Door in the wall

Like many other foreign observers, Gunther Baechler, special adviser to the Swiss Government for Peace Building in Nepal, sees the feasibility of a political solution to the conflict in Nepal. At a function in the capital on Monday, he expressed the view that the Nepalis know the ‘best way to do it’, but he stressed the need for third party facilitation which should be ‘process-oriented and non-interventionist’. He recommended a second round of talks between the Maoists and the political parties in order to “define the architecture and design” of a peace process and to remove the confusion. According to him, the international community should compel the King to invite the seven-party alliance and the rebels for talks to ‘discuss all major issues’. He also called on them to adopt a common approach to put greater pressure on both the King and the Maoists to agree to a democratic solution.

This line undoubtedly represents a more realistic analysis of the situation than the one advocated by some other foreign actors. Indeed, key foreign powers need to unify their position in favour of peace and democracy beyond mere statements of goodwill. On international role, too, this view appears to be disinterested and aimed at a political settlement. Those countries whose opinion weighs heavier in Nepal would do well by viewing the crisis here not merely in terms of their ‘strategic’ interests or whether their clout would be diminished with the presence of another agency in the peace process.

The political parties have opened a direct channel of communication with the Maoists, which is important to any peace effort. Unfortunately, the establishment and some foreigners have gone overtime to wreck it. But the rebels and the parties are currently holding a fresh round of talks to ‘refine the 12-point understanding’ they signed last November. In the capital on Monday, the alliance also gave a new lease of life to its six-point agenda it had announced on May 9 last year, which calls for the restoration of the House of Representatives or formation of an interim all-party government, talks with the rebels to arrive at a consensus on how to deal with the rebels’ demands and to prepare for the constituent assembly. The alliance has also reiterated its ‘commitment’ to implement the 12-point accord, at the same time accusing the Maoists of not complying with its spirit. It is all a matter of intention and trust. The six-point road map does not conflict in a major way with the 12-point accord. But if either side is keen to pick a quarrel, then there will be no dearth of excuses.