House made of dawn

After the formation of the three-member negotiating team, which will prepare the groundwork for opening the talks between them and the government, the CPN (Maoist) on Saturday laid out a 10-point roadmap to peace and said its supremo Prachanda himself would lead the top-level dialogue team. With this announcement, the first phase of the dialogue between Prachanda and Prime Minister Koirala now seems inevitable. It also tends to display the Maoists’ renewed commitment to peace and their readiness for genuine negotiations which are crucial for the realisation of the people’s aspirations manifested in the 19-day Jana Andolan.

As sought by the Maoists in the roadmap, the government has already initiated steps in order to facilitate the dialogue process. It has started releasing the rebel detainees and has removed the terrorist tag on them besides revoking the Red Corner notices issued against senior rebel leaders. The Cabinet has, for example, withdrawn all criminal cases against Maoist central leaders Matrika Prasad Yadav and Suresh Ale Magar, who were held in detention since February 2004. Likewise, the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the resolution for elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA), the bottomline embodied in the 12-point understanding between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists. In the meantime, the government is reported to be seriously considering an interim constitution followed by a government of the same nature, as demanded by the Maoists in its roadmap. As for the Maoists’ demands for the finalisation of the code of conduct aimed at overseeing the period of negotiations, dissolution of the parliament, delimitation of the constituencies and restructuring of the national army, both sides should adopt and accept practicality in approach as the cornerstone of all future accommodations. Nepal’s geo-political constraints also necessitate such a strategy. Most importantly, since the main demand of the people to go for a CA election has already been accepted by the parliament, it is futile to keep insisting only on the ideological framework. The upcoming talks, therefore, should be strings-free.

Moreover, the issue of integration of the “Janamukti” army with the “Royal” army has to be dealt with utmost caution and discretion. The indications are already clear the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) is being brought under the parliament and that some sort of special arrangement could be worked out to integrate the two armies. But the process cannot move ahead with pre-conditions as set by the Maoists alone. Some criterion has to be evolved. For an army to be an effective institution, it needs to instil professionalism, non-partisanship and citizen-friendly characteristics amongst its forces. The integration process has to incorporate these features while transforming the RNA into the Nepal National Army.