Get geared or perish

Most observers of the insurgency in Nepal have maintained that there is no military solution to this problem, and hence the need for a political solution. A prolongation of the war therefore means more death and destruction, which would benefit neither side, but subject the people to unnecessary suffering and ruin the country. Yet no serious initiative has been taken for a political settlement. Amidst all this, however, it should be taken as a silver lining that the Maoists are showing more interest in settling for a compromise. In a July 30 interview to The Washington Times, Dr Baburam Bhattarai, the recently rehabilitated politburo member of the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), has cited geopolitics—i.e. Nepal’s situation between India and China—as his party’s compulsion to look for a negotiated settlement, but which the Maoists want to achieve in favour of ‘a democratic republic or for election to a constituent assembly.’ Contributing to this search, according to Dr Bhattarai, is the indifference of large sections of the urban and rural middle classes to a revolutionary change. At present, though, the state is not very enthusiastic about talks except on its terms, most importantly the laying down of arms by the rebels. This constitutes the key obstacle to starting the peace process afresh.

The Maoists’ insistence on constituent assembly, or allegedly the power ambitions of the ruling circles, are the obvious reason for the government’s lack of interest in peace talks. But during the past negotiations, even the Maoists had been ready to accept a truly constitutional monarchy. The Maoists launched their ‘people’s war’ to go beyond the 1990 Constitution in order to establish a communist state, or at least a republican one. It is therefore highly unlikely that they can concede more than a purely constitutional monarchy. The political parties, for their part, are similarly unlikely to accept a more active monarchy than the 1990 Constitution allows for. So, it seems, a lasting negotiated peace can be won only if these factors are taken into account. Towards this end—constitutional monarchy and multi-party parliamentary democracy— the efforts of all, including the political parties and the international community, need to be geared.