Maoists must be given a chance, Nepal tells US official

Kathmandu, October 4:

CPN-UML General Secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal, who today held a meeting with a top visiting US official, said he told the latter that “a chance must be given to the Maoists if they are keen to join the mainstream.”

Steven R Mann, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central and South Asian Affairs,

arrived here yesterday on a four-day visit.

Mann met Nepal as part of the mission to find out what the Maoists have in mind and whether they are going for an October revolution.

“He is on an exploration visit. He wanted to know what the Maoists are up to. Are they really going for an October revolution the way they are talking about? This is the main question he is here with,” Nepal told this daily.

Reacting to a query from Mann concerning the position of the alliance on the issue of taking the Maoists in the government while they still wield arms, Nepal told Mann that “this issue will be debated in the October 8 summit meeting.”

While Mann wanted to know what the options would be if the Maoists go for the October revolution as talked about by their leader Prachanda, Nepal said that he told the visiting US official that “at least a section of the party would be really keen to join mainstream politics and that they should be encouraged.”

According to Nepal, he reassured Mann of the willingness demon-strated by the Maoists to join the mainstream provided there were real political changes.

“The options we now have are giving them a chance and watching. The party could have two dimesions, but we must encourage those who would be against wielding guns,” Nepal told Mann. He also shed light on the unfolding peace process and the upcoming summit.

Mann also met Nepali Congress (D) President Sher Bahadur Deuba. “He wants the peace process to move ahead. Ditto in the case of the democratisation process,” NC (D) leader and former minister Dr Prakash Sharan Mahat, who was also present in the meeting, said.

Mann is also said to have expressed concern over the Maoists’ commitment to democracy, to what they have agreed to and arms management.

“He is of the view that the arms issue should not affect the peace process,” Dr Mahat said.

Mann, who will go back on Friday, is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and a section of business and civil society leaders.

Someone who had joined the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in May 2006, Mann is responsible for the full range of foreign policy issues in the region, including management of US relations with India and region-wide energy issues.

From 1995 to 1998 he was the State Department’s Country Director for India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.