All about peace

US deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs Donald Camp has concluded his three-day visit to Nepal with a call for the palace and the political parties to reconcile their differences first to restore ‘peace and democracy’ by addressing the insurgency and economic challenges. He has reasserted the American position on Nepal. Branding the Maoists as the ‘most serious and immediate threat’ to Nepal’s peace, prosperity and democracy, he called upon them to end atrocities, declare a ceasefire, lay down arms and come for negotiations. Camp referred to the continued curbs on political freedom and civil liberties, and suggested that the ‘King should respond’ to the steps taken by the political parties for a rapprochement with him.

The need for the initiative to come from the King to end the face-off was also stressed by the top leaders of the two biggest political parties — president Girija Prasad Koirala of the Nepali Congress and general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal of the CPN-UML — during their separate meetings with Camp. Indeed, only the holders of real power can take, if they wish, concrete steps towards bringing about reconciliation. However, the American view that the legitimate political forces should unite to restore the multi-party democratic set-up raises something like a chicken-or-egg question. The political parties are unlikely to join forces with the palace unless power is handed back to them. The palace may, as all indications show, continue to go on with its own agenda.

The position taken by the US, judging at least by its public statements, does not go beyond making general statements of goodwill regarding the restoration of democracy and the ending of the confrontation between the palace and the political parties. Nor has it put forward any realistic plan for a political resolution of the Maoist insurgency, beyond telling the rebels to lay down arms and join the mainstream. This is a diplomatic way of virtually asking them to surrender. Hardly any rebel group is likey to be carried away by such an offer. What is actually needed is a flexible plan which offers a solution within a broader democratic framework. This calls for a high degree of political will, courage and vision.