Peace process : The need to play the game

The Nepalis are worried as the issue of Constituent Assembly (CA) elections is lingering. The concern is natural as it is unclear what turn the nation would take because of the widening differences among the government, the seven-party alliance (SPA) and the Maoists.

This is unfortunate in the fast developing political situation after Jana Andolan II. The worry is mainly based on whether the statements made by government representatives, political parties and the Maoists over Parliament dissolution, army and weapons management would destabilise or stall the CA polls. The government looks entangled in petty things. However, the SPA leaders are confident that the election will be held soon. The failure caused by internal wrangling among the parties in the Interim Constitution Drafting Committee has also raised doubts whether the parties, their leaders and the Maoists are committed to resolving the problem or not. Suspicions among officials and Maoist leaders are hindering the talks, which need to be cleared up.

PM G P Koirala on September 8 had said the next round of talks would focus on arms management and emphasised that the government and the Maoists should abide by the five points on arms management mentioned in their letter to the UN as these are the main guidelines for the peace process. Maoist leader Prachanda has admitted to some problems but assured the people that the peace talks would continue unhindered as they still stand by their agreements and are hoping for the settlement of arms issue as part of a comprehensive political package. He hoped that the summit would focus on a political package, interim constitution, Parliament, and collective arms management. If both the disputants are serious, they should immediately give the UN full mandate to work on managing the arms after reaching an agreement on the modalities of arms verification and monitoring on the basis of discussions with the concerned parties, including the UN.

UN general-secretary Kofi Annan is committed to supporting the peace process and has appointed Ian Martin as his personal representative in Nepal for six months, to start with. A small multi-disciplinary team of at least four advisors on political, electoral, military and ceasefire monitoring matters will assist him in assisting the parties in the areas where UN help is sought. But prior to the UN beginning the task, the government and the Maoists will have to reach an agreement on the modalities of arms verification and monitoring.

The Maoists had earlier taken the stance of not confining their fighters and weapons to cantonments after the government authorities, including the PM, argued that the Maoists could not be recognised as a political party till they gave up arms. The PM now says he does not give importance to who said what in public but believes in their commitments. Similarly, Prachanda said that his remarks that the fighters would not be confined to cantonments without an accord on political package were provoked by PM’s comments. Both sides now appear to agree on permanent peace and state restructuring. Prachanda seems confident whereas PM Koirala still looks confused.

Increasing foreign influence has delayed the peace process. Leaders often forget their previous commitments when some foreign diplomats oppose their stance and parrot anything that foreigners may have said and speak ill of each other trying to justify their ill-founded arguments. The US seems to be afraid of the left movement transforming into a left political front, which it perceives will be against the US strategic interests. This fear was reportedly signalled in a seminar sponsored by Heritage Foundation in Washington last year. Addressing the seminar, US deputy assistant secretary of States Donald Camp had said that Nepal features on the list of US foreign policy challenges, and the Americans are keeping their eyes on the situation daily, and working constantly to ensure that their policies pursue US national interests.

Therefore, the task ahead of the government, the SPA and the Maoists is not easy as people are sniffing some conspiracy against the present development. Visibly, some elements have become active within and outside the country to create obstacles in the path of holding the CA polls and representing the Maoists in the interim government. Therefore, it is necessary that both sides act in the letter and spirit of the agreements signed between the government, the SPA and the Maoists. That alone will pave the way for the CA elections and for drafting a new constitution. All hope that, with the support of the people and the SPA constituents’ backing, the government would definitely be able to face the challenges and address the nation’s pressing need. No one should forget that all political exercises would have to be aimed at ending the armed conflict and political confrontation and at establishing total democracy thro-ugh a constitution written by the people.

Chalise is a career journalist