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Chinese visits, rift in coalition and more

Chinese visits, rift in coalition and more

Greetings from Kathmandu!

Last Friday, we launched this weekly column to provide you with a concise analytical roundup of key events. My goal is to offer fresh perspectives on both national and international affairs. We hope these insights will be useful in your personal and professional life.

Visits from China

This week, high-level officials from the Communist Party of China (CPC) and senior members of China’s judiciary visited Kathmandu. We have already published a story on these visits and are working on another report. Notably, after an 18-year hiatus, the two countries held a Joint Expert Group meeting. Future meetings, including a foreign secretary-level meeting, are also planned.

Border regulation

Lawmakers from CPN-UML have called for regulating the Nepal-India border, with some suggesting a visa system. UML lawmaker Raghuji Panta raised this issue in Parliament, with Saraswoti Subba supporting the introduction of identity cards along the border. Although stricter border controls have been advocated before, detailed plans or reasons have not been provided.

(Un)diplomatic recalls

Last week, the government recalled ambassadors from 11 countries, most of whom were appointed by the previous government under the Nepali Congress (NC) quota. The competition for these positions has begun, but the timing of new appointments remains unclear. While recalling ambassadors mid-term is not unprecedented, it may not send a positive message to the host countries.

Prez calls for release of Nepali captives in Ukraine

President Ram Chandra Poudel has returned from his visit to Switzerland and Germany. During the visit, he sought European leaders' support to secure the release of four Nepalis held captive in Ukraine. The President also requested assistance in lifting the ban on Nepal Airlines entering European airspace.

House debate on budget

This week, Parliament witnessed a heated debate over the budget presented by Finance Minister Barsha Man Pun. Lawmakers from both opposition and ruling parties criticized the budget, particularly the high allocations to the electoral constituencies of top leaders. This practice has been common for a long time.

Meanwhile, former prime minister and UML chairman, KP Sharma Oli, also criticized the fiscal policy, stating his party joined the government to contribute to the country’s development and would not be satisfied if these goals are unmet. His remarks have fueled speculation about potential instability or the collapse of the current coalition. This raises the question: Are the NC and UML coming together? We have been covering this topic extensively and will continue to monitor it closely.

Uncertain coalition dynamics

UML leader Oli sent a clear message to Prime Minister Dahal this week, stating that his party cannot continue supporting the government if it fails to deliver results. Sports Minister Biraj Bhakta Shrestha from the Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP) also echoed this sentiment, suggesting the need to review their support for the government. Fearful that his government could fall into minority anytime soon, Prime Minister Dahal is trying to save his seat. This week he tried to expand his Cabinet by bringing the Janamat Party led by CK Raut but was unsuccessful.

IGP caught in tussle

This week saw a tussle between Prime Minister Dahal and Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane, who is allegedly preparing to remove Nepal Police chief Basanta Bahadur Kunwar. Amid this rumor, Dahal said in Chitwan that he had assured the heads of security agencies they would not be removed. Lamichhane, who is also the chairman of RSP, has faced criticism for allegedly misusing police power to target his political opponents and the media. It is not uncommon in Nepal for politicians to attempt to replace police chiefs when they feel their interests are harmed or unmet.

Mayor Balen vs major parties 

Kathmandu Mayor Balendra Shah continued to dominate headlines with his distinctive working style. Ever since being elected the mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) as an independent candidate, Shah, a former rap artist, has acquired the reputation of a maverick. While the young mayor seems to enjoy a strong support from the residents of Kathmandu, he seems to have rubbed the major political parties the wrong way. This became apparent when the elected representatives from two major political parties, UML and Nepali Congress, walked out of the municipal council meeting. 

Monsoon disaster preparedness

With the arrival of monsoon, eastern Nepal, particularly Taplejung district, has already suffered a deadly landslide. Monsoon-related disasters are likely to increase in the days to come. While the federal government has assured that it is prepared for adverse weather events and disasters, the same cannot be said about the provincial and local governments. With the onset of the rainy season, dengue cases are also on the rise. Government data indicate that most cases are concentrated in Kathmandu. 

Sidhakura case in the dock

The Supreme Court has decided to forward the Sidhakura online case to a full bench, which may set a new precedent in freedom of speech and expression. The online news portal is accused of publishing a fake audio recording with the intent of defaming, among others, the publishers of two major media houses, including this one, and Supreme Court justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai, who has retired following widespread media coverage questioning his integrity. 

That was the week that was. 

Have a great weekend!

Kamal Dev Bhattarai,