Many hope that the second summit between the SPA (government) and the CPN-Maoist rescheduled for Sunday produces positive results. But given the contentious issues yet to be resolved, it is hard to contradict those who doubt the summit will clear the deck for the constituent assembly (CA) elections. The success of the summit will depend on agreement on the contents of the interim constitution. But agreement on a host of issues like the interim status of the monarchy, arms management, formation of an interim government, replacement of the present parliament with another interim legislative mechanism seem to be dogging the negotiations between the two talks teams. In their preparatory talks on Wednesday they could not make further headway. Coordinator of the government side, Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, insisted on arms management before tackling political issues, whereas the Maoist side, led by Krishna Bahadur Mahara, refused to budge from its position that political issues should be settled first.

Raising the chicken-and-egg question over the arms management and political issues, thus letting it hinder progress towards the CA elections is not a promising approach, as it is the total political package, including the question of arms management, that is the key to breaking the deadlock. For the political parties, it may seem advantageous to derive as much gain as possible from the negotiations. Up to a certain point, it is a reasonable aspiration. But beyond that, it starts to look as if the politicians are pushing their parochial interests at the expense of the people and the country. The peace talks are beginning to spread this kind of impression. The country, with the constraints under which it has to live, may find it increasingly difficult to retain its sovereignty and territorial integrity, let alone peace, if the impasse is allowed to drag on without a satisfactory settlement of the dispute.

Reports have it that the government is trying to persuade the Maoists to agree to the retention of the present parliament along with the induction of the Maoists. But there has already been a broad agreement between the two on the questions of management of their arms and armies pending the CA polls — and for which purpose, the UN secretary general’s representative is already in town — on promulgating an interim constitution, formation of an interim government, as well as the constitution of an interim legislature. Now it does not behove either the Maoists or any constituent of the SPA or the SPA government as a whole to try to ignore the three accords. What they are supposed to do is to work out the details within the broad framework set by these accords as well as by the recent Jana Andolan. As for arms management, it must be ensured that neither side is allowed to carry arms outside the barracks or the temporary camps in the run-up to the CA polls, except those who are entrusted with maintaining law and order, or called in to handle national emergencies. Any public comment or stance by responsible leaders in the CPN-Maoist, the SPA or the government that conflict with the parameters already set can only contribute to sabotaging the peace process.