Beyond the sunset

The King’s call to ‘interested’ political parties for dialogue in his Democracy Day speech has generated some public debate, with pro-palace people urging the parties to agree to talks while the political leaders are ruling it out unless the King guarantees total reactivation of the democratic process. The United States has warned the parties against coming closer to the Maoists, as reflected in their 12-point understanding, which recognises constituent assembly as their common ground for a political settlement of the crisis bedevilling Nepal. According to the US, the need of the hour is a reconciliation between the palace and the parties, and the Maoists should be militarily so weakened that they become agreeable to holding talks. Significantly, the US and the Royal Nepalese Army’s line is more or less the same.

There are those who think that the King’s somewhat conciliatory tone reflects the concern of foreigners and his own failure to deliver on the promises made to the people.

Indeed, feeling deceived by the palace on several occasions, the political parties are suspicious of its motives. They are still paying the price, in terms of the erosion of public trust, of going to the palace for fruitless talks after October 4, 2002, on some mere signals, including those relayed to them through some foreign diplomats. At this moment, their plunge into talks therefore involves the risk that they will find themselves nowhere if the talks do not yield the desired results. Therefore, it is the palace which should take further confidence-building measures after having gone it alone for so long on a widely disputed course.

Fence-mending, though a good idea, will not help peace if the Maoists are left out. Acting on the US suggestion would only prolong the crisis, meaning more death and destruction. Foreigners’ ambivalent stand on the crisis is not surprising, because they will support democracy in Nepal only as long as it does not clash with their national (strategic) interests. So we should not depend too much on them for democracy and peace in Nepal. This, coupled with the recognition that there is no military solution to the Maoist insurgency, makes it necessary that all the political forces in the country, ‘legitimate’ or ‘illegitimate’, should come together, rising above their narrow interests. This involves a change in the present mindset. A ceasefire and a call to the Maoists (as well as to the political parties) for talks with an intent to find a political solution is likely to go a long way towards resolving the conflict and restoring democracy.