The enthusiasm created by the eight-point agreement between the seven-party alliance and the CPN-Maoist has come under the scrutiny of the leaders of several parties, particularly those who were left out of the negotiations. They might have genuine grievances against their leadership who failed to take them into confidence, but such inner-party problems should not be allowed to undermine the achievements of the agreement. The scrutiny has clearly demonstrated certain differences that have been made public. So it has become a matter of wide concern.

The party leaders should be patient and thrash out the differences in camera. Public statements may widen the differences and thus spoil the peace process. The negotiation at the highest political level has raised high hopes for peace. A marathon session of talks resulted in broad agreements, which provided the basic theme for strengthening the peace process and the possibility of the transformation of national polity into a new and progressive one. Commentators have raised the question of haste in arriving at the agreement, but the people welcomed it immediately. There has been general satisfaction about the outcome of the daylong parley and that is the important aspect which has to be taken positively. The peace process is never easy and smooth, so care has to be taken to honestly implement the decision. The monitoring of the implementation of the agreement is the most important aspect of the process.

The question of arms management is definitely the core issue in sustaining the peace process. Point three of the agreement states: “Requesting the United Nations to help manage the armies and weapons of both sides and to monitor them in order to ensure free and fair elections for constituent assembly.” There is no ambiguity left in the question of arms management, so the need is to expedite the process of UN involvement. The very presence of the UN to manage arms and monitor the armies of both sides will generate confidence among the people. Protection of the fundamental freedoms and human rights will enhance the feeling of freedom from terror, to which people have been subjected for a decade. The very signing of the agreement has raised hopes for peace; the presence of a UN team will fortify it. No delay should be made to benefit from the UN’s good offices.

On the other hand, the question of whether the Maoists should join the interim government before the completion of arms management or after has become insignificant particularly after the Maoist leader Prachanda’s statement regarding the insurgent army to be under the interim government. The completion of arms management cannot be a short-term affair. The moment arms management is started by the UN, the Maoist participation in the interim government will not pose any threat. Becoming part of the government furthers their responsibility to fully cooperate with the UN. Moreover, the Maoists have agreed to provide an atmosphere free of any pressure or threat to the people. The Maoist participation in the interim government is the most important part of the overall solution of the problem before the nation.

The popular uprising had a broad objective — establishment of peace and CA polls to form a new constitution that would establish a system of inclusive democracy and remodel the structure of the state. Point seven of the eight-point agreement explicitly states that the new alliance, including the Maoists, would translate the ceasefire into a permanent peace by keeping at the centre democracy, peace, prosperity, progress and the country’s freedom, sovereignty and self-respect and commitment

to resolve all problems through dialogue. The need, therefore, is not to make the differences public but to resolve them through dialogue and not to read between the lines but to read the letter and spirit of the eight-point agreement.

The world was taken aback by the recent political developments in Nepal. The great popular upsurge during the peaceful April revolution was a unique achievement. The dialogue between the government and the rebels and the quick understanding resulting in important agreements on delicate issues have created a landmark in the annals of world history. Such achievements have to be protected and strengthened. We have reasons to be proud of our achievement, but we must recognise it as the beginning of the process, which is still brittle. Nothing should be said or done which may add to the vulnerability of the peace process. Responsibility lies with the leaders of the parties to apply reason and restraint.

Peace process is never smooth. Since we have a long way to go, we have to be patient and careful. The core issues must not be ignored but non-issues should not be given prominence. On the whole, the eight-point agreement has laid a good foundation upon which a new Nepal can be built. We must save the agreement and improve it by further deliberations and dialogue.

Upadhyay is a former foreign minister