Peace agreement: Implementation is the real challenge

The Nepalis and the international community have cheered up the seven party alliance (SPA) and the CPN (Maoist) for the peace accord signed on November 21. Perhaps, if such an event had taken place in the West, strong voice would have already been raised for a Nobel Prize for both PM GP Koirala and Maoist chairman Prachanda. But time has not yet run out for it.

Of course, the accord is significant in many respects. First, it has not accepted peace as the absence of war alone; nor is it achievable by brute force used by both the state and the insurgents. However, force can be used as a resource for the benefit of all if the wielders of power are really motivated towards the good of the people. Resistance to it can be amply justified if the state is repressive in imposing its own standards of justice.

The peace accord has rejected the thesis that the state-mobilised force can alone determine the consequences of war. The military as the mainstay of power is now replaced by people’s power. The new accord is thus impregnated with a number of elements for qualitative transformation of Nepali state which, till today, remains exploitative and discriminatory in nature and practice. The accord has embraced comprehensive security that puts citizens at the centre of all development. Those who wanted to increase the size of army by diverting all resources for beefing up state security have been taught a lesson that no force of the state can defeat the spirit of the people.

Second, the accord is the product of ingenuity of Nepali political leaders who have constantly been fed by the intellectual inputs of members of the civil society and other individuals. The cooperative relationship developed between the Maoists and the SPA had an electrifying impact on the movement. No foreign prescription could work when the people decided to move ahead with the agenda of complete democracy which, in their imagination, could be achieved only if Nepal could free itself from the shackles of feudalism and other archaic tantrums of governance. Nepalis for the first time feel free to debate on each institution and issue concerning the country and the people. The 238-year-old institution of monarchy — once considered as a symbol of unity and integrity of the nation — is under close scrutiny by the people. The common Nepalis no longer think that the existence of the nation is inextricably linked to the continuity of monarchy.

Third, Nepal’s foreign friends too think that it is up to the Nepali people to decide their own future as the people have demonstrated their preference during the Jana Andolan II. Thus, despite being a true Nepali product, the peace accord is also a charter for broad political unity and coordinated efforts for the overall development of the country. And to the credit of the unbroken unity of the people, foreign friends have accepted this reality.

Four, the accord is innovative in nature because of the ideological convergence of all political forces hitherto engaged in fratricidal wars and bloodletting. Since no single political party can rule the country today due to emergence of various forces, especially the Maoists, their cooperative relations and determination to move ahead until the new political order is fully stabilised can alone safeguard the objective of the accord. Political parties in general are thus expected not to be driven by petty interests as they have invariably done so in the past. Nepalis want a higher standard of public life in order not to repeat the past mistakes and parochialism in governance.

Finally, the accord promises to build a new Nepal for which a vigorous effort needs to be made for transforming the existing socio-economic, political and regional disparities into a genuine functioning participatory state. The acceptance of restructuring the state needs to be understood in greater ramifications.

The challenges for the implementation of the accord are no less daunting. Political parties involved in the enterprise need to show a working unity until the coming into existence of a new political order. If the parties start quarrelling for petty interests — appointment of hangers-on, flatterers, favourites and relatives without any consideration of merit — the accord is likely to suffer a setback.

Another challenge lies in the divergent approaches to be adopted by the parties involved in the accord. Any narrow interpretation of the clauses of the accord with a view to serving the interests of parties’ members and other people to be affected by some policy decisions would put the accord in peril. The politics of compromise on core objectives signifies the lack of strong will power among power elites. Can the new government take effective radical measures for changing the existing scenario of the country? Can the leaders defy the pressures of lobbies that try to retard policy decisions? Answers to these questions can be given only by the commitment of eight parties to the historic accord.

Prof. Baral is executive chairman, NCCS