Peace process and PLA integration

Nepal is passing through a strange peace process, one which can neither be considered completely stalled nor moving towards its logical end. Prime Minster Pushpa Kamal Dahal

‘Prachanda’ while interacting with the international community and especially with the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon, was full of assurances that his government would see to the logical end of the peace process; at the same time, his defence minister Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal” was accepting $100 million in militaty aid in China.

The prime minister, who was in New York last week to attend the 63rd United Nations General Assembly, appreciated the important role of the United Nations in facilitating the serious issue of management of armies and the arms as per the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) signed by the then government and he himself as the leader of the CPN-Maoist. The role of UNMIN in verifying Maoist combatants living in cantonments was a significant part of the peace process.

Now, it is upon the government to supervise, adjust and rehabilitate about 19,000 combatants

as per the CPA. But even those combatants who were disqualified by UNMIN are still living in cantonments.

This issue has, by and large, been neglected by the government.

The Maoist leaders signed agreements with mainstream political parties, participated in peaceful agitation to overthrow the erstwhile royal government, joined the Seven Party

Alliance-led erstwhile coalition government, participated in the Constituent Assembly election and are now heading the government with a pledge to lead the nation to the desired destination. However, some of its cadres are still sticking to the party’s violent past.

To some, the Chinese government acted at the right time by giving out a clear message that the Chinese government was still with the traditional Nepal Army (NA) by pledging it aid through the Nepali minister. Interestingly, it has not been made public whether NA will use this amount for peaceful purposes or to gather more arms.

It is also yet to be confirmed whether this aid is meant for the Nepali Army or the Maoist combatants who also need it, or both. If it can be used for other construction purposes, it can also be used in the cantonments provided it is meant not only for the Nepal Army.

At the moment, the most crucial task for the government is to adjust and rehabilitate Maoist combatants as early as possible to give a proper direction to the peace process and bring it to a logical conclusion. Till 1999, the NA had about 35,000 personnel; the numbers swelled with the mobilisation of army against Maoist insurgency which had spread all over the country.

If the 19,000-strong Maoist militia is added to the around 100,000 NA personnel, the defence force would be too big and an unnecessary burden on the state treasury.

While suggesting a model for integration, some experts cite the example of El Salvador, where, while making of the new national army, 20 per cent personnel were selected from the national army and the communist militia each, with the other 60 per cent filled by new recruits. However, it is important to cut down the size of NA to suit national need.

Prof Mishra is ex-election commissioner