Nepal at Crossroad
Nepal is a small, landlocked country located in South Asia. Nestled against the Himalayas, Nepal lies between India and China, south of Tibet. It is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow stretch of land Indian Siliguri Corridor and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim.
Nepal is divided into three geographic subregions known as Himalayan region, Mountain Region and the Terai Region. The Terai region is a fertile, low-lying marshy plain irrigated by tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. The Terai supports over 90 percent of Nepal's 31 million people . Only 17 percent of the population lives in urban areas, the largest being the capital in the most developed Kathmandu Valley. Over 70 percent of population works in the agriculture sector (the major sector of Nepalese economy), accounting for 38 percent of the GDP.
The territory of modern Nepal was unified after the Anglo–Nepalese War in 1814-1816. In 1814 the British Army tried to conquer Nepal, but they were faced with Nepal’s soldiers – Gurkhas. When colonial Britain couldn't defeat them, they decided to join them. Thus Britain relied on the military support of elite Gurkha mercenaries to maintain influence on the subcontinent.
Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, besides is still struggling to overcome the effects of the civil war that disrupted the country for decade (1996-2006). The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a “People’s War” (labelled by them) with the intention of overthrowing a monarchy, overcoming caste discrimination and replacing the royal parliamentary system with a “People’s Republic”. As a result, the government lost grip of very large extent of territory where legal authority was destroyed, and militants’ regime was established. At last Nepal’ war ended in victory for the rebels in 2006. An interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members. The conflict has paralyzed local economic development and led to profound changes in the Nepalese society. Also Nepal's tourism industry suffered considerably.
Immediately after the conflict, there were some promising steps. One of them is the adoption of an interim constitution in 2007 with the intent of forming a Constituent Assembly. The ensuing elections for the 1st Nepali Constituent Assembly on 28 May 2008 overwhelmingly favored the transformation from monarchy into a republic. Anyway the peace process has become extremely prolonged due to a continual political instability. The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal has had six prime ministers in the last five years. The Terai region has experienced a surge in violence right after the establishment of the Republic. Tensions between the Maoists and other political groups were particularly heightened in 2010 and were attended with widespread protests, strikes and violent conflicts.
The new constitution was announced by President Ram Baran Yadav only on September 20, 2015. It is the seventh constitution that has been adopted by Nepal in the last 67 years and the first that is democratically elected. The historic document was approved by a majority vote in the Constituent Assembly, but did not get the unanimous support between the population: the streets of Kathmandu were filled with protesters. The new constitution established Nepal as a federal democratic country by making seven unnamed states. In turn, the Madhesi Front demands to re-draw the demarcation of the federal provinces and want more territory and rights. Also supporters of the monarchy wanted to fix the status of the state religion for Hinduism. But during the voting the offer was rejected, so this situation led to new unrest in the Terai Region.
Presidential election hold on 20 September after the new constitution of Nepal was announced. Nepal’s parliament elected communist lawmaker Bidhya Devi Bhandari (the vice-chair of the Communist Party of Nepal) as the country’s first female president. She received 327 votes, while her opponent Kul Bahadur Garang, Nepali Congress party leader, got 214 votes. Bidhya Devi Bhandari is country’s second president since abolishing monarchy in 2008. The new president will have to overcome discontent irritation at new constitution.
After centuries of isolation, Nepal's challenge is struggle to remain independent and maintain a distinct identity from surrounding global powers, especially its neighbors. The two Asian giants have been jostling for influence in landlocked Nepal. But it is complicated due to Nepal's dependence on Indian ports and constant Chinese attention on its northern border with Tibet.
The country exports carpets, clothes, leather goods, jute and grain. Major buyers are India (60%), the US, Bangladesh, Germany. Import to the country is – oil products, industrial products, gold, electronics, medicines. Foreign trade is entirely focused on India, the dependence Kathmandu from New Delhi has grown exponentially. However, the recent events can change the situations and bring China a step closer to Nepal, leaving India behind.
China invests in the country billions of dollars. Every year millions of tourists visit Nepal from China. But the most important in relations between two states is the agreement signed Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) and China National United Oil Corporation on October 28, 2015. Under the agreement China will supply fuel at international rates, which Nepal might find cheaper than its imports from India. Nepali government has said that the initial transaction will lead to China providing 1.3m litres of fuel. A separate agreement was signed on the delivery express gasoline, diesel and cooking gas from China as a grant aid to Nepal. According to analysts, the agreement will create the conditions for commercial import of fuel from China and it could evolve into a long-term arrangement that would end Nepal’s dependence on India. Since the new constitution of Nepal splitting it with India.
New Delhi criticized Nepal’s constitution grumbling about discrimination against ethnic minorities, particularly the Madhesi. For this reason the adoption of the constitution in Nepal turned into riots that killed 40 people. Soon the clashes have transformed into a sit-ins at the border between two countries.
Nevertheless New Delhi denies imposing a fuel blockade on Nepal, blaming the injury on the unwillingness of Indian truckers to pass through Nepal’s residents which protesting against the constitution. But after nearly a month of fuel lacks, most Nepalis assure the crisis is the result of desiring of New Delhi to impel Nepal to change the document.