Into the sun

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on Wednesday discussed various aspects of the ongoing peace process and the government’s preparations for the impending talks with the UN team led by Staffian de Mistura and a second possible summit, after the postponement of last Friday’s date, with Maoist chairman Prachanda. At least one guideline Koirala gave the government talks team led by Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula, nobody can have any disagreement with — that ‘one voice’ should be presented before the UN mission. Koirala is also reported to have told the government talks team that it should give top priority to the settlement of the weapons issue in its next talks with the Maoists.

The UN team, during its July 26-August 3 sojourn here, is to assess how the world body could facilitate the peace process, including its role in addressing the contentious issues, particularly the question of arms management. The other three members of the team are technical experts who will therefore take stock of the situation from a technical point of view. The UN team, which is meeting the government talks team today, is also set to meet the Maoists, identify Nepal’s needs and submit its evaluation to UN secretary general Kofi Annan. The government should put the SPA’s coordinated position to the visiting team. More important is the need for both the Maoists and the government to speak with unison with the UN mission, which will not be able to help much if the domestic disputants cannot agree on what assistance the UN body could extend, and how.

Logically, the remaining problems should mainly be of procedural nature, as both sides have agreed on the fundamentals, in their 12-point and 8-point agreements, as well as in their accord on the ceasefire code of conduct. The SPA government and the Maoists are expected to sign a ceasefire agreement (the current truce was separately announced on separate dates, and the Maoist-announced truce ends today), peace agreement and human rights agreement. The signing of these agreements is expected to raise the level of mutual trust between the two sides on the one hand and allay fears of certain foreign powers of critical importance to Nepal on the other. The letters to the UN sent separately by Prime Minister Koirala and later by Maoist leader Prachanda have apprised the UN of the two sides’ agreement as well as differences, at least as implied by the contents of the missives. But there is no disagreement between the two in both 12-point and 8-point pacts, which should guide their conduct as regards the settlement of the weapons issue. And if there are any doubts beyond that, these could mutually be sorted out. They are thus well-advised to tell the UN mission exactly what they want, and in one voice. Ultimately, the goals are permanent peace and democracy through free and fair elections to the constituent assembly.