Locus of liability

After intense deliberations, the government has finally dispatched the request letter to the United Nations seeking the international body’s assistance in ‘technical matters’ related to arms management and ‘other’ issues in Nepal. This is perhaps for the first time in Nepal’s history when an international role of such historic proportions has been officially acknowledged and cooperation sought in the settlement of the decade-long Maoist insurgency. The crucial letter forwarded to the UN headquarters is reported to have been received by the secretary-general Kofi Annan. It may be recalled that Annan and other UN top brass have shown deep interest in Nepal’s lingering crisis and even suggested sending a formal request to enable the organisation mull over the issue. Senior UN officials, including Samuel Tamrat, have been in touch with the Maoist leadership during their visits to Nepal whereas the UN Resident Co-ordinator, Matthew Kahane, had recently advised the government and the Maoists to sign a ‘ceasefire agreement’ because, according to him, the already signed truce code of conduct lacks clear-cut procedures of arms management. Even PM Koirala and home minister Krishna Sitaula had consulted UN officials earlier with regard to the UN’s possible role in Nepal’s peace process and also in assisting in holding the ceasefire indefinitely.

Now that the letter has been flagged off to New York, the multilateral world body has to formally respond to the request of Nepali government paving the way for the process to begin. In case the response is positive (there is no reason why it shouldn’t be), the UN will first send an assessment team to study the ground realities here. Thereafter, other aspects of ceasefire monitoring, including the military’s requirements of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations’ assistance will have to be taken care of. Experts feel that both the parties in the conflict should agree on a broad principle designating the assembly points — structures with well-demarcated territory — where rebel forces are corralled under a proper chain of command. The stakeholders, however, seem to be unaware of the fact that any UN involvement is a cumbersome, time-consuming and costly affair.

If the UN comes to Nepal, it will come with certain mandate and Nepal will have to help fulfil that mandate under which a mission will be sent. Nepal will also have to be ready to face the aftermaths of such a gigantic move. The modus operandi and decisions taken on a day-to-day basis, for instance, might not be to the liking of all the stakeholders at home. But since Nepal is a UN member, it cannot shy away from its individual obligation towards the world body. The seven-party alliance and the Maoist leaders, bureaucrats, army personnel, Maoist militia, right defenders and civil society members will all have to cooperate with the international body in achieving the ultimate goal of peace and stability. This, obviously, calls for setting aside petty mindsets, wranglings and suspicions by all the Nepalis, especially the principal political actors in the scene.