Partners in progress

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s announcement to hold the first round of talks with the Maoists ‘soon’ is the precise requirement of the hour as any inordinate delay could only pander to the designs of the regressive forces. To avoid such a nasty turn of events and more so to respect the aspirations of the general public — which is only waiting with bated breath to know as to when the much-touted peace talks will get started — the government would do well to come up with a suitable date to allay all sorts of doubts and apprehensions. The significance of the first round lies in the fact that it will pave the way for holding the second and hopefully the final round of high-level talks that is supposed to be ‘decisive’ as Maoist supremo Prachanda himself is expected to skipper the negotiations with PM Koirala at the other end. The CPN (Maoists), in the initial phase, will be represented by the party’s spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara along with central members Dev Gurung and Dinanath Sharma, whereas Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula is expected to lead the government team. But the beauty of the parley lies in its unique feature — that it will be held not between contenders but between partners, so to say, who have already reached a 12-point agreement to undo the present girdlock. All this directly translates into added responsibility of recognising the futility of worthless arguments back and forth and the discontinuation of anti-social activities like abductions, bombings and lootings even during the ceasefire. In this context, Maoist leader Matrika Yadav’s statement on Sunday of avoiding talks until the whereabouts of 1,500 disappeared people are made public, undoubtedly, contravenes the Maoists’ commitment to speedy achievement of a stable peace.

The government must not sit too long over the code of conduct that has to be finalised with urgency. Unquestionably, the key to institutionalising peace lies in bringing the Maoists into the political mainstream as early as possible. This is no more a horrendous task. Though it may be a time-consuming process, it can be brought to fruition through an honest give-and-take. As the proposal for an interim constitution followed by a government of the same nature as well as holding the elections to the constituent assembly is being taken care of, the crucial issue of decommissioning the Maoists’ weapons should also be dealt with simultaneously. The politics of illegal arms have virtually run out of steam in the current changed political context. British ambassador Keith Bloomfield is right in stating that the Maoists’ attitude towards arms will prove their real intention. This surely is no time to flaunt one-upmanship but to forge ahead by recognising each other’s contributions to the truly epoch-making Jana Andolan. The peace process is not only about resolving the problem of insurgency, but more importantly, it is about deciding Nepal’s future. And any move to let the people down will be criminal and, of course, unacceptable to the nation.