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State

Capital

Nepal

Katmandu

Currency unit

Nepali rupee

Connections

Bhutan

India

Population

South Asia

Tibet

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

A (former) kingdom on the southern fringe of the Himalaya. It has borders with Tibet, India and Sikkim (now part of India). Like Tibet it was closed to Europeans until the late 19th century. During the period of the British Empire in India Nepal had a treaty relationship (1815, following the Gurkha war; 1923 complete independence) with the British but was not ruled by the British. That is, there was a British representative in the capital but he was an ambassador rather than a Resident or Political officer (the British supervisor of a native State).

The British recruited soldiers from Nepal to serve in the Indian army, and still do. Following Indian independence Nepal continued to be an independent state, though its freedom of action is limited by the fact that India has a customs agreement. In 1990 India used the Customs agreement to bring pressure on Nepal by preventing Nepali imports from passing through India. This caused economic paralysis.

The present dynasty of kings came to rule in the country in 1768. Its origin is from the Kings of Udaipur in India, one of whom, Prithvi Narayan Shah, conquered the valley of Nepal in 1768 and united several earlier kingdoms thus founding the modern state.

Nepal was the last remaining independent Hindu kingdom, although the language of some of the people (such as the kingdom of Mustang) derives from Tibet rather than from India and some of the people are Buddhists who look towards Tibet for their cultural origins. The founder of the Buddhist religion is said to have been born in territory which is now in Nepal. Buddhism is said to have entered Tibet from Nepal. (Buddhism arose as an Indian religion - a reformation of Hinduism, but died out in India while it spread to many of the surrounding areas). Genetically the people are a mixture of Tibetan and Indian types.

Although the frontier with Tibet is militarily difficult, India has a worry that China might threaten India through this area, which is one reason why India took over neighboring Sikkim, a small kingdom which once had a similar status to Nepal's. The same is true of Bhutan which also sits on the ethnic fault line between India and Chinese-ruled Tibet.

At one time it looked as though if the Maoists won their war with the king, India might well step in and take over. Now that they are taking power constitutionally this seems less likely.

Languages

Nepali (Gurkha)

an Indo-European language;

Tibeto-Burman languages.

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

From 1846 following a civil war the king reigned with the aid of a hereditary prime minister (rather like the Shoguns of Japan). The PM had the real power. The office stayed in the Rana family until 1951. Then there was a revolution in favor of a democratic system like that of India and a government of the Nepali Congress party came to power which overthrew the Rana prime minister but also released the power of the king.

When king Mahendra succeeded to the throne in 1955 he ordered a constitution to be written and elections were held in 1959. However he dismissed the resulting elected government and parliament in 1960 and ruled as an absolute monarch, as did his son Birendra when he came to the throne in 1972. He ruled alone until 1989 when a constitutional regime was forced on him as a result of riots and Indian pressure.

Until November 1990 the king was an absolute monarch. The new constitution published then allowed for multi-party democracy and reduced the king to being a constitutional monarch. In November 1994 elections resulted in a Communist majority. (But probably moderate left). The government was led by the Nepal Congress Party.

The king was killed in a palace massacre 2 June 2001, apparently by the Crown prince, who had been educated at the British Private School for the aristocracy, Eton, and had been prevented by his mother from marrying a woman from a rival clan. The new king was one of the few survivors of the massacre and was less popular.

A Maoist rebellion began in 1996 and controlled large parts of the country, where the Maoists seem to be popular because of bringing modernisation to the villages. It was not at first clear whether they would gain from the assassination of most of the royal family. The new king Gyanendra - one of the assassinated king's uncles - presumably never expected to become king.

In October 2002 the king demanded the postponement of elections and the re-establishment of royal power.

June 2003
The Maoist leader was reported to be talking with the king's government to come to an agreement for a peaceful hand over of power
In February 2005 the King dismissed the assembly and the government and declared himself head of the government. In effect, he restored the absolute monarchy in an autogolpe. But the Maoists held much of the country.Was that the last act of the monarchy? In April 2006 huge demonstrations against the king suggested that he had no real support.

The arrival of an Indian Special Envoy indicated the interest of the Indian government in what happens in Nepal. On 21 April the king announced he was handing power back to the people. Would this lead to a constituent assembly and a republic?

A new government has been formed with no role for the king.

24 December 2007 - government announced Monarchy would be abolished.

Elections held on 12 April 2008 seem to have given the Maoists a large majority. This probably meant the end of the monarchy.

A republic was proclaimed by the Constituent Assembly on 28 May 2008.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

Subsistence agriculture is still the main way of life.

Recruitment into the British Army (Gurkha brigade) is a very attractive option (£1000 per month). Such trade as there is is hampered by the civil war. The Communist guerrillas syphon off much of the profit of trade with Tibet.

Tourism would be a source of income but it is discouraged by the war. Only certain areas are said to be "safe" to visit, and perhaps none are.

The king had plans to build railways. Could he raise the capital? Would they connect with China or India?

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

There is a serious problem of deforestation. As the trees growing on the steep sides of the Himalayas were keeping the soil in place, their removal causes landslips in the mountains and silting up of rivers and dams in the valleys and floods lower down in India and Bangladesh. Plans to build a huge dam may be unwise.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

The recent military-royal absolutist regime was already reported to have arrested people and imprisoned them without trial, with torture. How will the elected Maoist government behave?

Climate effects

Glaciers are melting and permafrost in the mountains. This causes landslides. There is likely to be a shortage of water with implications for agriculture and hydroelectricity.

Last revised 7/06/12


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