Nepal: Background and U.S. Relations
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WASHINGTON DC CONGRESSIONAL RESEARCH SERVICE
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A landlocked Himalayan kingdom between India and China, Nepal ranks among the worlds poorest countries. In 1990, following a democratization movement, Nepal became a parliamentary democracy under a constitutional monarch. Although this led to a process of economic restructuring and market liberalization, political instability and years of increasingly dire internal security challenges have undercut the countrys economic growth and reform efforts. Compounding the countrys difficulties was the June 2001 tragedy in which ten members of the royal family, including King Birendra, were killed in an assassination-suicide, reportedly carried out by Crown Prince Dipendra. The murdered kings younger brother, Gyanendra, now occupies the throne. In a reversal of the longer-term trend towards a democratic constitutional monarchy, King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency, assumed full powers, suspended civil liberties, and placed opposition leaders under arrest on February 1, 2005. The King explained his move as necessary to fight the Maoist insurgency. Human rights advocates continue to be concerned about the human rights situation in Nepal. U.S. foreign policy toward Nepal has provided development and security assistance while seeking to promote democracy and human rights. Prior to the kings takeover, the Kathmandu government faced serious political opposition and increasing pressure to end a Maoist insurgency that since 1996 has caused widespread violence and crippled the Nepali economy. The Nepali Maoist rebels continuing violent campaign to overthrow the Kathmandu government has heightened concerns about the governments ability to effectively counter the insurgency. There exists fear that further deterioration of Nepals security circumstances could lead to further human rights abuses, destabilize the region, spur new tensions between India and China, and potentially create a failed state in South Asia which could become a source of regional instability.
- Government and Political Science