First things first

The second SPA-Maoist summit, said to be held today, some three months after their first-ever summit at Baluwatar, is not all that certain. A few days ago, Maoist chairman Prachanda and PM Girija Prasad Koirala had met, “clearing up the mist of understanding’, and sending a message to the public that probably before Dashain, all the contentious issues would be sorted out. SPA leaders sound optimistic about the summit, whereas the Maoists are not quite sure. They still suspect the intentions of some of the SPA constituents. On Tuesday, the Cabinet discussed the possible agenda for the talks and decided to handle the issue of the management of Maoist arms in such a way as to “avoid derailing the peace process’. The summit is also expected to deal with the issues ranging from the signing of the joint agreements on peace, ceasefire and human rights to timeframes for arms management and the CA polls.

The Maoists appear clear about their agenda. They have handed to SPA constituents a nine-point proposal. These proposals lay down their positions on vital issues — the status of the monarchy, the management and reorganisation of the armies and interim security arrangements, interim legislature, executive and judiciary, the process of CA polls and the representation system, reorganisation of the state and citizenship question, economic and social transformation, international relations and management of the problem of the displaced. On the other hand, the SPA does not seem to be as clear about its agend because they are still divided over the issues of the monarchy and the interim constitution.

The question arises how the SPA could parley with the Maoists when its constituents are confused over key issues. One month ago, the Maoists formed a 10-member negotiating team led by its chairman for the summit, while the SPA has yet to constitute a fresh and powerful talks team. The Maoist allegation is that the government has not responded “responsibly” to the steps they have taken in preparation for a political settlement. If the SPA government is not well prepared, even if a summit were held, it would still be talks for the sake of talks. In the event the SPA does not come up with a concrete agenda by today, the summit is unlikely to take place before Dashain, as the holidays begin tomorrow. Then the responsibility for the delay falls on the government, giving the Maoists an opportunity to accuse it of hyping the second summit “to mislead the public”. As arms management and some other vital issues are already covered in the three agreements the two sides have signed, the deadlock remains mainly because of the failure to reach an agreement on the political package. So the most important need for the two sides is to hammer out an agreement on the political questions. Other things will follow naturally. Here, Ian Martin, UN secretary general Kofi Annan’s personal representative for the peace process in Nepal, has hit the nail on the head.