Nepal Recent History
The word “Nepal”, in the ancient Indian language, means “at the foot of the mountains”. More than appropriate definition considering that the mountains of Nepal are the Himalayas. According to Abbreviationfinder, Nepal is a large rectangle between India and Tibet, accessible almost exclusively by plane or by means of a carriage road, often, however, flooded when it is monsoon time. The railway is scarce and represented only by two sections of a few kilometers, one of which inaugurated in 1927.
It was part of the Anglo-Indian empire and therefore its historical events followed those of that country until 1947, when it became an independent state, as a monarchy.
The rulers who granted the Constitution were of the ruling caste of the Gurkha. This dynasty entered Nepal from 1769 and a few years later, in 1792, Nepal concluded a treaty with the English East India Company, under which the Company was able to send fixed to Katmandu, the capital, a resident, just to stem the raids by the Gurkha.
When the Company found that despite the resident’s presence, the raids continued, he withdrew him from the capital and waged a war in 1814/15. This ended with the Legowlie treaty of December 2, 1815, with which almost all of Nepal became Anglo-Indian protectorate. As such, under the political and commercial influence of Great Britain and the Indian Empire, Nepal underwent a war against Tibet in the following decades, from 1854 to 1856, which ended with the submission of Tibet and the obligation on the part of the latter to pay Nepal an annual tribute of 10,000 rupees, in addition to that of receiving a high representative of Nepal in his capital Lhasa.
In December 1923 a new treaty was signed, which unified all previous agreements, which definitively established relations between the Empire of India and the protected state of Nepal, on the basis of mutual respect for the internal and external independence of the two countries.
With the political awakening of India in 1946, there was also that of young Nepalese, especially those who had studied in Indian universities. They founded a party called the “Nepalese Congress”, then they planned a decline in the administrative cadres starting to weaken the absolute power of the Prime Minister, of the Rana family, which had dominated the country since the mid-nineteenth century.
In this they were helped by the Tribhuvan king Vir Vikram, who had never looked favorably on the Rana caste. And on September 22, 1950 the first Nepalese Parliament and the Constitution were inaugurated. Premier Rana, in office since 1948, reacted badly and the king, worried, took refuge in India in November. In his absence, the three-year-old second son was elected king, who was not recognized either inside the country or outside.
The Indian government, on the other hand, exerted a great deal of pressure on the prime minister and forced him to convene a Constituent Assembly and to form a Cabinet half made up of Rana and half made up of members of Congress. This was done and on February 15, 1951 the king was able to return to the throne and announce constitutional reforms.
On 16 November 1951, Matrika Prasad Koirala, head of the Nepalese Congress, became Prime Minister. He immediately had to manage a revolt of leftist elements and then immediately had to apply the reforms that would allow the country to face any actions by the People’s Republic of China, the owner of Tibet and, therefore, in direct contact with the Nepalese borders.
The difficulties of the situation forced Koirala to resign but, then, after a fluctuating handover of powers between the Cabinet and the Monarchy, he re-assumed the post of prime minister and held it until March 1955.
In the same year, upon the king’s death, the crown prince Mahendra Vir Vikram succeeded the throne. In January 1956 Tanka Prasad Acarya, head of the Popular Party, was appointed prime minister. In September the same year, a treaty of friendship was signed with the People’s Republic of China which, among other things, recognized China’s sovereignty over Tibet. With this treaty the previous one with which Tibet had been forced to pay an annual tribute to Nepal was canceled.
Immediately after the signing of the treaty, Acarya visited Beijing and in January 1957 the Chinese premier Chou-En-lai returned the visit. In this same year, the Acarya Cabinet was replaced by another chaired by KI Singh, who in turn was dissolved by the king, who assumed full powers.
In February 1958 the king announced the formation of a commission with the task of formulating a new constitution and preparing an electoral commission.
The new Constitution was ready on February 12, 1959. With it the king was asked:
– executive power;
– the supreme command of the armed forces;
– the designation of the successor to the crown;
– the establishment of a Parliament consisting of a Lower Chamber and an Upper Chamber;
– the right to reject or enforce the laws approved by Parliament;
– the right to assume full powers, even in the event of war, if it is not possible to form a government with the confidence of the Lower House.
On April 2, 1959, the elections were held and the Nepalese Congress won by a large majority. The government office was entrusted to Matrika Prasad Koirala. And on July 24 the king inaugurated the Parliament.
The most important act of the Koirala government was the Sino-Nepalese agreement of March 1960, with which the borders between Nepal and China were definitively established.
But the internal situation of Nepal did not have great advantages from the government so the king, in December 1960, dissolved the Parliament, assumed full powers, arrested Koirala and other members of government, banished all the political parties existing in January 1961 and he introduced a system he called “basic democracy”.
On December 16, 1962 the new Constitution was promulgated and with it 4 were the important political identities: village, city, district, region.
In April 1963 the king ceded, from his powers, the Prime Minister and at the same time removed the state of emergency already present for three years.
In 1964 he visited New Delhi where he obtained aid from India and then China did the same thing. Thanks to these Indian aids, the hydroelectric complex on the Kosi River was inaugurated in 1965. And with Chinese technical help, however, it was possible in 1967 to inaugurate a daring long mountain road from Katmandu to the border with Tibet. Furthermore, with a shrewd agrarian reform, it was possible to distribute the land to the peasant families of 5 members, to a maximum extent, and then to the landless peasants.
However, since the internal situation had reverses, the king, from 1970 to 1971, took over the reins of the government firsthand. In January 1972, on his death, his son Birendra Bir Bikram succeeded him, who immediately had to fight with a ferocious famine and with a rampant unemployment, all aggravated by unrest brought about by communists, of Chinese ideology, called “Naxaliti”, who they bordered on Indian territory.
In 1975 the new king was able to liberalize the Constitution, widening the right to vote and increasing the number of members of the National Assembly.
Meanwhile, Nepal had been discovered by European and American tourists who, with their presence, contributed greatly to the balance of payments. But this too had its reverse. Drug users also arrived in the country and the government had to impose strict rules prohibiting the cultivation of marijuana, opium and haschish.
Even during this period, the authoritative government interventions aimed at disarming the Tibetan rebels who took refuge in the country and this was to avoid disagreements with China.
In 1980 a referendum was held with which 54% of the voters declared themselves against a multi-party democracy, intending to take advantage of the form of government existing in a constitutional monarchy. And in May 1981 there were the first direct legislative elections. Then things got worse.
In 1982 a prolonged drought aggravated the economic situation and in 1985 there were attacks and unrest by anti-monarchist groups. The repression was sustained; severe anti-terrorist laws were passed and many arrests were made among the followers of the National Congress Party, which had promoted a campaign of civil disobedience. Among those arrested was the party president, from whom the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy derived on 18 February 1990, on which the Communist and Labor groups depended.
The unrest continued and was so sustained that the police opened fire on the demonstrators and there were about fifty victims. But in the end a positive result occurred. King Birendra authorized the revision of the Constitution and multi-party elections. Then all political and religious prisoners were released and the death penalty abolished. With the promulgation of the new Constitution, which took place on November 9, 1990, freedom of worship was decreed, although Hinduism was established as the official religion of the state. The government became bicameral and a State Council was established.
The 1991 elections awarded the majority to the National Congress Party. But the achievements in the political-democratic field were not matched by the economic ones which remained rather precarious. And in Katmandu in April 1992 there was a general strike against the cost of living and corruption.
In foreign policy there were recriminations by India first because it considered Nepal as a safe haven for the guerrilla enemies of Bengal and then because Nepal had received military supplies from China, in contravention of the agreements previously established with India. Which, at this point, did not want to renew the existing and expiring commercial treaties. On the other hand, relations with China remained privileged, from which it received aid and collaboration. Those with Pakistan and Bangla Desh were also good, with whom he shared the exploitation of common waters. Finally, an economic cooperation agreement was signed with Japan in 1991.
Nepal has always pursued a policy of “non-alignment” and still maintains consular relations with 99 countries. He is also a founding member of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, established since 1985.
The government, however, initially based on center positions, gradually moved to the right and, leaving aside the numerical and administrative downsizing of the army, and promoting a completely liberal economy, it provoked a wide social discontent, consequent to a strong increase in the cost of living.
Then several scandals, due to nepotism and corruption, undermined the foundations of the government which, therefore, fell in the summer of 1994 and it was necessary to prepare early elections for the following November.
And they assigned victory to the communist party, Unified Marxist-Leninist, whose leader MM Adikari was commissioned to form the new government, which was in the minority.
Adikari reaffirmed his commitment to the continuation of economic liberalization, but as his main objective he put agrarian reform and a regional development plan.
But the united oppositions made it impossible for him to proceed and he had to resign and leave space in 1995 to a center-right government, of the Nepali Congress Party, led by SB Deuba.
Not even this government had an easy life and did not have time, therefore, to carry out any reform. Therefore in 1997 it fell and then, between 1997 and 1998 three other governments followed one another, naturally of very short duration. The last of these, however, had Koirala himself as premier, with the external support of the Communists.
But his political events were interrupted in December 1998 by a further crisis, this time due to the withdrawal of the communists and Koirala, in January 1999, was forced to dissolve Parliament and decree new elections.
In May, this consultation was held which assigned an absolute majority to the Nepali Congress Party which, therefore, led the executive with Prime Minister KP Bhattarai replaced, in turn, by Koirala in March 2000.
Internationally, Nepal continued the friendship policy with both China and India, while relations with neighboring Bhutan deteriorated over a matter related to the repatriation of refugees who fled to Nepal to escape racial persecution.