Making peace Let political process take a logical course

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay

Only a conference of three major political forces and the civil society could identify the problems.

Deuba’s appointment has brought about a change in the political scenario and thou-gh it has not ended several assessments of the situation, different and ambiguous, it has broken ground for building an atmosphere of dialogue and understanding. There have been significant developments, giveing rise to hope. The meeting between Sushil Koirala, the general secretary of the Nepali Congress and Gopal Shretha, a senior central committee member of the NC (D), is such a significant development. The NC leadership had never recognised the NC(D) as a separate party. The recent meeting between Koirala and Shrestha has been a new development in the thinking of the NC leadership. The dialogue has not opened the way for cooperation between the two parties. Nevertheless, the very agreement to meet and discuss opens the party for further interaction.

The second most significant development has been the Communist Party of Nepal (UML) to recognise the fact that installation of Deuba as the prime minister is a hopeful beginning to break the stalemate of the last twenty months. The CPN-UML has once more demonstrated that it could rise up from petty party interest for the sake of larger national interest. The agitation has been going on for months with no destination and a new situation has to be used in favour of normalisation. It has made a new assessment of the situation developed after Deuba’s appointment and has given a new call pointing to a clear destination. The nation has been passing through a traumatic experience because of the on-going violence and the primary goal of politics should be the restoration of peace. Peace cannot be achieved by wishes but by action. Therefore, the most important question is what action should be taken to restore peace?

It is obvious that peace could never be achieved by ignoring the Maoists and only through boosting security measures. In order to restore peace a political process is necessary. The CPN-UML has rightly pointed out the need for a ‘round table conference’ as suggested by the Maoists. Only a broad-based political conference could determine the crucial factor of national needs and aspirations. Only a conference with the participation of three major political forces and the civil society could identify the problems faced by the nation and find ways and means to solve them. Such a conference can only open a path for national reconciliation and the formation of an interim government along with the participation of CPN-Maoist. The holding of a round table conference is the prime need of the present time.

The formation of an interim government should not be taken lightly. The Maoists have waged the war on certain political, economic and social agendas. The mere lure of ministerial berths is not going to attract them. Without a process of dialogue and without a process of achieving national consensus, the Maoists could not be a participant in any government.

Deuba has started dialogue with different parties, which is a welcome move. He has also declared his willingness to talk with the Maoists. However, his willingness to talk has not been confirmed by any move. A declaration of unilateral ceasefire and initiation to negotiate could be a move in the right direction. The State has certain responsibilities which cannot be equated with those of rebels. Madhav Nepal’s initiative to meet the Maoist leaders had been widely welcomed by the civil society. Nepal’s cooperation in convening the political conference should be a matter of grave concern for Deuba. The CPN-UML has raised a long list of do’s to the government. The most important of them is the restoration of peace through dialogue. The constitutional process can smoothly function after the election of the parliament or a Constituent Assembly. Neither an election for the parliament nor a Constituent Assembly can be held under the present circumstances. Restoration of peace is the most important factor for holding an election. The CPN-UML has shown great flexibility in the national interest. It is therefore hoped that it would, without deleting any of its conditions four participation in Deuba government, focus primarily on the need of restoration of peace and paving the path for a round table conference.

The country has suffered a great deal. It is on the verge of becoming a failed state. More than three hundred thousand able-bodied youth have fled overseas. There are many more who have migrated to India and are living in miserable conditions. The restoration of peace, therefore, has become the most important agenda. The civil society has raised this issue many times. All other points raised by the CPN-UML could be dealt with if the primary agenda of holding a broad-based round table conference could be given due attention. The parties have a vital role to play in a democracy. All the differences between the parties and the government have to be addressed. In order to address all relevant issues with a view to develop a national consensus, the round table conference is the sole mechanism. Let all the parties keep their agendas alive for discussions in a conference and, at the present moment, cooperate with the government to declare ceasefire, convene a round table conference and thus let the political process take a logical course. Upadhyay is a former foreign minister