Nepali Times
Mission impossible?


Now that its term is set to be extended by only another six months, UNMIN is putting on a brave face and saying this is not unusual. The UN's missions elsewhere have also been similarly extended. But the way Nepal's internal and external actors limited the term to six months and refused to widen its mandate signals that the mission will not have an easy time.

Earlier, the government was willing to go along with UNMIN's preference for a one-year extension. But indications from New York that India and China would not be happy with that forced it to be scaled back to six months and no widening of mandate.

"We are sending a request for a six month extension to New York this week," a close aide to prime minister Koirala told Nepali Times. He confirmed that the decision was shaped by Indian and Chinese sensitivity to the issue and their concern expressed at a Security Council meeting.
At debates in New York last month the Indian and Chinese positions were in sharp contrast to the Europeans who wanted both a longer extension as well as widening of the scope of UNMIN's presence in Nepal, diplomats said.

UNMIN chief Ian Martin had himself earlier hinted at his mission taking on additional responsibilities like peace process implementation, security sector reform and supporting security. But he is fully aware of the sensitivities of Nepal's neighbours. "When I have discussions with representatives of member states, its not a discussion in which there are deep disagreements," he said recently.

The Maoists have always been critical of UNMIN's role in the verification process, and they have lately tried to ingratiate themselves with India and China by stepping up their anti-UNMIN rhetoric.

"China and India have become suspicious over UNMIN's long term plans," Maoist leader Ram Bahadur Thapa said. "They have brought in thousands of vehicles and even helicopters and aircraft while our army has only 57 vehicles, this has raised questions within the Nepali people and our neighbouring countries whether any foreign power is trying to make Nepal a failed state and establish its base here under UN cover."

This is clear reference to favourite Maoist bogey, the United States. A US embassy official in Kathmandu confirmed that Washington is for an extention of UNMIN\'s presence in Nepal. "We believe it is necessary to extend UNMIN's mandate for a short period in order to see how the political situation is going to play out here," said the official. But the official dismissed the theory that India is concerned over the possible extension and expansion of the UN's mandate because that could pave way for a greater US role.

"Their (India's) judgment of UNMIN or its extension is not based primarily on the US, it's based on their own interest in terms of the wider region. They have traditionally been hesitant to involve the UN as you know in Kashmir," the official explained.

The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu refused to officially comment on the issue of extending the UNMIN mandate. All that an embassy spokesman in Kathmandu would say was: "Such speculation is normal in any democracy."

India has been disappointed by the postponement of elections, and has publicly urged an early election. But UNMIN wants to see conditions right before elections are held, and hence its offer to do more.

Martin said as much at a recent press meet: "Nepalis are very concerned about the peace process that they see faltering in a number of ways and they assume that it should be the role of the United Nations to help keep that process on track. Naturally many ordinary Nepalese who do not understand the limitations of the UNMIN mandate expect that we should in some way be able to support the process more broadly."

UNMIN may be calling it like it is and reflecting ground realities and challenges, but its signals haven't gone down well with Nepal's neighbours who want it to do what it can and leave.

Don't be mean to UNMIN

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)