Don’t delay dialogue

The King has started consultations with political parties to find a way out of the impasse with them. On Thursday last, he received in audience three political leaders — Sher Bahadur Deuba (NC-D), Pashupati Shumsher Rana (RPP) and Badri Prasad Mandal (NSP). Also invited, for Friday, were three of the political leaders from among the five agitating parties — Madhav Kumar Nepal (CPN-UML), Girija Prasad Koirala (Nepali Congress) and Narayan Man Bijucche (Nepal Workers and Peasants Party). But the five parties have rejected the invitation, saying that the palace “must first create a congenial climate for a political solution” before any “meaningful” meeting can take place. According to them, the steps to create such an atmosphere include removal of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, lifting of prohibitory orders and release of those arrested in connection with the movement. The leaders have said that as they have been “deceived” by the palace from time to time, they refuse to be “deceived” again.

From their point of view, the stand of the political parties cannot be dismissed out of hand as having no merit. But it is also true that without consultation no understanding can be reached. The lack of communication and consultation is bound to prolong the political deadlock between the palace and the parties, with serious implications for the country. Restoration of peace and resumption of the democratic process are necessary to save the country from ultimate ruin. There is no alternative to a meaningful dialogue between these two forces. Domestic public opinion and international assessment are clearly seen to be in favour of the two constitutional forces coming and working together. Western countries since the beginning, and the US now, have called for the formation of an all-party government. Nepal’s neighbours also appear to support this course for peace and stability in the country.

On its part, the palace will be well advised to assure the parties that what happened in the past will not happen again. Formation of any government without the approval of the five parties will leave the problem where it is. It may indeed ignite more instability. Logically, till the elections are held, any government, including the present one, will be an ad hoc arrangement. Whatever the form, it cannot be allowed to take major decisions. Its role should be limited to running the day-to-day administration, maintaining law and order and starting a dialogue with the Maoists, and perhaps holding the elections. Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that delay in dialogue will mean the continuance of “regression,” making the future of the country even more unpredictable.