Nepali Times

Almost there

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Two weeks after electing the Prime Minister, the country is likely to have a cabinet of ministers by the end of the day.

After late night talks on Sunday, the two largest parties, Nepali Congress and CPN-UML were able to chart the tentative shape of the new government and the portfolios the parties will head. Out of the 26 ministries, the two parties are likely to get 10 portfolios each. NC will take charge in Ministry of Defence, Finance, Communication, Cooperatives, Local Development and Education, among others. CPN-UML has laid claim on 10 ministries including Ministry of Home, Foreign Affairs, Energy, Health and General Administration. Smaller parties that have supported NC are also in line to head some ministries. The final allocation is expected to be formalised within today.

Internal talks are underway since early morning today to formalise the deal made between the two parties and pick the candidates for the ministerial positions. NC Parliamentary Party is meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baluwatar to endorse the deal.

Prime Minister Sushil Koirala was finally able to convince CPN-UML to join the government after conceding the Home Ministry. The meeting of the two parties on Sunday focused on allocating ministries. The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

Untangling the Home Ministry knot

The power sharing talks between Nepali Congress and CPN-UML have concluded on Sunday deciding that the two largest parties need to discuss the matter again on Monday.

Today’s talks focused on allocating ministries to NC and UML. The NC has already decided to assign Home Ministry, the main contention between two largest parties, to the UML.

The UML team, which will participate in the government, will be led by the party’s Vice Chairperson Bamdev Gautam.

In today’s talks, Gautam along with UML Secretary Bishnu Poudel took part in the talks on behalf of UML, while NC Secretary Krishna Prasad Situala led the NC team in the talks.

The next round of talks on Monday will start early in the morning at 7 a.m., it is learnt. It is expected that the talks will conclude soon, paving way for the swearing in ceremony of UML and NC’s new ministers in the evening, the same day.

Read also

Whose Home is it anyway?

The year of living dangerously

Nepali steps in Norway

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

On August 16, several hundred people filled the fog-shrouded slope just below the summit of Gaustadtoppen in Norway for the inauguration of steps repaired by Nepalis. (see Nepali Times 25-31 July 2014).

Several hundred people filled the fog-shrouded slope just below the summit of Gaustadtoppen in Norway for the inauguration of steps

Several hundred people filled the fog-shrouded slope just below the summit of Gaustadtoppen in Norway for the inauguration of steps

But by the time of the ceremony, the clouds parted at the 1,883 m summit and the Nepali team that built the steps donned traditional Sherpa attire and sang the Nepali trekking anthem, “Resham Phiri” with people enthusiastically applauding the fantastic work they had done.

Nepali team that built the steps donned traditional Sherpa attire and sang the Nepali trekking anthem, ”Resham Phiri”

Nepali team that built the steps donned traditional Sherpa attire and sang the Nepali trekking anthem, “Resham Phiri”

“We are very happy and feel wonderful to work in Norway,” said Nima Nuru Sherpa after the ceremony, “it’s fantastic to work in the nature of Norway, it feels like working at home in Nepal.”

Marit Bakke in Gaustadtoppen

Read also: 

Nepali steps in Norway

Himalayan and Sourya

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Two new private airlines poised to start operations

Bombardier CRJ 200

Bombardier CRJ 200. Source: RSS

The tourism industry is cautiously optimistic about the launch of a new joint venture private international airline, and a new domestic airline in Nepal.

Himalayan Airlines is a joint venture between Tibet Airlines of China and Nepali investors that include HIF Aviation Investment and Yeti Air International.  At a signing ceremony on Tuesday at the Hyatt Regency, Himalayan Airlines announced it will start operations with Kathmandu to Lhasa and Chengdu flights on 28 October.

The company is acquiring two Airbus 319 Series 2 aircraft and has options for three more Airbus 320s as its network expands to points in India, the Gulf and Hong Kong. The airline said it is also eying direct flights through wide body aircraft to Europe by next year if demand picks up.

“You may ask what a banker is doing investing in an airline,” Prithvi Bahadur Pande of HIF Aviation said at the ceremony, “but we have realised the vast untapped potential for tourism and aviation in Nepal.”

Cheng Yiru of Tibet Airlines said his company specialised in ultra-high altitude operations on the Plateau and said it made strong business sense for the tourism development of Tibet to partner with a Nepali company. “The joint venture will build on the age-old trans-Himalayan connection between Nepal and China,” he added.

Chinese Ambassador Wu Chun Tai stressed that this was a business-to-business joint venture, adding that it would further enhance Nepal-China cooperation in investment, trade and tourism. “Just as the Himalaya is a monument linking Nepal and China, Himalaya Airlines marks a new monument in economic cooperation between the two countries,” he added.

Himalaya Airlines with a paid up capital of $25 million has majority shares of its Nepali partners, while Tibet Airlines holds 49%. The airlines will create at least 1,000 new jobs in Nepal and will pay millions in tax revenue and fees to the government.

Domestic jet service

Meanwhile, Sourya Airlines is starting domestic operations with Bombardier CRJ 200 jets that will cut current turboprop flight time to and from Kathmandu on trunk city routes nearly half.

Sourya’s first 50-seater Bombardier CRJ landed in Kathmandu on Monday and will be connecting Kathmandu and Dhangadi, Nepalganj, Bhairawa, Biratnagar and Bhadrapur with the first jet service since Cosmic Air terminated its F100s. The airline says it is adding another CRJ200 next year. The airline was launched with overseas Nepali investment, and former pilots of Buddha Air and Yeti.

Brand yourself

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Interview with UK-based Nepali blogger Lex Limbu, Nepal, 10 August

Nepal: What are you doing in Nepal?

Lex Limbu: Before coming I had prepared a programme called ‘Tracing Nepal’, in which I would take Nepali youngsters to rural parts of the country. Currently we have 8 boys and 8 girls in our team, who lived abroad and didn’t know much about their country. I am going around the country for 16 days with them. After this finishes, I will prepare a travelogue. I studied human geography at college, so this is a practical side of my studies.

How does one become a good blogger?

You have to be regular. If you publish things regularly, no one forgets you. Also you can’t just bring out what people like to read or hear, you have to be original. This also helps to brand your blog and develop your own personality as a blogger. You have to be really committed.

How much pressure do you get, as a celebrity blogger, to write about certain things?

Plenty. From corporate houses to social workers, everyone wants me to publicise their cause. When Nepalis abroad have difficulties, when people want to campaign for libraries across Nepal, I have helped with spreading the message. When I had only started my blog, I raised £900 to give out to 2009’s Saptakosi flood victims.

How do you manage to come up with Hollywood and Bollywood stories that have a Nepali connection?

The internet is my biggest source.

What’s the difference between blogging from Nepal and abroad?

It’s more fun outside because the internet is fast and you don’t have load-shedding. But then, you lose the public contact you have in Nepal.

What makes you so special?

I write little and use a lot of pictures and videos. I think that is inevitable because most of my stories are about celebrities, fashion, and entertainment. Main thing is I take no sides.

Justice under threat

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Lack of a witness protection program has set back prosecution of those guilty of the torture and murder of journalist Dekendra Thapa

Dekendra Thapa. Photo: Dhruba Basnet

Dekendra Thapa. Photo: Dhruba Basnet

Radio journalist Dekendra Thapa was a fearless, fair and respected journalist, but he also used to serve as a mediator during the brutal conflict that had engulfed his beloved home district of Dailekh.

In June 2004, the Maoists blocked the pipe bringing water to the district capital, and Dekendra 
Thapa and other journalists walked to the Maoist-controlled area to try to persuade them to open it. Instead, they were kidnapped by the rebels, and while the others were released Dekendra was detained

A month later, eyewitness reports started coming in about the Maoists torturing him by hanging 
him upside down and beating him until he died. The Maoists put up posters claiming responsibility for killing him

Dekendra’a wife Laxmi lobbied hard and got forensic experts to find and exhume his body after the conflict ended in 2006. When they found the body, his mouth was wide open, his left leg and right elbow were broken. He had been buried alive.

Fast forward to 2012: police inspector Binod Sharma had kept the investigation open and finally arrested four of those accused of Dekendra’s torture and murder. One of them was Lachhiram Gharti, who confessed to the torture asked to be detained because he was wracked by guilt.

By this time, Maoist ideologue Baburam Bhattarai had become prime minister in Kathmandu, and got his handpicked Attorney General Mukti Pradhan to call off the investigation. Prosecuting the guilty would have set a precedent for the investigation of other war crimes.  Senior Maoists leaders are implicated in other cases, including the torture and murder of Krishna Adhikari, whose parents are on an extended hunger strike in Kathmandu.

Back in Dailekh, key witnesses in the prosecution of Dekendra’s killers have all retracted their testimonies one by one. Chandra Bahadur Gharti had told investigators that on 11 August 2004, he and Man Bahadur Sunparai heard screaming at the Nepal Rastriya Primary School and went to find out what was happening. “We saw Lachhiram Gharti and eight others were beating journalist Dekendra Thapa with sticks. When Dekendra couldn’t speak anymore, we saw them drag him to Lachhiram’s house,” reads Gharti’s testimony.

However, recently Chandra Bahadur Gharti made the following deposition at the District Court: “I was away working in India when the event happened, and returned only four or five months later. I don’t know who killed Dekendra, where or how.”

Another witness, Amrita Sunakhari, had told the same investigator: “A Maoist named Bam Bahadur Khadka alias Mukti, Lachhiram and others had kidnapped journalist Dekendra Thapa and kept him in our house. After questioning, they took him towards Dwari, and I heard later that they killed and buried him.”

But Sunakhari withdrew her statement and told the court recently: “I don’t know Dekendra Raj Thapa, I don’t know where, when and how his death occurred. I don’t know if the accused killed him, the accused should not be punished.”

Other government witnesses, including Jamuna Thapa, Sashiram Gharti, Man Bahadur Sutparai and Devi Lal Gharti have similarly withdrawn statements, considerably weakening the case against the accused. Another witness Balbir Ramjali had earlier testified that he had seen the accused beating up Dekendra in the school. But now, he has made a statement saying he was in India on that day. “I don’t know anything about the incident, I don’t know anyone involved, I only found out that Dekendra was killed after the police took me in.”

Prakash Adhikari is a Dailekh based journalist who has been covering his colleague’s torture and murder for the past 10 years. He says: “Maoist leaders had gathered all the witnesses from Naumule, Dwari and Baluwatar in a hotel in the district capital, forcing the accused to retract their statements.” Lawyer Basanta Gautam, who has been representing Dekendra, also confirms that witnesses withdrew the case because of threats.

Lawyer Govinda Bandi says the reason witnesses have retracted their testimonies after threats is because of the lack of witness protection laws. He adds: “This makes it difficult to get justice for the families of the victims.”


June 2004    Radio journalist Dekendra Thapa abducted from Toli VDC
11 August 2004    Dekendra Thapa buried alive in Dwari after month-and-half of torture
28 August 2008   Laxmi Thapa lodged FIR at Dailekh Police about her husband’s murder
2012  Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his handpicked attorney general Mukti Pradhan order
police investigation quashed
5 January 2013  Police arrest Lachhiram Gharti and five others for the murder of Dekendra Thapa
28 January 2013  State lawyers file case against accused and on 31 January court ordered them
4 July 2013  The Appleate Court in Surkhet upholds verdict against accused
5 August 2013 The Supreme Court overturns the verdict and orders the accused to be freed.
20 August 2014 District court schedules to have the final hearing on the Dekendra case.

Tufan Neupane in Nepalgunj

See music video of Dekendra Thapa singing Karnali song

Read also:

Dekendra’s grave Janak Nepal

Transitional injustice, Kunda Dixit’s blog

Reign of terror in Dailekh, Damakant Jayshi 

Shooting the messenger, Editorial

Just want justice, Dambar K Shrestha

Hindi-Nippon Bhai Bhai?

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Nationalist leaders in Japan and India link forces amid concern over aggressive Chinese policies

Narendra Modi with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Joining force: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visiting Gujarat in 2007 with then Gujarat chief minister, now Indian prime minister, Narendra Mod (top); India invited Japan to join in joint exercise with the United States in July

NEW DELHI: Asia’s leading nations have been slowly coming together to face the challenge of an assertive China. To the chagrin of Beijing, US, Indian and Japanese naval vessels gathered for a joint exercise in the Pacific ostensibly against piracy and terrorism. The rise of nationalist leaders in Japan and India, combined with growing US concern about aggressive Chinese policy, have created new dynamics in the region.

The Malabar exercise, an annual affair between the United States and India, commenced on 24 July at Sasebo Naval Base, Japan. China had reacted angrily in 2007 when the United States and India invited Japan, Australia and Singapore for the Malabar exercises. Under pressure from Beijing, New Delhi backed off and since then had refrained from making these exercises multilateral. But China’s growing maritime ambitions in the Indian Ocean region and greater assertion on territorial issues have led India to a more forceful posture, resulting in joint India-Japan naval exercises since 2012 and the invite to Japan this year for the Malabar series.

India-Japan ties are expected to get a boost from the personal camaraderie of Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both leaders are emblematic of a new, ambitious and nationalistic Asian landscape. They have decisive mandates to reshape the economic and strategic future of their respective nations.

Modi has already underlined that India and Japan share a “fundamental identity of values, interests and priorities.” Japan’s economic and technological development has inspired Modi to emulate the Japan model, with flexible and bold fiscal policy that encourages private investment in infrastructure and technology. Modi’s first bilateral visit outside South Asia was supposed to be Japan, but the Indian Parliament’s budget session precluded this from happening. Moreover, Modi wanted that visit to showcase sconcrete deliverables. He wrote personally to the Japanese prime minister to express his regret, and speculation is underway that his trip to Japan, set for August, will result in big-ticket announcements.

Since serving as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi has enjoyed a close relationship with Abe. Modi is just one of three people followed by the Japanese prime minister on Twitter, along with a journalist and Abe’s wife. Abe, a longstanding admirer of India, has been a strong votary of strategic ties between New Delhi and Tokyo. For Abe, “a strong India is in the best interest of Japan, and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.” He was one of the first Asian leaders to envision a “broader Asia,” linking the Pacific and Indian oceans to form the Indo-Pacific. And as he has gone about reconstituting Japan’s role as a security provider in the region and beyond, India, of all Japan’s neighbors, seems most willing to acknowledge Tokyo’s centrality in shaping the evolving security architecture in the Indo-Pacific. At the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in May, Abe claimed a larger security role of Japan in Asia by assisting countries like the Philippines which have territorial disputes with China, suggesting that “Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of the countries of ASEAN as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies.” He went on to underscore US-Japan-India cooperation as a driving force for regional security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region.

Modi would like to use his personal connection with Abe to consolidate national ties. The Japanese corporate sector is enthused by Modi’s victory, looking to boost its presence in India, and Modi will be building on his personal ties with the Japanese businesses cemented during his tenure in Gujarat, to give a fillip to Japanese investment in India. India is the largest recipient of Japanese foreign aid. The Japan International Cooperation Agency has been involved in the funding of Delhi Metro, India’s biggest subway system, and has agreed to fund the next phase of the Mumbai subway. Japan is expected to play a major role in a number of high profile infrastructure projects, including completion of the ambitious Delhi Mumbai industrial corridor, a Chennai-Bangalore industrial corridor and a dedicated freight project in southern India. India has also invited Japan to invest in infrastructure projects in India’s northeastern region, where tensions with China loom large. India has expressed keen interest in buying Japanese ShinMaywa amphibious aircraft, the US-2i, a deal of around 15 planes worth more than $1.5 billion.

China, observing these trends, has been reaching out to the Modi government, both via bilateral and multilateral means. China and India, as part of the larger BRICS grouping, took one step towards challenging the western dominance of the global economic and financial order in July when they decided to set up the New Development Bank, headquartered in Shanghai, to finance infrastructure and development projects. At the bilateral level, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi who visited Delhi in June as special envoy of the Chinese president to meet the new Indian leadership and boost bilateral ties saluted the new Modi government for injecting “new vitality into an ancient civilisation.” In an attempt to woo New Delhi at time when Chinese relations with Japan and Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam and Philippines have been deteriorating, Wang underlined that China was ready for a final settlement of its border disputes with India and prepared to invest more in India.

But the tensions show no sign of abating and Modi remains a nationalist looking to raising India’s profile on the global stage. He invited the political head of the Tibetan government in exile, Lobsang Sangay, for his swearing-in ceremony to which China reacted with a démarche. In a highly symbolic move, former Indian army chief General V.K. Singh was named a minister in Modi’s cabinet, holding the dual charge of the affairs of India’s northeastern states bordering China as well as being the junior minister in the ministry of external affairs. Though India has been trying to beef up border defenses vis-à-vis China that process suffered from lack of direction. Singh, who served in the area in his military capacity, wants to prioritize development in the northeastern region so as to narrow the gap with the Chinese infrastructure development on the other side of the border. For the first time, a young member of parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, Kiren Rijiju, has been given a key ministerial position in the cabinet – minister of state for home – to underscore the administration’s intention of making the troubled northeastern region a priority. Lamenting the fact that India has, even after 68 years of independence, failed to ensure connectivity in its border areas, giving China a strategic advantage, Rijiju has been vocal about the need to strengthen the forces guarding the border where China claims more than 90,000 square kilometers of land disputed by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas, including most of Arunachal Pradesh, called South Tibet by China.

At a time when China has alienated most of its neighbors with aggressive rhetoric and actions, India has an opportunity to expand its profile and work proactively with other likeminded states to ensure a stable regional order. Given the Modi-Abe connection, many expect a paradigm shift in Indian-Japanese relations. Whether or not that happens, Japan will remain a priority for India in the coming years.

Harsh V. Pant

Bhote Kosi update

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

On 9 August, Nepal Army personnel made seven blasts to increase the outflow of Bhote Kosi following last week’s landslide.

Army creating outlet for Sun Koshi river

The inflow of water to the artificial lake created by the landslide was 205 cubic feet per second and the outflow was 210 cubic feet per second, leading to a decrease of 7 cm in depth. Two excavators were airlifted on MI-17 helicopters to help in the search and rescue operations. Now, arrangements are being made for spare parts to be brought in today. The army is trying to drain the water of the artificial lake by widening the outlet so that the blocked Kodari Highway can be reopened.


Parts of the excavators being brought in MI- 17s

Parts of the excavators were airlifted to Jure

Parts of the excavators being brought in MI- 17s

Parts of the excavators being airlifted to Jure

Come together

Thursday, August 7th, 2014
.................................................................................................................., 4 August

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Madhesi leaders from all parties together when he was in Kathmandu. But judging from their body language, the leaders seem to have been  disappointed with what he had to say.

During the meeting, TMLP Chairman Mahantha Thakur and Sadbhavana Chairman Rajendra Mahato complained that they were discriminated against by the Nepali state. “But Modi told us we must attempt to join all regions together,” said Madhes Samata Party Chairman Meghraj Nishadh.

NC leader Amresh Kumar Singh reportedly asked Modi why he used the word ‘Tarai’ instead of  ‘Madhes’ and why he talked only about projects in the hills. “There is poverty and unequal development, so I talked about developing the Madhes,” Singh told after the visit.

During his speech to parliament, Modi talked about Nepal’s mountains, hills and plains being one, and heaped praise on Gorkha soldiers. Normally, Nepal’s Madhesi leaders don’t even want to hear the word ‘Gorkhali’. This, Singh confirms, is what bugged them.

“Modi told us India would help in the development of Madhes but requested us to rise above anti-hill sentiments,” one leader said afterwards. He added Modi said they should think the country, not its regions. This stance was confirmed by messages released by Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesperson for India’s Ministry of External Affairs.

The leaders reportedly also told Modi that the political aspirations of Madhesi people would only be fulfilled if federalism was based on Madhesi identity. But in reply, Modi reminded them to make a garland of many kinds of flowers.