at the local and village levels,” she said.

More than 19,000 Maoist fighters have still not been integrated into Nepal’s regular army—a condition of the peace agreement negotiated when the Maoists laid down their arms two years ago, she said.

And many of those weapons are unaccounted for, despite a promise that the guns would be “locked away” under U.N. supervision, Venugopalan said.

“I think the impression is that the Maoists still retain a significant cache of weapons.”

Another concern, Venugopalan said, is that the Maoists have not disbanded their youth wing, the Young Communist League (YCL), “which seems to act as a kind of parallel police force.”

“So I think there are credible fears about the intentions of the Maoists. But I think at this stage it’s still a little bit unclear to see where they’re actually going.”

Time to disarm

Bob Templer, Asia Program director for the New York-based International Crisis Group, agreed the YCL should be disarmed. “They’ve talked about that, but haven’t done much about it,” Templer said.

Templer said the Maoists’ political leadership may now be trying to avoid direct contact with the group. “But at the same time, they’re not entirely unhappy to have a force that’s capable of intimidating people and doing things like that.”

The Maoists may have abandoned their goal of one-party rule, though, “when they signed the initial agreements with the other parties that led to the peace process,” Templer said, adding that the Maoists recognize they live in a “changed world.”

“They’re very conscious of the failure of communist regimes around [the world] … And they’re very conscious of certain things, such as the fact that it’s unclear that India would tolerate an aggressively Maoist government on its doorstep. And it’s unclear whether Nepal’s donors would support it.”

“What they really wanted is to get rid of the monarchy, and that’s happened,” he said.

Power base

“[Prachanda] is playing it very carefully right now,” said Mikel Dunham, a close observer of Nepal’s politics and author of the book Buddha’s Warriors. “The country obviously is in very dire straits, and they need foreign investment.”

“Right now, they’re in a position where they have no choice but to work with the other parties,” Dunham said.

But Dunham said the Maoists are now expanding their power base “on the sly” by quietly placing themselves in unions and private businesses.

“I have a Tibetan friend who owns a carpet factory in Bodhnath, which is on the outskirts of [Nepal’s capital] Kathmandu, and one day he walked into his office and there were three Maoist cadres sitting at this desk, saying that they were going to ‘help him’ with his business.”

“The Maoists’ agenda is and always will be to ultimately take over the country,” Dunham said.

Tilt toward China

Nepal's increasing political tilt toward China has meanwhile put at risk Tibetan refugees protesting China's crackdown in neighboring Tibetan regions of China.

Tibetans demonstrating outside Chinese diplomatic facilities in Nepal have routinely been beaten, detained, and threatened with deportation to India.

"This is the first major crackdown on us by the new Maoist-led Nepalese government," said Tenzin Kunkyab, part of a group of 80 Tibetan protesters detained on Sept. 9. "I think the Nepalese authorities are acting under Chinese pressure."

Told they would be taken to an immigration office, "we refused to move," Tenzin Kunkyab said.

"And police carrying lathis [wooden batons] came in to beat us and force us into police vehicles. Many old ladies were also beaten and injured. Two protesters' hands were badly hurt. When we arrived at the immigration office, they left us in the vehicles for 30 minutes, and later we were moved back to the original detention center."

"They are trying to stop our protests by threatening to deport us, but our protests will continue," he said. "Nepal is [still] a democratic nation."

Reported in Washington by Richard Finney. Additional reporting by RFA's Tibetan service. Tibetan service director: Jigme Ngapo. Translation by Karma Dorjee. Produced and edited for the Web by Sarah Jackson-Han.
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Trade in electricity with India can benefit Nepal

Prerana Marasini

Third Power Summit begins in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU: With a key point of developing Nepal as one of the important electricity producers for India, the third Power Summit has begun in Kathmandu from Tuesday.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, India’s Minister of State for Commerce and Power, Jairam Ramesh, said trade in electricity with India could bring Nepal financial benefits.

“Nepal’s electricity potential could be used to attract Indian investments in electricity-intensive industries which could bridge Nepal’s trade deficit with India.”

According to government figures, Nepal’s trade deficit with India was more than Nepali Rs. 105 billion (Rs. 6,543.60 crore) last year alone. A message sent by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prachanda (who is now in the U.S.) said the government could not sustain the deficit for long.
Investment assurance

Nepal’s deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister, Bam Dev Gautam, requested foreign investors to feel safe in investing in Nepal. He said the new government was committed to providing peace, security, and stability needed for the developmental projects to proceed.

Meanwhile, Mr. Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu that the recent visit of Nepal’s Prime Minister to India was helpful in ‘reassuring’ the Indian investors.

Mr. Jairam Ramesh has said that India wanted to build most modern infrastructure in its trade transits in Nepal. “We are basically looking at building roads, quick immigration facilities, banking and communication facilities in the trade centres,” he told reporters in Kathmandu, before flying to Birgunj.

Accompanied by Nepal’s Minister for Commerce and Supplies, Rajendra Mahato, Mr. Jairam Ramesh would be visiting Raxaul on Wednesday.
Non-tariff barriers

In order to revise the existing trade and transit agreements, as said in the joint statement, Mr. Jairam Ramesh told The Hindu that India was ready to lift the ‘identified’ non-tariff barriers imposed on goods exported to India.
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Nepal's New PM Makes the Rounds

Nepal's Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, right,
sought to allay Indian fears that his Himalayan nation would shift
its focus away from New Delhi toward their other giant neighbor, China
Manish Swarup / AP

When Pushpa Kamal Dahal departed for the 2008 Olympics' closing ceremony days after becoming the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the writing — for many Indians — was on the Great Wall. For citizens of the other rising Asian giant, the Games had already broadcast how far their India lagged behind China on the field of play. Now, the leader of Nepal — once virtually a client state of its vast southern neighbor — was marking his rise to power not with the customary audience in New Delhi, but in Beijing.

"Prachanda chooses China over India," growled a headline in the Times of India, referring to Nepal's new PM by the nom de guerre the ex-Maoist rebel had used during a decade-long insurgency waged in the Himalayan foothills. That war changed the political landscape of Nepal. Dahal's trip to the Bird's Nest, in the eyes of India's hawks, threatened to upset the order of things in the whole region.

A month later, New Delhi's fears have been calmed — if not fully dispelled. During a five-day trip to India in September, the Nepali Prime Minister warmly embraced his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, stressing that good relations with India were "vital" for Nepal's future and downplaying his earlier Chinese visit as merely a happy opportunity to witness the greatest show on earth.

Dahal made clear, though, that Nepal will not be doing business as usual with India under his government. A treaty signed in 1950 will now be renegotiated to redress what many in Kathmandu consider India's historically domineering role in its affairs —to this day, Indian exports and businesses control much of Nepal's economy. "The time has come to effect a revolutionary change in bilateral ties," Dahal told reporters in New Delhi on Sept. 16. "I will tell Nepali citizens back home that a new era has dawned."

Nepal has undergone seismic change in the past half year. In April, Dahal and his Maoists won a majority of seats in an assembly charged with the task of reshaping a country that had existed for over two centuries under a rigid, feudal monarchy. Nepal's last king vacated the royal palace soon after, in June, and Dahal, who only a few years back was a fugitive in his own country, was sworn in as Prime Minister on Aug. 18. From the ashes of a civil war that claimed over 13,000 lives, his Maoist-led government now intends to revitalize one of Asia's poorest nations, swapping talk of armed revolution with praise for capitalist industry. They want to transform Nepal, a country whose landscape holds untold potential both for tourism and hydropower, into what one Maoist official described as "the Switzerland of Asia."

Dahal knows Nepal needs outside help. But the Maoists, who remain on the U.S. State Department's terror watch list with a reputation for vigilante violence, have yet to gain the full confidence of the international community. This holds most true for India, whose foreign policy establishment is still reeling from the overthrow of Nepal's ancien regime and the political elites it had previously patronized. Though India helped vault Dahal into the limelight by forcing Nepal's monarchy into peace talks with his rebels, certain circles in New Delhi harbor a fundamental distrust for the Maoists as India reckons with its own ongoing Marxist-Leninist revolt. Ajai Sahni, a prominent analyst and the director of the Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, insisted before the April elections that "Nepal's Maoists have no intention of honestly participating in the democratic process."

Fair or not, it's this bullish sentiment that amplified the implications of Dahal's Olympic visit last month. Dahal himself eulogizes the Chinese path to prosperity and has referred to India in the past as an "expansionist" enemy. His government unflinchingly cracked down on Tibetan activists, further evidence, to some in India, of Beijing's growing influence over Kathmandu. Ironically, China backed the monarchy to crush the Maoists during the civil war, but Beijing — unburdened by the divisive rancor which grips India's democracy — has nimbly changed tack, expanding its already significant involvement in Nepal's hydropower sector, while promising rail links between Kathmandu and Lhasa.

But Dahal and Nepal's new breed of politicians "have not forgotten that the Chinese were once not on their side," says S.D. Muni, India's leading Nepal expert. They know that as Asia's two giants grow and flex their muscles, Nepal must deftly maneuver between them. Dahal's trip to India has also yielded a raft of new investment proposals, which tellingly preceded the Maoist-led government's announcement of its first budget on Sept. 19. "Anybody in power in Kathmandu would know that they need India more than China," says Muni. "The China card is played simply as a reflection of their relationship with India."

As India and China jockey for contracts, Nepal's new leader may be trying to communicate a larger message. After a decade of war, Nepal is still counting the cost of violence, chronic energy and food shortages, and the loss of its best and brightest to jobs overseas. It's easy for the country's neighbors to see it as it was in its kingly past — a helpless, compliant pawn in the geo-political games of others. But, as Dahal and his government attempt to refashion the nation, most Nepalis — beginning with the Prime Minister — want India and China to see a Nepal finally standing on its own feet.

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Landslide, flood kill 45 in far-western Nepal

KATHMANDU, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- Nature's fury continues unabated in Nepali far-western region as the death toll climbed to 45 on Sunday. Over 35 people are still missing due to incessant downpour, landslides and flood in the past two days.

According to The Himalayan Times Monday's report, 26 have died in Kailali, 10 in Kanchanpur, six in Doti, one each in Bajhang, Dadeldurra and Darchula districts, the regional police office said.

Around 4,000 people have been displaced in Kailali as more than400 households failed to escape the flood fury.

The transport sector has been paralyzed in the hilly districts.

The Central Natural Disaster Management Committee Sunday allocated 10 million Nepali rupees (135135 U.S. dollars) for the relief and rescue operations for the victims in the region. The army has been deployed in Kailali and Kanchanpur, said the daily.

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