Peace is receiving lip-service from the contending political forces in the country. Each side is tirelessly talking of finding a peaceful solution to the Maoist issue, accusing the other side of using the civil war as a means of pushing for their political advantages instead of a peaceful settlement. The State is blaming the Maoists for violence and for violation of civilised norms and the agitating political parties for lack of cooperation in restoring peace and holding the elections. The agitating parties are, in turn, putting the blame at the government’s door for lack of its seriousness about pursuing peace and for continuing regression. The Maoists have accused the State of pursuing a militaristic solution and even stealing away the ‘limited’ rights the people have won through the 1990 pro-democracy movement. The four parties willing to join hands in a multi-party government under Sher Bahadur Deuba are mired in wrangling among themselves for more portfolios, and each is wracked with internal divisions over who should become ministers.

Besides, the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the four parties — the NC (D), the CPN-UML, the RPP and the NSP (Mandal) — details measures which this government is not supposed to adopt whereas the peace process, one of the major tasks of the government, receives brief and vague references, including its ‘maximum flexibility’. At a time when the CMP is coming under fire for the absence of a road map for peace, Padma Ratna Tuladhar, one of the peace talks facilitators in the past, has alleged that the government has not been serious about resuming the peace talks. He has accused Deuba of doing little. Tuladhar is of the view that the government missed a god-sent opportunity for peace in the past when the rebels were ready to agree to ‘endure’ the monarchy. He has also criticised India and the US for their opposition to an important role for the UN in peace-making as demanded by the Maoists.

There are those in the establishment who think that the Maoist demand for a constituent assembly is a ploy for establishing a one-party dictatorship. On their part, the rebels think the State is not serious about pursuing peace and letting the people decide for themselves under the UN auspices. This deep mutual distrust provides a compelling reason for a large international role in the peace process. There have also been reports that representatives of the palace and political parties have separately met Maoist leaders, but nothing has come of this exercise so far. Peace-making is a complex and at least somewhat extended exercise that calls for patience, wisdom and confidence-building measures. Patchwork won’t do. What is needed is systematic and skilled mediation and negotiation.