Peace talks: An apt moment to reaffirm agenda

The People’s Movement II in Nepal was an example of people power (PP), triumph of peace over war, and democracy over despotism in the 21st century developing world often afflicted with poverty, violence, tyranny and terror.

The creative convergence between the seven party alliance (SPA) and the Maoists, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist supremo Prachanda, who represent ideologies that have otherwise been at war with each other for long causing much pain to many people, can now transform Nepal. But the blood of martyrs and sacrifices of many more can also end up in power and glory for a few but democracy, peace and progress for the Nepali people may still remain a dream. Only statesmen able to comprehend the need of the people, capable of bringing together a team of committed thinkers and competent professionals can translate dream into reality.

Well wishers’ worry: Long before the People’s Movement II gained momentum many people knew if the old regime did not change course, the SPA and the Maoists could come closer and if that happened Nepali politics would change suddenly and dramatically. Out-of-touch minds don’t comprehend ground realities. But the SPA had enough experience and talent to be ready to take the understanding with the Maoists forward to its logical conclusion, the constituent assembly (CA) polls, while starting to govern effectively as soon as the ancient regime collapsed. Sadly, when change came leaders were ill prepared. Amidst uncertainties, walkover to the Maoists, takeover by the forces of reg-ress and relapse into violence worry many.

New political mainstream: The people had to rise up in the People’s Movement II to free society from an intellectual jam that caused so much violence. Is politics getting stuck in that jam again? Not enough homework despite repeated advice to SPA leaders to develop modalities of power sharing, forge agreement on major political issues, carefully consider the complexities of bringing the Maoists onboard, create norms, prepare lists for important appointments so as not to leave a void, etc. long before the People’s Movement II gained momentum is a sad commentary.

Constituent assembly elections in a free, fair and fearless environment as soon as possible while providing clean and efficient governance, relief to the most needy and those displaced by the conflict are now the immediate priorities. The commitment to hold the CA elections by mid-June next year answered the question raised long ago: If the CA can resolve the crisis and the Maoists can live with it, why should democratic political parties hesitate? But other questions remain. Ending violence is the first priority, creating a new national peaceful democratic progressive political mainstream by bringing the Maoists onboard is the necessary first step for any future political settlement to be credible and lasting.

Risks and opportunities: The 12-point understanding and eight-point agreement are the results of a bold new vision: the Maoists giving up the politics of violence, and SPA giving up the politics of status quo. The confusion now is over implementing this new vision under renewed pressures of old thinking on all sides. Fortunately, top political leaders have demonstrated the capability to remove roadblocks. But long and frequent traffic jams like discord among and within the SPA, divergence on important political issues or the interim constitution fiasco make a forward movement difficult. Spending time and resources on less urgent master plans during the crucial time of transition does not help confidence building or even lead to a divorce between partners-in-change.

Looking for technical solutions to political problems, too much reliance on the United Nations or too much pressure on the top leaders make the process vulnerable. Bungling in or wrangling over appointments, wasting talent, ignoring the demands of the common people who suffered the most, working for and rewarding those actively opposing the People’s Movement II on one side and continuing cases of violence, extortion and threat of October Revolution from the other give credence to critics questioning: Have the leaders learned from the past? A committed and competent team with exposure, experience, ability to think out of the box and act decisively can expedite the process, seeking the patience of partners-in-change and understanding of sceptics.

The war of Nepali people against tyranny, injustice and poverty is far from over. Courage is needed to fight, more so to fight without weapons. His successful war sans weapons made Mahatma Gandhi the most respected political leader of the 20th century. The Baluwatar talks provide an opportunity to Nepal’s leaders to embark on the Peace of the Brave, reaffirming the agenda, priority and partnership for democracy, peace and progress for all Nepalis as mandated by the People’s Movement II.

Dr. Simkhada is a visiting fellow, Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva