BOOK REVIEW: Promises and perils for new Nepal

Nepal/ Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Peace

Institute for Integrated

Development Studies (IIDS)

Kathmandu:

The Comprehensive Peace Treaty was signed on November 21, a decade and nearly 14,000 lives later.

It will be imperative for the new government to come up with clear policies on pressing affairs like: Monarchy and electoral systems; cultural, ethnicity and gender issues; decentralisation and regional development; and water management. Equally important will be foreign policy and diplomatic relations, national security, civil service reforms and a clear policy on the press and media: Precisely the areas a dedicated IIDS team de-lves into in its four-part book series, Nepal/ Conflict Resolution and Sustainable Peace.

The first, Decentralisation And Regional Development, depicts the sorry upshot of misbegotten decentralisation policies whereby resources were pumped into a handful of sectors handpicked at the incumbents’ convenience and with total disregard to regional needs. The solution: a complete restructuring of the State through redrawing of existing regional boundaries, mapping out new regions that will be more amenable to decentralisation.

The second volume, Foreign Policy And Developmental Issues, focuses on the fine balancing act that Nepal’s got to maintain while dealing with India and China. Ever since the unification of Nepal in 1768, Nepal’s foreign policy has been directed at playing the role of a “yam” between the two Asian giants. Though the Ranas virtually severed Nepal from all forms of external contact, the country reverted to its old stance of maintaining amicable relati-onship with the two countries on costs-and-benefits basis. The book emphasises equitable water resources sharing policy with India. On the economic front, the authors advice closer ties between government and private sector and the need to incorporate the defence sector into public sector management to cut back the ballooning defence expenditure. Donors are requested to help state restructuring and free their aid of intricate conditionalities.

Public Institution Reforms, the third volume, recommends radical reforms of the electoral process, highlights the crucial role of political parties and media in the new climate and emphasises greater efficiency in civil service sector through devolution of responsibilities and authority to the grassroots level. Likewise, Monarchy, National Security, Ethnicity and Gender Issues concerns the role and relevance of monarchy in Nepal’s historical context; while also recommending reforms in security institutions and socio-economic and political empowerment of Dalits, Janajatis and women through constitutional amendments and state restructuring.

Possibilities abound for the new Nepal but pitfalls, too. Following the signing of the CPT, Maoist Chairperson Pushpa Kamal Dahal was quick to remind the world that Nepalis had shown they had the capacity to bring peace to the nation. It might not need reminding that the die’s still not cast.