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Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence International Crisis Group 2006-04-18

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 Policy Briefing
Asia Briefing N°49
Kathmandu/Brussels, 19 April 2006
Crisis Group
Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Pro-democracy demonstrations and a general strike across
Nepal in recent weeks mark a decisive shift in the
country's political equations and probably signal the
approaching end of King Gyanendra's direct rule. A
successful popular movement could advance the search
for peace but will depend on strong political party
leadership in dealing with the Maoists; a messy transition
would bring its own risks. Although domestic events will
determine the speed and direction of political change,
international players should use their influence to establish
practical plans to help stabilise the situation and build a
more lasting foundation for peace. This briefing argues
for the early formation of a Contact Group (consisting
of India, the U.S. and UK, working with the UN) and a
complementary Peace Support Group (other key donors
and international financial institutions) to form a common
front on strategy and tactics to maximise international
influence in assisting Nepal's escape from its worsening
The conflict remains soluble and a genuine democratic
mass movement increases the chances of a sustainable
and principled settlement. However, the urgent need to
defuse the current political confrontation could lead to
a hasty and unsustainable deal. Political leaders lack the
necessary public confidence to conclude a backroom
agreement with the king, while a simple return to a pre-
royal coup arrangement of a palace-appointed prime
minister would be inherently unstable. In particular, even
an interim settlement must take account of the Maoists
and be designed to continue the process of drawing them
into mainstream politics. The alternative would be to
drive them into increased militancy and tempt them to
exploit to the full their capacity for violence.
While the international community has taken some
welcome steps, these need to be better coordinated, and
far more remains to be done. No single player is capable
of a decisive intervention, apart from India, which does
not want to take heavy-handed unilateral action. However,
as in other conflicts, a group of friends or Contact Group
could make a critical difference.
Nepal meets most ofthe criteria for a successful initiative
of this kind. The conflict is increasingly ripe for resolution.
There is international willingness to commit time and
resources to support a viable peace plan if one can be
constructed. All major international players share a
fundamental interest in seeing a more stable and
prosperous Nepal. All sides ofthe conflict, albeit at
different points and to different degrees, have suggested
that international assistance would be useful in a peace
The priorities include deciding on shared principles, which
would force the major external players to confront the
differences in their approaches; agreeing on a level of
coordination, including an initial assessment of areas
where there could be a united policy and where further
discussion would be needed; initiating talks on parallel
approaches to assist the political effort - for example,
using human rights and development assistance to build
confidence and ensure donors' democracy and governance
initiatives are in line with the overall goals; and developing
far more detailed plans to help move a peace agreement
and post-conflict settlement forward.
A Contact Group should focus on:
□ immediate practical planning, including on the
contingency of a sudden change in government;
preparations for a small international ceasefire
monitoring mission; and establishment of a channel
of communication with the Maoists;
□ maintaining pressure for a peace process, including
by introducing targeted sanctions on the royal
government (a visa ban, investigation of
overseas assets in preparation for freezing them
and restriction of army participation in UN
peacekeeping operations);
□ supporting the democratic mainstream politically
and practically, in particular by assisting parties to
prepare for negotiations and interim arrangements;
□ keeping pressure on the Maoists to move towards
peace and give tangible proof of their willingness
to abandon violence by warning them that if they
obstruct progress towards a peace process or fail to
respect the understandings they have entered into
with OHCHR, donors and the mainstream political
parties, Contact Group members will coordinate
efforts to apprehend senior leaders and interdict
any cross-border movements.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 2
A broader Peace Support Group, bringing together major
bilateral and multilateral donors, should work in parallel to:
□ review development assistance;
□ prepare to support transitional processes such as
constitutional reform and viable elections; and
□ start planning for how to deal with a possible
"peace dividend".
A follow-up to the 2002 London conference, which first
brought donors together to discuss the implications of
Nepal's conflict, might facilitate consideration of these
matters. In any event, work on transitional arrangements
should start immediately. Recent events suggest a
precipitous collapse of the inherently unstable royal
government is a distinct possibility. The international
community has offered considerable moral support to
Nepal in its search for peace and democracy. It must
now get ready to translate that support into practical,
coordinated and complementary efforts to deliver a viable
peace process.
Time is running out for the royal government. Protests
have spread across the country and the seven-party alliance
has vowed to continue its general strike - which is being
widely observed - until full democracy is restored.
Professionals, business associations, civil servants and even
the families of security personnel have started supporting
the movement.1 The king has met the Indian, U.S. and
Chinese ambassadors, apparently to stress that he is not
entirely opposed to dialogue. But he has yet to win back
the support of most royalist politicians let alone convince
the mainstream parties that any call for talks would be
sincere. India has sent a senior envoy, former minister
Karan Singh, to ram home the message that nothing
short of a substantive transfer of power to an all-party
government will satisfy protestors and gain international
The king has never enjoyed the level of popular support for
his experiment in autocratic rule that his supporters have
claimed. Nevertheless, he had hoped that force of arms and
the lack of an overwhelmingly popular alternative would
secure his position. The April 2006 uprising has proved
his calculation wrong. Simmering public discontent grew
1 For example, the home ministry, which controls the police,
announced on 18 April that it had arrested 25 of its civil
servants, including four senior officials, for demonstrating
against the king inside the ministry. "Officials held in Nepal
protest", BBC News, 18 April 2006.
with the failure of royal rule to deliver tangible benefits and
Gyanendra's consistent refusal to seize opportunities for
peace. The parties' general strike (initially called for
6-9 April and later extended indefinitely) galvanised
this widespread disillusionment and translated it into a
movement that - whether or not it immediately forces
the palace to climb down - has irrevocably changed the
political environment.
There are parallels with the people's movement of 1990
but also several key differences. Observers and participants
alike agree that this is the most widely supported series of
protests since 1990, as well as the first time since then
that crowds have repeatedly violated curfew orders even
in the face of an armed response. Unlike in other recent
demonstrations, the majority of participants have not been
party activists but a more representative cross-section of
society. As in 1990, events have been taking place across
the country; many of the most intense protests have
happened outside Kathmandu, in areas such as Pokhara
and Chitwan.
However, the movement lacks two ofthe criteria that
helped in 1990. First, the external environment has
changed: India is not likely to tighten the screws as it did
with its 1989 trade blockade, and instead ofthe post-Cold
War democratisation wave, there is a global fear of
terrorism that the king may still use to his advantage.
Secondly, the high hopes for democracy that fuelled public
euphoria in 1990 will not be repeated after the decidedly
mixed performance ofthe parties in government. Still, the
protests have been boosted by sustained media coverage,
giving participants an unprecedented awareness of parallel
efforts across the country. On the government side, there
is a grim determination from the top down not to repeat
the 1990 "mistake" of being too soft on the people.
Main features ofthe past several weeks include:
□ Parties in the background. The pro-democracy
movement was prompted by the seven-party
alliance's call for a general strike but rapidly gained
its own momentum. Party leaders have not been
seen at the forefront of demonstrations, which have
been led by lower-level cadres and non-aligned
civil society and professional associations, as well
as local youths and communities.
□ People taking charge. The intensity of popular
sentiment for change both boosts the democratic
parties' standing and constricts their actions. Party
leaders have been buoyed by the mass turn-out
against royal rule - something they had quietly
doubted until the last moment - but it does not
equate directly to support for the parties. In
particular, leaders are probably aware that they lack
a clear mandate to conclude back-room deals on
the people's behalf.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 3
□ Determined security response. The security forces
- including the Nepal Police, the Armed Police
Force and the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) - have
shown a willingness to use force, although the RNA
has been careful to keep itself in the background.
The deaths of at least ten protestors and serious
injuries of hundreds have shocked people. Whether
the security forces have the will to continue the
violent suppression of peaceful protests will
determine the royal government's capacity to
prolong its lifespan by force.
□ The Maoist role. Mainstream political leaders have
stressed that this is solely their movement, not a
joint undertaking with the Maoists. Nevertheless,
the Maoists have deliberately assisted it with
an intense military campaign that has increased
pressure on the palace. At a certain point, however,
continued violence will make it hard for the parties
to maintain their loose alliance with the Maoists
without jeopardising international support. The
allies still need each other but must perform a
delicate balancing act if they are to maximise
mutual benefits.
□ Loss of government control. Even ifthe palace
can count on unwavering army support, crucial
constituencies have come out in favour ofthe pro-
democracy movement. Civil servants - even
including senior home ministry and supreme court
bureaucrats - have called strikes; key workers in
the government banking, telecommunications,
education and health sectors have also mobilised.
Combined with support from other professionals
and the business community, this may prove a
fatal blow to the government's ability to function.
The king has been the one constant in a fluid situation.
While some hoped that he might use his 14 April Nepali
New Year address to the nation to offer concessions or
make a serious call for dialogue, he stuck resolutely to
his roadmap. Refusing even to mention the protests, he
reiterated that he would continue as before. Party leaders,
who are more keenly aware than ever that an unprincipled
short-term deal would endanger their legitimacy and
control ofthe movement, were offered nothing to bridge
the gulf of mistrust that separates them from the palace.
Only compromise can preserve the monarchy but the king
seems almost certain to leave it too late. He may prolong
the endgame as long as he has arms and money but these
will not sustain him indefinitely now that he has so
convincingly squandered popular support. The monarchy
could probably still survive with a constitutionally
circumscribed role in an early political settlement. The
longer the king stays stubbornly on his course, however,
the more likely it becomes that even a vestigial royal
institution will no longer be acceptable to many Nepalis.
External actors inevitably are playing and will continue
to play parts in Nepal's affairs. The question is how to
manage this so as to help smooth a transition which, in the
best of circumstances, carries many risks of instability.
Competitive conflict resolution efforts would almost
certainly be counterproductive. Far more can be gained if
the major international players speak with a common
India, the U.S. and the UK - the three nations that should
form the core of a Contact Group on Nepal - should be
congratulated for maintaining unity and cohesion on
several important policy points to date. This general
concord has also helped move other nations to likeminded
positions. These areas of accord can be summarised as
□ there is no purely military solution to the conflict;
□ the Maoists should reject violence;
□ King Gyanendra should reach out to the democratic
political parties;
□ the "constitutional forces" should work together to
restore democracy;
□ political detainees should be released; and
□ neither the 8 February 2005 local elections, which
were neither free nor fair, nor any future elections
conducted without the participation of the
democratic political parties can advance restoration
of democracy.
Agreement between India the UK and U.S. on these issues
has, however, often papered over substantial differences
about the best strategies to achieve the twin goals of peace
and restoring democracy. For example, the U.S. and India
remain at odds over the merits of negotiations between
the mainstream democratic parties and the Maoists.2
Furthermore, the agreed starting point - an attempt to force
reconciliation between the parties and the palace - is
far from promising. Mistrust between those two
sides has deepened, and the king is no longer acting
constitutionally.3 A genuine alliance between the
mainstream parties and the king, therefore, is unlikely. At
the same time, the dialogue between those parties and the
Maoists has opened a new and encouraging route towards
peace and already produced a promise by the insurgents
to end the conflict and enter multiparty politics. Although
2 See Crisis Group Asia Report N°106, Nepal's New Alliance:
The Mainstream Parties and the Maoists, 28 November 2005.
3 See Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°41, Nepal: Beyond Royal
Rule, 15 September 2005.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 4
many obstacles, including some risks, remain, it is essential
that this process continue as long as it offers the possibility
of a principled, democratic settlement.
The time has come to expand upon the existing positive
areas of international agreement by developing more
detailed common principles and policies.4 Such a shared
tactical and strategic concept is essential to help end
the current deadlock in Nepal. Crisis Group has long
advocated a loose form of Contact Group as the best way
of achieving a more coherent and united international
approach. This briefing outlines how such a Contact Group
and a broader, complementary Peace Support Group could
be formed and proceed.
□ Contact Group. This would consist of three major
states with political leverage: India, the U.S. and
the UK. Their strengths and capacities are largely
complementary. Together they could exert
considerable political influence, which should be
allied to the UN's capacity, neutrality and positive
reputation in Nepal. The Contact Group should
draw on the particular expertise of other important
institutions. China has traditionally avoided active
participation in such groups but there is considerable
utility in keeping its policy broadly in harmony.
This suggests that China might optimally play an
observer role within the Contact Group.5
□ Peace Support Group. This would bring together
other concerned states (primarily Nepal's major
donors: Japan, the European Union (EU) and
its member states, Norway, Canada, Australia,
Switzerland and the like) and the international
financial institutions (World Bank, International
Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank). Nepal
is heavily dependent on foreign aid, and planning
for financial and developmental support both during
and after a peace process will be crucial.
have foundered on various issues, not least flaws in the
composition ofthe groups themselves and their members'
competing interests. This can be avoided with careful
Nepal is a case where a group-of-friends approach can
work. China's recent shift in position suggests the basic
criterion that the major external players should not have
conflicting interests can be met.7 The proposed Contact
Group is largely self-selecting and combines complementary
capacities, another main criterion for success. The Peace
Support Group would bring together a range of actors
who might not take such a direct political role but whose
parallel participation would be a major asset.
In practical terms, a Contact Group would build on the
cooperation and dialogue that India, the U.S. and UK
have already developed. But, however loosely structured,
it would bring a few key changes:
□ explicit public commitment to shared principles
for peace;
□ agreement on common policies, probably discussed
in detail in Kathmandu but clearly endorsed at
a senior level in capitals;
□ clear presentation of a united policy front towards
the main actors in Nepal; and
□ willingness to collaborate with the wider support
group where appropriate.
The creation of a Contact Group would not require its
members to sunender their independence of action. Where
there was no agreed policy - for example, on whether to
accept a particular format for talks - the group would
simply act as the first forum in which to discuss options
and explore the possibility of reaching consensus.
Groups of'Friends" have been a crucial element in various
conflict resolution processes since the experiences of El
Salvador and other Latin American countries in the early
1990s.6 While some have been very successful, others
See Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°36, Nepal: Responding to
the Royal Coup, 24 February 2005.
5 See Crisis Group Asia Report N°l 11, Nepal: Electing Chaos,
31 January 2006.
6 Teresa Whitfield, "A Crowded Field: Groups of Friends, the
United Nations and the Resolution of Conflicf', occasional paper
ofthe Center on International Cooperation, Studies in Security
Institutions, vol. 1, New York University, June 2005. Whitfield
identifies five basic criteria characterising the circumstances
in which groups may be helpful: the external context of a given
conflict; the nature of its parties; the interests ofthe group's
members; the group's composition and the clarity of its
leadership; and the phase ofthe process in which it is engaged.
7 In January 2006, China made its first public comments on
Nepal's internal affairs, noting the "changes in Nepal's political
situation" and calling on "all parties" to narrow their differences
through dialogue. Statement by Kong Quan, foreign ministry
spokesman, 24 January 2006, available at http://www.finprc. gov.
cn/ce/cenp/eng/fyrth/t232764.htm. On his visit to Kathmandu
in March 2006 State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan made a point
of holding high-profile meetings with mainstream party leaders.
"Chinese leader completes Nepal visit",, 18
March 2006. Since January 2006, Japan, Nepal's largest bilateral
donor, has also been outspokenly critical ofthe royal government
and has called for reconciliation and a return to constitutional
rule. See Crisis Group Report, Electing Chaos, op. cit.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 5
A.    Members, Capacities and Interests
The strength ofthe Contact Group is that it would build
upon each of its member's capacities and interests while
exposing none of them to charges of undue unilateral
1.       India
India has the greatest potential leverage over Nepal and the
most sophisticated understanding of its politics. It is not
squeamish about dealing with the Maoists if need be -
something which is essential but is more difficult for other
major states. The policy of trying to bring Nepal's Maoists
into the mainstream through dialogue has always prompted
some doubts in Delhi but the increase in instability under
Gyanendra's direct rule has created a broad consensus
that it remains the least bad option.8 India also has long
experience of contributing to conflict resolution and peace
processes elsewhere in the world, not least as a major
contributor of peacekeeping troops. Indian diplomats
have direct experience of such operations and the political
requirements for their success.
India knows that it can only achieve its policy goals
in Nepal unilaterally at a great cost. Working within a
multilateral framework would allow the same goals
to be reached without the risk of appearing to be overtly
interventionist. It makes sense for India to take the lead in
putting together a multilateral effort rather than constantly
fending off a variety of other players. There are certain
tasks, such as ceasefire or election monitoring, that others
are better positioned to perform.
Indian participation would help ensure that any potential
UN involvement was concisely defined and dedicated
to those areas where the organisation's expertise is
recognised, such as the ciurent mission ofthe Office ofthe
High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). India
has always preferred that the UN not have a prominent
role in South Asian issues due to its experiences in
Kashmir and concerns about losing influence to the
Security Council. However it would be able to tolerate a
limited UN role. Indian participation, along with Chinese
observer status, would also help defuse great power
tensions and rivalries over Nepal. Crafting a multilateral
approach that recognises India's unique relationship to
Nepal, including an open border and extensive economic
and social ties, would allow for constructive multilateral
engagement without crossing any of New Delhi's red lines.
2. United States
U.S. policy remains broadly in concert with India and the
UK, although the U.S. has been more sceptical ofthe
Maoists' willingness and ability to accept democratic
politics. Sustained pressure on the king to engage with the
political parties has yet to bear fruit, and frustration with
the palace's inflexibility is mounting, as are Congressional
concerns over the failure of current efforts to roll back
autocratic rule and address the insurgency.9
U.S. political clout, including its weight within the UN
Security Council, is crucial for an effective Contact Group
but Washington's policies are likely to achieve more if
aligned with those of India and others. The U.S. retains
good links with the palace and the RNA: it is in an
advantageous position to use these for both persuasion
and reassurance.
Collaboration with India and within a wider grouping
would serve U.S. interests in developing bilateral ties
with New Delhi (a much higher strategic priority than
involvement in Nepal), including assisting India to take
the more prominent international role that Washington
desires. The Contact Group would allow the U.S. to
participate in forging a collaborative multilateral approach
rather than be obliged to pursue a piecemeal, more
unilateral policy. A comprehensive peace agreement in
Nepal would also complement regional counter-terrorism
3. United Kingdom
The UK has invested significant political and financial
resources in conflict prevention and resolution (not least
via the Global Conflict Prevention Pool and in the UN).10
It has less direct leverage than either India or the U.S.
but its good understanding ofthe situation in Nepal and
diplomatic skills would be invaluable. Its long relationship
with the country and involvement in South Asia have
Heightened concerns about India's own growing Maoist
problem have led to a more determined policy in New Delhi,
with the central government attempting to put together a better
coordinated security and economic development package with
relevant state governments. However, the official assessment
is that Nepal's Maoists do not provide significant material
assistance to the Indian rebels. Furthermore, Indian analysts do
not believe the current royal government provides a viable basis
for a solid political counter-insurgency strategy, let alone reestablishing effective governance across the countryside. Crisis
Group interviews, New Delhi, April 2006.
Crisis Group interviews, Washington, February-March 2006.
1 ° The Global Conflict Prevention Pool was established in 2001 to
make the UK's approach to conflict prevention more effective
through the sharing of information and resources between the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Ministry of Defence
and the Department for International Development (DfID).
In 2004/2005 it had a program budget of £74 million. "Conflict
Prevention", Foreign and Commonwealth Office website,
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 6
given it depth of understanding and close relationships
with regional players, including an enduring relationship
with the RNA and the Nepalese ruling elite.
Putting together a group of friends requires particular
diplomatic skills that play to two proven UK strengths:
acting as a bridge between the U.S. and others, in particular
the EU; and skill at UN-oriented diplomacy, including
mamtaining smooth working relationships between players
in New York and elsewhere. UK military expertise in Nepal
could also prove particularly useful in any disarmament,
demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) exercise.
Historic and sentimental links to Nepal are important
in the UK, where there is a degree of public interest
and concern as well as some political interest (e.g. the
parliamentary all-party group). Playing a pivotal role in a
broader coalition would be well received by the British
public, as well as offer London greater leverage than it
could exercise on its own.
4.       The United Nations
The UN's expertise and standing within Nepal make it
indispensable to any multilateral effort. While the actions
of the major states are generally attributed to their
real or perceived interests, the UN is seen as neutral. The
mainstream parties and the Maoists consequently look
favourably on some degree of UN involvement in a peace
process. If called on to help broker a ceasefire and draw
up a professional separation of forces agreement, the
organisation's technical expertise would be enhanced by
longstanding personal relations of trust between senior
officials in its peacekeeping branch (DPKO) and RNA
officers who have been involved in peacekeeping missions.
Moreover, the UN Secretariat is already engaged in crucial
areas in the country and can help to keep the Nepal issue
more firmly on the agenda in New York. However, there
is no predetermined role for the UN within the proposed
Contact Group. The Secretary General might choose to
keep the organisation's options open by avoiding too close
an association with the Contact Group's forceful political
agenda. While, as already noted, India has traditionally
been reticent to accept a UN role in conflicts in its
perceived sphere of influence, a carefully delimited and
constructive role for the organisation could well serve its
long-term foreign policy interests in seeing the situation
in Nepal peacefully resolved.
Nepal's friends should unite around a set of basic
principles for resolving the conflict. The ultimate aim is
not to shape the country's political institutions or force a
particular outcome but to use all leverage to help bring
about peace and create an environment in which the Nepali
people can determine their own future. Putting principles
at the centre of planning is the best way of avoiding the
trap of supporting state institutions for their own sake,
even when they may be obstacles to peace. These
principles should include:
1. a negotiated peace process, involving wide
participation of civil society representatives,
including women, notjust the armed parties and
political elites;
2. Maoist rejection of violence and acceptance of
complete disarmament as part of a negotiated
3. full respect by all parties for fundamental human
4. establishment of constitutional democracy, with
sovereignty vested in the people and at most a
basically ceremonial role defined for the monarch;
5. an environment of complete political freedom
enabling viable elections that reflect the popular
6. full civilian control of security forces;
7. establishment of a more inclusive political system
that addresses the enduring underlying causes of
conflict and underdevelopment; and
8. setting of an equitable development and economic
agenda that benefits the entire country and
particularly its traditionally marginalised groups.
By establishing a common platform of practical policy
initiatives built upon points about which all sides would
have difficulty disagreeing, the Contact Group and its allies
could remove a number of major impediments. Indeed,
the further the Contact Group could go in spelling out a
roadmap for peace, the more likely the process would
move forward.
The tasks the Contact Group should initially undertake fall
into two broad categories: immediate practical planning,
designed to be prepared for the contingency of a rapid
change of government and to operationalise a viable
ceasefire and a credible demilitarisation strategy; and
maintaining pressure on both armed sides for a peace
process, while strengthening the democratic mainstream.
1.       Immediate practical planning
The contingency of a sudden collapse of the present
royal government
Given the volatile situation on the ground, as well as some
signs that the royal family has already begun to move
assets out ofthe country, the Contact Group needs to take
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 7
a hard look at what to do in the event of the sudden
collapse ofthe royal government. An abrupt and unplanned
transition could well lead to considerable violence in the
Kathmandu valley and set off a free-for-all as all sides vied
for power. The Contact Group should initiate discussions
with the RNA and the Maoists, urging them to refrain from
offensive actions should there be such a development and
to develop direct lines of communication with each other in
such circumstances. The Contact Group should make clear
that the only arrangement that could gain international
support during the transition would be some form of
government of national unity led by civilian democratic
In such a situation - or indeed in any peace process which
assumed the cantonment of armed forces - the role ofthe
police would be critical. The Nepal Police is demoralised
and more detached from local communities than at any
stage in its history. Contact Group members, supported by
other donors, should give urgent thought to how best to
strengthen community-based policing and ensure that basic
security functions can be carried out once a ceasefire is in
An international military observer mission to monitor
and observe a ceasefire
The Contact Group should lead planning for a small
international mission, with 100 to 200 members but not
including troops from India or the U.S. (given the extreme
political sensitivity of deploying their forces in Nepal).
Such a mission would require helicopters in order to
investigate quickly any local incident or ceasefire violation.
Given that the conflict does not have traditional front
lines, and no internationals have been targeted, it could be
deployed with a relatively light footprint.
The urgency for developing concrete plans is considerable.
The 2003 ceasefire and code of conduct between the
RNA and Maoists collapsed in no small part because the
agreement did not include a monitoring or enforcement
mechanism. The Contact Group would need to flesh out
the exact roles for the proposed ceasefire monitoring
mission. An important question is whether the mission
would be a purely reactive body to investigate violations,
or would try to create the conditions for achieving lasting
peace by monitoring and assisting the disarmament and
demobilisation process. Such a mission could be structured
and operate in a variety of ways under the UN umbrella,
including through the Department of Political Affairs
(DPA), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations
(DPKO) or even the Human Rights office. There is a clear
need to move forward with far more detailed operational
planning and to determine who might contribute to such a
mission. Given Nepal's generally good international image
- the current chaos aside - a number of nations would
likely be willing.
Contact Group planning would demonstrate international
seriousness of purpose and help remove a major stumbling
block to a lasting peace. Again, this force should be
carefully delimited in scope and responsibilities. As
OHCHR has demonstrated, a small mission of dedicated
professionals (in this case military observers rather than
human rights experts) can make a demonstrable difference
on the ground.
While the Maoists have repeatedly stated they would
welcome international monitoring of a ceasefire, there
has been no concerted effort to put this to the test. Previous
ceasefires - whether unilateral or bilateral - that have
lacked this quality have collapsed in disarray and mistrust,
making the conflict ever more intractable. By putting a
practical plan on the table, the Contact Group would give
all parties to the conflict important guarantees and set in
place an important piece of a practical road map.
A ceasefire and effective peace negotiations are two
different things, and both will ultimately be necessary.
Theoretically, a ceasefire and negotiations could exist
independently of each other, and the overall agenda set out
in this paper is not dependent upon a halt in hostilities.
Given the triangular nature of any prospective peace talks,
however, a ceasefire may well be the logical and most
feasible starting point.
A reasonably strong case can be made that the UN is best
placed to lead and conduct such a monitoring mission.
It has considerable experience and enjoys generally
high regard among Nepalis, as well as a long working
relationship with the RNA. Given that no one envisages a
large peacekeeping force, nor one with coercive powers,
various alternative arrangements may be feasible. Some
have suggested that the EU could take on the responsibility
but this would require capacities well beyond what it
currently has dedicated to Nepal. Another alternative might
be members ofthe proposed Peace Support Group.
To be successful, a ceasefire monitoring process
would need a solid sense of Nepali ownership: not only
cooperation from the two warring sides but also active
support from mainstream parties, civil society and local
populations. The OHCHR mission has demonstrated that
such synergy is possible.
A channel of communication with the Maoists
hi order to develop its plans for a military observer mission
more fully and establish effective red lines for an eventual
peace settlement, the Contact Group would need to engage
directly with the Maoists. By no means should this be read
as an endorsement of their political goals or violent
methods. It would be a practical step for testing Maoist
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page <
willingness to abandon armed insurgency and enter a
legitimate political process.11
Such a communication channel would facilitate key tasks,
□ discussing the modalities of an international
ceasefire monitoring mission;
□ starting talk on potential DDR packages for Maoist
cadres and leadership;
□ reaching agreement on how a ceasefire and DDR
efforts could be guaranteed through the existing
Maoist command and control structures;
□ reaching agreement on how best to conduct the
force census necessary to advance the above
□ establishing practical plans for an internationally
verifiable cantonment of weapons as part of a
broader peace agreement and as a necessary
precursor to DDR efforts; and
□ developing practical plans to ensure the Maoists
do not practice extortion or intimidation during a
In view ofthe highly sensitive nature of such discussions,
they would likely best be conducted by a military officer
from a Contact Group country in close conjunction with
representatives of whichever institution would be expected
to lead the international military monitoring mission. It is
important that whoever is expected to implement these
arrangements be closely involved in negotiating them.
2.       Maintaining pressure for a peace process
Targeted sanctions
All Contact Group members have stated clearly it is the
king's responsibility to reach out to the political parties
and restore democratic rule. Since he has continued to
ignore such calls, it is appropriate to introduce targeted
sanctions aimed exclusively at the ruling elite. The most
effective would include:
□ Visa ban. The international community has
implemented only the most tepid of initial
measures with regard to visits and travel by senior
representatives of the royal government. For
example, both the U.S. and the EU have quietly
embargoed official ministerial visits but this has
not precluded members of the government and
11 Diplomatic missions, including those of India, the U.S. and
UK, felt it worthwhile - and not too uncomfortable - to meet
Maoist leaders during the 2003 ceasefire. The U.S.'s proscription
ofthe Maoists as terrorists does not in itself impose restrictions on
U.S. government officials dealing with Maoist representatives.
royal family from visiting European capitals or
otherwise travelling freely. The members ofthe
Contact Group - and the EU as a whole - should
institute a full visa ban on the royal family; all
ministers; RNA officers ofthe rank of brigadier-
general and above; officers in command of units
accused of serious abuses;12 senior palace advisers
including, but not limited to, Pashupati Bhakta
Maharjan, Sharadchandra Shah, Sachchit Shamsher
Rana Parsu Narayan Choudhury, Chiran Shamsher
Thapa and Keshav Raj Rajbhandari;13 and palace-
appointed regional and zonal administrators.
Asset investigation in preparation for freeze. A
joint EU-U.S. task force should identify offshore
assets ofthe royal family and the officials cited
above. The U.S. Treasury Office of Foreign Assets
Control and the UK Treasury International Financial
Services Team, in view ofthe breadth oftheir
expertise, should be given the lead within such a
joint task force.
Restriction of RNA participation in UN
peacekeeping operations. The RNA would feel
acutely a significant curtailment of opportunities to
participate in UN peacekeeping operations, which
bring it not only international prestige but also
significant income. Indeed, its penchant for
contributing to such activities - at levels which have
increased significantly since it was first mobilised
for domestic counter-insurgency duties - undercuts
claims that it is overextended in combating the
Maoists.14 Discussion about the merits of restricting
RNA participation in peacekeeping has made
modest progress in New York but stronger
leadership from the Contact Group could rum this
into effective leverage.
Members ofthe Contact Group, or their respective
parliaments, should make clear to the UN's
This would include officers who have moved on to new
commands since uninvestigated violations took place. Although
the RNA has taken action against a number of violators, concerns
about process and level of punishment persist. Accusations can
only be considered satisfactorily investigated if the RNA grants
OHCHR unrestricted access to the proceedings and rulings
of courts martial (which remain beyond the jurisdiction of the
Nepal supreme court).
13 It is no coincidence that all these senior advisers also played
major roles in the violent attempted suppression ofthe 1990
democracy movement. See Crisis Group Report, Electing
Chaos, op. cit.
14 Until mid-2003 Nepal had some 1,000 troops, police and
military observers deployed on UN missions at any given time.
Since then, these deployments have increased rapidly and now
average 3,500. In January 2006, 3,023 troops, 46 police and 448
observers were deployed according to DPKO statistics.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 9
Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)
that they expect RNA units accused of serious rights
violations to be excluded from peacekeeping
operations. They should also reassure DPKO that
they would help address any resultant mission
shortfalls. The international community rightly
does not wish to isolate the RNA but can justifiably
make all engagement conditional on concrete steps
towards both ending the climate of impunity
surrounding abuses and preparing to become
accountable to an elected, civilian government.
As with all sanctions, these measures should not be empty
threats. Governments need to devote attention to how to
implement them in order to be credible. Targeted sanctions
will also be a blunt weapon ifthe reasons for imposing
them and conditions for lifting them are not clearly
specified. The purpose of these measures is to encourage
a return to democracy and engagement in serious peace
negotiations. Given the king's record of empty promises,
strict tests should be set for lifting sanctions, including
concrete steps to surrender powers and return the
government to accountable representatives and similarly
demonstrable progress in entering and sustaining serious
Pressure on the Maoists
The international community has had extremely limited
influence on the Maoists. However, their desire to win
international acceptability and their preference for some
third-party engagement provide significant leverage
which is yet to be fully exploited.15 The Maoists' ultimate
intentions remain frustratingly opaque, despite their formal
commitment to entering mainstream, multiparty politics.
It is essential to maintain pressure on them to ensure that
their aims cannot be achieved through violent or other
illegitimate means. The best way to test the Maoists is by
their actions on the ground. Negotiations with a unified
leadership - which appears to exercise a reasonable degree
of command and control over the movement as a whole -
may well be preferable to the insurgency splintering and
becoming more intractable.16 The Contact Group should:
□ offer the Maoists assurances that international
recognition as a legitimate political force will be
possible once they have entered an internationally
monitored ceasefire, negotiations on a peace
settlement and a demonstrable process of
disarmament, with the aim of joining mainstream
democratic politics; and
□ warn the Maoists that if they obstruct progress
towards a peace process or fail to respect the
understandings they have entered into with OHCHR,
donors and the mainstream political parties,
Contact Group members will coordinate efforts
to apprehend senior leaders and interdict any
cross-border movements; explore the possibility
of referring Maoist abuses to an appropriate
international criminal tribunal; and, if a democratic
government is restored, give considerably enhanced
help to its counter-insurgency efforts.
Support for the democratic mainstream
While all Contact Group members have identified
restoration of democracy as a central strategic goal, they
have remained somewhat reluctant to offer the mainstream
parties the kind of direct organisational support that has
been proffered in similar situations in which democratic
forces have been trying to dislodge an autocratic
government. High-profile meetings between joint Contact
Group representatives and the seven-party alliance would
both give the parties important moral support and allow
for practical operational discussions on how best to move
forward. Such discussions should include the contours
of a government of national unity, how to manage a
constitutional reform process (almost certainly through
some form of constituent assembly),17 conditions for
eventual elections, support for political party reform, and
means of enhancing negotiating capacity in advance of
further engagements with the Maoists and/or the Palace.
As Contact Group members have already made clear,
any elections held without participation ofthe major
democratic parties in a free and fair environment would
be fruitless, as would be any palace effort to perpetuate
royal rule through another hand-picked prime minister.
For example, since the Maoists promised to adhere to the Basic
Operating Guidelines developed by major donors (see "UN
welcomes Maoists' recognition of BOG",, 22
December 2005), they have made efforts to address promptly
every violation brought to their attention via the UN. Most
importantly, engagement with regional commanders - the level
at which leaders' stated policy is translated into action on
the ground - has been productive. Crisis Group interview,
Kathmandu, April 2006.
16 See Crisis Group Reports Nepal's Maoists, op.cit. and
Electing Chaos, op. cit.
The longstanding Maoist demand for an elected constituent
assembly has now been agreed to by the mainstream seven-party
alliance. Some legal analysts suggest the king might be persuaded
to accept a constituent assembly with pre-negotiated guarantees
to preserve at least a ceremonial monarchy, although there have
been no signs that Gyanendra is yet prepared to compromise. See
Crisis Group Asia Report N°99, Towards a Lasting Peace in
Nepal: The Constitutional Issues, 15 June 2005, and Crisis Group
Report, Nepal's New Alliance, op. cit.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 10
The establishment of a Contact Group should by no means
diminish the crucial role of the wider community of
Nepal's friends and development partners. In fact, its
formation would make it all the more essential that those
other nations and institutions develop a consensus and
practical initiatives as integral components of a coordinated
push for peace. Formation of a broader Peace Support
Group, which combined the established operational
strengths of its members, would be of enormous utility.
A.    Members
The Peace Support Group would ally the financial,
technical and developmental capacities of its members to
the political leverage ofthe Contact Group. Here, too,
major donors share similar fundamental aims, all of which
could be better achieved through a common platform.
Key members should include the EU, Japan, Norway,
Switzerland, Canada and Australia, working in concert
with the major international financial institutions - the
World Bank, International Monetary Fund and the Asian
Development Bank. It would also be useful to have an
observer from the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC).
There is considerable scope for greater EU involvement in
the peace process but this probably requires more on-the-
ground representation. Only five ofthe EU's 25 member
states have a full-time diplomatic presence in Kathmandu,
which has made it difficult to place Nepal issues prominently
on the agenda in Brussels. Ifthe EU wishes to engage in
the situation more directly, it should consider appointing
an EU Special Representative. This would not only enable
better coordination within the EU and more attention to
Nepal in Brussels, but also facilitate more effective
communication between the EU and the Contact Group.
It might be useful for the Peace Support Group to establish
a working group to keep international NGOs fully
informed and to benefit from their input. Obviously many
such NGOs hope to steer clear of any explicitly political
discussions but all can make an important contribution to
peace by sharing their insights from the field. The UN's
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
(OCHA) has already done some coordination through its
Combined Humanitarian Action Plan. This exercise may
offer pointers for further work in enhancing cooperation
between international governmental and non-governmental
In order to place Nepal more prominently on the
international agenda, the Peace Support Group and the
Contact Group could organise an international conference
along the lines ofthe 2002 London conference, which
was useful in focusing the international approach and
generating potential policy responses based on a shared
vision ofthe conflict.18 Beyond supporting an integrated
approach to security, reform and development,
participants stressed the urgent need to tackle poverty,
exclusion, poor governance, discrimination, corruption,
livelihoods and human rights.19 The 2002 conference
called for a further meeting;20 the time would seem to
be ripe for such a session.
Donors have in the past met biannually with the
government of Nepal under the auspices of the Nepal
Development Forum. The 2006 session will not be held
due to deteriorating relations. A group of major donors
met in London in November 2005 and issued a common
statement regarding their approach.21 They recognised
that peace is a prerequisite for development, called on all
actors to commit to a durable ceasefire as a first step in a
wider peace process and reaffirmed their willingness to
support a democratic and inclusive peace process.
A follow-up to the 2002 London conference could
both build upon this effort and serve as a more effective
alternative to the suspended Nepal Development Forum.
In the current political context, it should not invite Nepali
government participation.22 However, it could devote one
session to discussions with civil society representatives
and might consider inviting mainstream party leaders to
participate in a session on longer term development plans
The conference was hosted by the British government on 19-
20 June 2002. Nepal, the UK, U.S., India, China, Russia Japan,
France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Finland, Denmark,
Australia, the UN Development Program (UNDP), the UN
Department of Political Affairs (UNDPA) and the World Bank
were represented at senior levels.
19 "UK Hosts an International Conference on Nepal", Foreign
and Commonwealth Office Press Release, London, 20 June
20 "A Chairman's Statement", International Conference on
Nepal, Armourer's Hall, London 19-20 June 2002.
21 "Meeting of a group of Nepal's development donors",
UK Department for International Development (DfTD) press
statement, 23 November 2005, at
files/nepal-donors-group-nov-05.asp. The meeting brought
together senior officials from Canada, Denmark, Finland,
Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, the UK, the U.S.,
the UN and the EU. Representatives ofthe World Bank, IMF
and Asian Development Bank contributed to part ofthe meeting
via videolink from Kathmandu.
22 In this respect, it would be closer to the February 2005
Washington conference on Bangladesh, which sent a strong
message by bringing together major donors without inviting that
country's representation. Diplomats felt this approach generated
serious attention in Dhaka. Crisis Group interviews, Washington,
London and Brussels, June-July 2005; Dhaka August 2005.
 Nepal's Crisis: Mobilising International Influence
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°49, 19 April 2006
Page 11
to be implemented after the restoration of democracy.
Donors could use such a conference to pledge support
in the context of a peace process but should be wary of
making precipitous promises at too early a stage.
The Peace Support Group should coalesce around specific
policy initiatives, both to demonstrate its unity and to
advance the peace process. These include:
1. Review development assistance
There is no desire to use development aid as a blunt
instrument or to introduce penalties that would cause
undue suffering among a population that has already been
widely victimised. That said, it is appropriate for the donor
community to review the efficacy of its programs in light of
the royal government's lack of democracy, accountability
and sustainability. Donors should conduct this review
with an eye to detennining which programs perpetuate the
government's power monopoly and which might help
break the deadlock. Such a review would work best if
based on common criteria for calibrated engagement,
identifying which types of assistance, even in potentially
unpromising areas, could support moves in the right
direction. Agreed criteria would help to avoid piecemeal
or conflicting approaches to engagement. Benchmarks for
effective political governance are particularly important.
These should include: (i) accountability, (ii) participation
and responsiveness, (iii) rule of law, (iv) transparency and
(v) non-discrimination.
2. Prepare to support transitional processes such
as constitutional reform and viable elections
Nepal's political parties have consistently advocated
restoration of democracy and some form of constitutional
revision. However, their thinking and planning have often
been shallow. They need to improve their capacity to
prepare sensible policy alternatives in these areas. Peace
Support Group help would be particularly useful in
establishing the benchmarks for an eventual election under
conditions of a ceasefire, strengthening a neutral Election
Commission and planning for deployment of election
monitors. The Group's members should encourage the
political parties to develop position papers on constitutional
reform and be ready to offer technical assistance if
requested. Transitional justice, local peace building efforts,
the inclusion of women and minorities in the peace process
and eventual demilitarisation ofthe Maoist movement -
beyond physical disarmament - are all areas where Peace
Support Group involvement would be beneficial.
3.       Start planning for a possible "peace dividend"
A lasting peace will not be achieved instantly. The process
needs to include a carefully managed post-conflict phase,
which requires continued international assistance. Parties
to the conflict might be tempted into talks by promises of
a financial "peace dividend" but an ill-conceived injection
of cash and other aid could well be counterproductive,
spurring further conflict as actors fought for the spoils.
Donor help in designing and funding DDR packages will
be essential, as will efforts to restore long neglected basic
social services in villages. As the peace process takes
hold, more significant steps may become possible. There
is potential for significant international commitment:
despite Nepal's currently constricted development space,
not a single donor has pulled out. Institutions such as the
World Bank could play a critical role, for example on
possible debt relief. Nepal is theoretically eligible but has
not met requirements such as having a functioning reform
program. Advance planning with the mainstream parties
could position it more quickly for greater help following a
peace deal.
Once it is up and running, the Peacebuilding Commission
established by the UN General Assembly and Security
Council in December 2005 could coordinate support to a
post-agreement Nepal under its mandate to assume a key
role with respect to countries emerging from conflict.
However, it will be a number of months before the
Commission takes shape and, given other priorities that
are already on the Security Council agenda, it is unlikely
to get involved quickly unless the government of Nepal
specifically requests its assistance.
Building greater international unity and consensus, while
invaluable, will not in itself overcome all the obstacles to
peace. A lasting peace can only be secured by the people of
Nepal working together and forging difficult compromises.
Equally, a Contact Group might not erase all the policy
differences between its members but it would give them
far more effective leverage and could help establish a
practical roadmap for peace. It is not difficult to imagine
the parameters of a peace deal that would be acceptable
to the political parties, the monarchy and the Maoists.
However, it has remained quite difficult for all sides to
approach such an agreement. Even if the current
movement succeeds in restoring democracy, that will only
be the start of a long and tough road to peace. In any case,
the coordinated international assistance possible through a
Contact Group will be essential.
Kathmandu/Brussels, 19 April 2006
Crisis Group
International Headquarters
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E-mail: brussels(@,
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