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Nepalese want a "Swiss Asia"

Keystone

Two months after a peace accord was signed in Nepal, a 25-member Nepalese delegation has visited Switzerland to get some constitutional tips.

This content was published on January 9, 2007 - 21:39

"We want to be the Switzerland of Asia," announced Prakash Man Singh, deputy secretary-general of the Nepali Congress - the biggest political party - in Bern on Tuesday.

Singh said he had learnt a lot about the Swiss system, for example concerning federalism, but added he was aware that Nepal was not in a position to simply copy the Swiss model.

The delegation, which included politicians and scientists, discussed ideas on formulating the Nepalese constitution at a seminar held over several days by the Swiss foreign ministry.

"We find ourselves in an exciting and challenging period," Singh noted.

The peace accord which was reached in November between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels put a formal end to the ten-year rebel insurgency that had killed more than 13,000 people.

The agreement was the fruit of a six-month peace process, which received support from Switzerland.

The central issue now is creating a constitution. In addition, the first democratic elections in Nepal's history are scheduled to take place in June.

Swiss efforts

Switzerland has been active in Nepal for more than 40 years and continued its efforts in the Himalayan Kingdom despite the Maoist insurgency.

Günther Bächler, a Swiss political scientist, has been working in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu as a peace advisor since May 2005.

As the only negotiator there, he succeeded via months of shuttle diplomacy in building close relations between the various parties.

Bächler said that although the sides involved in the conflict had ruled out an official third-party intervention, the preliminary talks had established an important basis for working on the peace treaty.

Under the treaty the Maoist rebels, who had been considered terrorists until May last year, are supposed to put their weapons under UN supervision.

On Tuesday it was reported that two UN monitoring teams would next week begin registering and sealing in containers weapons that had been handed in by rebels. Some government weapons would also be registered with a view to re-establishing stability.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Nepal is one of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation's (SDC) priority countries. The SDC in Nepal works mainly in rural areas, which are at least partially controlled by the Maoist insurgency.

The agency is active in rural infrastructure development, building suspension bridges and roads.

It is also involved in activities linked to the conflict such as human rights initiatives, both nationally and at local level.

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Key facts

Population of Nepal: 26.3 million.
The Maoist rebels have been fighting to abolish the monarchy since 1996. The insurgency has left more than 13,000 people dead.
In April this year King Gyanendra reinstated parliament and gave up direct rule, following mass anti-monarchy protests.
On November 8 the two sides agreed on the deal, which was the first major step towards peace.
The country's first democratic elections are scheduled to take place in June.

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