Diplomatic Eye EP-12

Nepali Leaders’ Euphoria and Tough Message of UN Secretary General (VIDEO)

Before commencing the central content of this episode, we would like to take some time in discussing the Jajarkot Earthquake. On the midnight of 3rd November, 2023, a powerful earthquake of 6.4 Richter scale struck the districts in western Nepal- Jajarkot and Rukum West. The unfortunate calamity took over 150 lives and displaced many more. The aftermath of the disaster is still felt across the quake-hit districts.

Immense emergency assistance, together with both financial and physical support have been pouring in. This positive sign of gesture should rightly be channelized unlike in the past where there was no accountability from the authorized bodies. We hereby hope and strongly remind the authorities in maintaining transparency with the public regarding the proper utilization of the funds and other resources.

We are committed to keeping a critical eye on resource channelization by the people in power.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s begin with the twelve episode of diplomatic eye.

From October 29th to November 1st, 2023, UN Secretary General (UNSG)Antonio Guterres visited Nepal. The visit was significant for Nepal since the Secretary General enhanced Nepal’s reputation in a subtle way by visiting Mount Everest and Lumbini. Furthermore, he sent a strong statement to the world about the threat caused by climate change. His visit to Gautam Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini sent a powerful message to the world that peace is the most rewarding endeavor for humanity.

Guterres is not the only UN Secretary General to have visited Nepal. His predecessors, Dag Hammarskjold, U Thant, Kurt Waldheim, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon had visited Nepal in 1959, 1967, 1982, 2001 and 2008 respectively.

Name of the Secretary General of the United Nations

SN Name Tenure
1. Trygve Lie (Norway) 1946-1952
2. *Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden) 1953-1961
3. *U Thant (Myanmar) 1961-1971
4. *Kurt Waldheim (Austria) 1972-1981
5. Javier Perez De Cuellar (Peru) 1982-1991
6. Boutros BoutrosGhali (Egypt) 1992-1996
7. *Kofi Annan (Ghana) 1997-2006
8. *Ban Ki- Moon (South Korea) 2007-2016
9. *Antonio Guterres (Portugal) 2017-Present

*Secretary Generals who visited Nepal

Guterres visited Nepal at a time when the Russia-Ukraine war was in its 614th day (as of October 29, 2024), the Israel-Hamas war was ongoing, and the extent of damage in Gaza was unprecedented. One of the critics questioned his Nepal visit while the Middle East was on fire.

Issues highlighted by UNSG
Mr. Guterres highlighted Nepal’s army and police participation to UN peacekeeping, Nepal’s chair in the LDCs, and women representation that adds gender equality. Along with wishing for the safe return of missing Bipin Joshi, he denounced the Hamas attacks on people, which included the killing of ten innocent Nepali students. The Secretary General address was undoubtedly appeasing, but the equally powerful message that he delivered upon the peace process was perhaps not so enthusiastic to the leadership ignoring victims’ perspectives – perhaps a lot of our lawmakers were confused by his strong remarks regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Nepal’s Peace Process: Was it home-grown?
Prior to dissecting his remarks, it is imperative that we comprehend the type and format of the peace process that Nepal’s main political parties have implemented with the foreign assistance, if not interference. I would argue that the peace process’s fundamental foundation was shallow. The Maoist rebels and the government, commanded by GP Koirala and actively involving India, inked a 12-point accord at the beginning of it all. Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist)—and the Government of Nepal signed the Comprehensive Peace Accord on November 21, 2006.  Political leaders in Nepal kept in regular communication with India prior to the 12-point pact, seeking assistance from that country. Important political figures in Nepal continue to maintain that the peace process originated here. It is hard to accept their assertions because in his book (How India Sees the World: Kautilya to the 21st Century), former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Shyam Saran—whom our leaders highly regard—discusses the character of Nepali political figures as quoted “The political leaders I engaged with were nearly schizophrenic in their dealings with India, seeking favours and political intervention on their behalf in Private but criticizing India for meddling in their affairs in public” (p.126).

Additional evidence points to Shyam Saran’s strong collaboration with the Maoists and the then seven political parties despite his opposition to the monarchy. With regards to the SAARC Summit in Dhaka, as stated on page 127 of his book, Mr. Saran opposed his prime minister’s meeting with the Nepali monarch at the summit in Dhaka, but he was overruled. Saran confessed that he wasn’t present at the meeting. Rather, the prime minister was joined by NSA M.K. Narayanan. It appears that the Indian foreign secretary was not invited by His Majesty, as reported by Nepali foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, who most likely told Narayanan of this. This may have happened as a result of his accusing Saran of being behind the Indian policy that suspended weapons supply to the Royal Nepal Army and publicly supported mainstream political parties.

The remarks above indicate that the very foundation of the Peace Process overlooked the indigenous nature and character that failed to accommodate all the fronts. There are always at least two parties involved in any conflict. In short, there were two teams: the monarchy and the traditional forces constituted one side, and there were seven political parties and Maoists combination of which constituted another side. Together, the Maoists and seven political groups were cooperating with each other. In Nepal’s peace process, one side of the conflict has been purposefully ignored from the inception of the conflict resolution.

Apart from the previously stated book, there is another book named Kathmandu Dilemma, authored by former Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae, which also highlights India’s crucial involvement in Nepal’s peace process.

My discussion of Ranjit Rae’s “Kathmandu Dilemma: Resetting India-Nepal Ties” and Mr. Sharan’s “How India Sees the World” could turn into a lengthy critique. Furthermore, the information and backdrop that Mr. Sharan wrote about in his book are somewhat validated by Rae’s book.

Abolition of Monarchy
I humbly submit to my audience that Nepal became a federal democratic republic without much debate in the legislature or among the general people.

Whether or not the federalism model was appropriate for Nepal has not been subject of a thoughtful discussion. What’s more, the majority of Nepalis were excluded from participation in the process of constitution building – even overwhelming feedback from people despite being allotted a limited timeframe had never been unpacked. Indeed, there was a movement against the absolute monarchy that King Gyanendra imposed in February 2005. The goal of the people’s movement at the time was not the abolition of the monarchy. In April of 2006, after strong resistance, King Gyanendra abdicated all power. Experienced politician Girija Prasad Koirala invited the rebels to talks after resuming the prime ministership. A peace agreement was signed in November that year by rebel leader Prachanda and Prime Minister Koirala, bringing a conflict that claimed over 13,000 lives then to an end. The Maoists and the ruling coalition decided in 2007 that the monarchy would end following elections. Voters in Nepal cast ballots in historic constituent assembly elections in April 2008, with the Maoists emerging as the winning political party. On May 28, 2008, a special parliament that had been elected in April decided to end the monarchy and establish a republic Nepal.

And, the queries come up:

  • How did the monarchy come to an end?
  • How did secularism make its way into the Constitution?
  • If federalism was the only solution, then why did Nepal end up being the poorest nation in South Asia with almost a decade and half under the system?

These are a few of the important concerns to which our politicians are reluctant and uncomfortable giving public answers.

Informed citizens have the right to bring up this issue with the political establishment. We must take this into context while discussing the peace process. The million-dollar question is-

How can we be certain that the peace process works its way out logically when one side of the conflict is completely ignored?

Permit me to draw your attention once more to the UNSG’s visit to Nepal.

Secretary General Guterres’s Emphasis on Transitional Justice
Prof. Mohan Lohani, Former Ambassador of Nepal to Bangladesh, states that UNSG Antonio Guterres was visibly overwhelmed with Nepal’s hospitality for which this country has earned a good reputation for ages. Both issues, namely, transitional justice and the catastrophic effect of climate change are priorities of this country. Prof. Lohani suggests that while transitional justice is out and out an internal issue, Mr Guterres can use the influence of his office at UN and other international conferences to ensure climate justice for Nepal which, in his own words, is “struggling hard against climate change”.

The political leadership were too excited right then during a speech at joint parliamentary session in Nepal to comprehend the message that UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres delivered- however, the powerful message on TRC have, perhaps, been realised later. He strongly urges that Transitional Justice is not simple. It is a delicate and intricate procedure by nature. It is well known that transitional justice works best when it is all-encompassing, victim-centered, and inclusive; when justice, truth, and reparations are at its core, additionally, when all victims of abuses of human rights are able to obtain substantial compensation, the Secretary General stated. Mr. Guterres, further adds that as long as victim-centered procedure is implemented in accordance with international norms and the decisions of Nepal’s Supreme Court, the UN is prepared to assist, with respect for the Nepalese leadership of this process.

When Guterres agrees to assist Nepal in the TRC, we must fairly evaluate UNMIN’s (UN Mission in Nepal) previous performance, which was heavily criticized in Nepal. Reports and analysis from the media from 2007 to 2011 were vociferous against Ian Martin, the head of UNMIN, and his shortcomings during the initial peace process in Nepal.

Senior Journalist and Civil Society activist, Kanak Mani Dixit writes in The Wire that it’s time to move on from the past and accept that UNMIN was not held accountable or required to provide an accounting. However, if the secretary-general ordered a review of the Security Council reports of UNMIN to confirm the purported partiality, that would be a helpful exercise for the UN’s peacemaking and peace building efforts.

Why did the formation of TRC take so long?
Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act (TRC Act) was adopted by the Nepalese Parliament on April 21, 2014. The TRC and the Commission on the Investigation of Enforced Disappearances Persons (CIEDP) were subsequently established in 2015.

One of the Army officers who refused to give name believes that different steps and aspects of activity make up the peace process combination of political resolution, resolution of combatants and judicious process. The resolution of combatants (belligerents) serious crimes committed by fighters and the leaders they adhere to, should be resolved through a judicious process. Currently, TRC is facing its most formidable obstacle: the final one. It is believed that the political party responsible for the atrocities is in power in this particular case. Additionally, the deplorable judicious culture suffered from having little access to legal assistance to people living in a rural place. Above all, the leaders who committed the tragedy have a weak sense of responsibility.

Many people believe that it will take time. The opposition party is just playing small-time in the TRC case. Remember that it’s like Pandora’s Box. A number of unpredictable events could occur if it is opened. It appears that terror and responsibility for it seem to be universal.

Governments typically bear greater responsibility than insurgent groups, despite the fact that rebels cannot ignore this.

Senior Advocate Dr. Chandra Gyawali told this analyst that most of the existing ruling parties’ leaders were involved in the movement of keeping peace-process in the logical conclusion. But they are afraid of the execution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

It is important to note that Nepal was an elected non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council twice, in 1969-1970 and 1988-1989. Furthermore, Nepal’s diplomatic image has never been tarnished at the UN from its early days.

Rather than magnifying and enlarging Security General Guterres’s visit, would not it be wise to review the issues of TRC and climate change impact?

It is noteworthy that six of the nine United Nations Secretary Generals have visited to Nepal. Thus, there’s no reason to get euphoric about the recent visit of Guterres.

Leaders in Nepal are skilled at adopting new identities. In Nepal, democracy evolved into LOKTANTRA. Whatever name you give it, democracy is a method and way of life that upholds law and order, good governance, and peace. Does this actually make sense in Nepal? For those in positions of authority, “LOKTANTRA” became the “Luck -Tantra,” but for the people, it became the “Lock -Tantra.”

It has been over 15 years now since Nepal was declared a federal republic. We should address the peace process on time. After all, it is better late than never, considering the amicable time taken by our leaders. Isn’t it high time that the concerned political parties start introspecting unto the practical options while practicing federalism rather said than done?