Monday, March 14, 2011

Maoist Insurgency in Nepal

King Birendra, murdered by his own sonImage via Wikipedia

Background

Nepal is a small, landlocked country located in South Asia and sandwiched between India and China. It is also bordered by Bhutan and Bangladesh. Its capital is Kathmandu. Slightly larger than Arkansas or about the size of Tennessee, Nepal is a mountainous country and contains eight of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest and Mount Kanchenjunga-the world's tallest and third tallest-on the borders with China and India respectively. Nepal is the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism who was born c. 563 B.C. and thereafter received enlightenment. Officially, Nepal proclaimed independence from Britain in 1923.Nepal changed its leadership style in 1951 after the ruling monarch of that time instituted a new cabinet system of government that replaced the century-old tradition of governance that was based on a succession of prime ministers.

Discussion

Nepal was gripped by a devastating massacre of the royal family in 2001. It all started after crown prince Dipendra allegedly argued with his mother over his choice of a bride. The rampage resulted in the gruesome death of King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya of Nepal, three of the king’s children, his two sisters, one more member of the family by marriage and Prince Niranjan. “King Birendra, 55, ascended the throne in 1972”. [1] Reforms geared towards the creation of a multiparty democracy were established in 1990 within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. However, an insurgency led by Maoist rebels broke out in 1996. An ensuing ten-year civil war resulting from the Maoist insurgency led to the suspension of the cabinet and parliament and assumption of supreme power by the king. Mass protests in April 2006 followed by several months of reconciliations involving the Maoists and government officials culminated in a November 2006 peace accord and the promulgation of a temporary constitution. Eventually, the constituent assembly, after a nation-wide election in April 2008, declared Nepal a federal democratic republic and abolished the monarchy at its first convention the following month. “It is the country's first elected government since the 239-year-old monarchy was abolished earlier this year (sic 2008)”. [2]

In July of 2008, the Constituent Assembly elected the country's first president. The Maoists, despite receiving a plurality of votes in the Constituent Assembly election and despite forming a coalition government in August 2008, resigned in May 2009. The Maoists took this unanimous decision after being angered by the president’s action of overruling the firing of the chief of staff of the army. Finally, the Communist Party of Nepal and the United Marxist-Leninist Party and the Nepali Congress formed a new coalition government in collaboration with several smaller parties. In June 2010, the prime minister resigned but, as of December 2010, continued to lead a caretaker government while the parties debate who should lead the next government. With a new constitution due in May 2011, still, disagreements remain among the political parties over issues such as the future of ex- Maoist fighters.

Legacy

Despite human rights advocates decrying Nepal’s human rights records, the United States enjoys diplomatic relations with the Himalayan republic. The U.S. has in the past “provided development and security assistance while seeking to promote democracy and human rights”. [3] However, the rise of the Maoists and their taking over of Nepal has been a worrying trend for the Bush Administration. According to Teresita Schaffer, a former State Department South Asia specialist and U.S. ambassador to Sri Lanka, “the U.S. government was taken by surprise”. [4] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Nepal draws a good picture that exists between Nepal and the United States. According to MOFA web site, “the USA is the second country after the United Kingdom with which Nepal entered into diplomatic relations on 25 April 1947”. [5]

Nepal and the U.S. have had deep diplomatic exchanges and state visits in the past. Since 1951, the U.S. has provided over $1 billion assistance bilaterally and multilaterally. Nepal earns over $100 million every year from tourism ventures originating in the U.S. and from the sale of garments and carpets.

Through the Peace Corps, over 4,000 volunteers have provided assistance to Nepal since 1962. The United States Agency for international Development (USAID) has been actively involved providing developmental assistance to the people of Nepal. The Peace Corps, USAID, and UN organizations have been working tirelessly promoting water systems, rural income generation, urban planning, community forestry, appropriate technology and education for years until the escalation of Maoist insurgency interrupted the running of vital projects resulting in the abrupt suspension of programs in 2006.

References

[1] 2001: Nepal royal family massacred, Retrieved February 28, 2011 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/1/newsid_3987000/3987183.stm

[2]Nepal's Maoists form coalition government
Retrieved February 27, 2011 from http://www.france24.com/en/20080823-nepals-maoists-form-coalition-government-nepal-politics

[3] Nepal: Background and U.S. Relations, Congressional Research Service, The Library of Congress, Retrieved February 27, 2011 from http://fpc.state.gov/documents/organization/44927.pdf

[4] U.S.-Nepal Relations Complicated After Terror Group Wins Elections, Associated Press (April 24, 2008), Retrieved February 28, 2011 from http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,352432,00.html

[5] Bilateral Relations: Nepal-United States of America Relations, Retrieved February 28, 2011 from http://mofa.gov.np/bilateralRelation/nepal-USA.php
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