Bringing up baby

The Nepali people have been setting one milestone after another in their journey from conflict to permanent peace. The 11-year-old Maoist insurgency formally ended with the November 21 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government and the CPN-Maoist. But the welcome event has created new obligations and responsibilities for the parties concerned to institutionalise peace and democracy. A detailed agreement on the management of the armies and their arms is on the verge of being signed. Like the signing of the CPA, the promulgation of an interim constitution and the formation of an interim legislature and an interim government are certain to be delayed at least by a few days. The current delay is due to the tardiness in ensuring that all Maoist combatants have arrived at their temporary cantonments and that they have been properly verified and the arms belonging to them have been stored.

The Maoist second-in-command Dr Baburam Bhattarai has blamed the government for the delay. But the government seems to have its own compulsions, not the least because of the need to assuage certain powerful countries of considerable importance to Nepal which have insisted on the separation of arms from the Maoists before they are accepted into the interim government. A UN mission headed by Ian Martin, the UN secretary general’s personal representative in Nepal, will assume its monitoring functions according to the five-point letters sent separately by the disputants to the UN chief, the CPA and the arms management agreement. The UN will monitor both the armies and their arms, and the ceasefire, besides observing the constituent assembly polls. As permanent peace is returning to Nepal, it is unlikely that there will be any obstacle to obtaining the UNSC nod to go ahead with the peace-building process. This does not, however, minimise the need for Nepal to intensify its diplomatic efforts to convince the council members and other important countries for their cooperation in securing peace.

While things are by and large moving in the right direction and there is the talk of integrating the Maoist army with the state army, the modalities have to be worked out in detail. An important decision requires adequate homework and proper guidelines. Although the actual motives for the fresh Maoist recruitments are still unclear, perfectly justified is Ian Martin’s contention that no Maoist recruitments after the signing of the 25-point ceasefire code of conduct and underage combatants, i.e. those below 18, would be recognised by the UN. Now that the disputants have agreed to operate on certain norms, the reorganisation of the national army would have to be done in a transparent, civilised, and scientific way. The challenges ahead are no less daunting as all concerned set about putting words into deeds. The wisdom, sense of accommodation and statesmanship demonstrated by the leaders so far will be in even greater demand in the run-up to the constituent assembly polls and at least for some time beyond that.