Popular will stronger than forced doctrine

Denmark, as a matter of cardinal principle of governance, stands for a directly elected multiparty democracy in Nepal. “Whatever we can do to support the Nepalis to reach that goal, we will be very happy to do that,” Ulla Tørnæs, the 44-year-old Danish Minister for Development Cooperation made it clear on the eve of her departure from Kathmandu last Friday. As for the peace Nepal is struggling to achieve, she thinks Nepal is at a “new beginning” and the people’s victory in the Jana Andolan II is a clear demonstration of the fact that popular will is stronger than forced doctrines.

Everybody wants peace and the hope that a lasting one would be secured, sooner rather than later, is stronger in the villages she visited during her four-day trip put on calendar basically to express Copenhagen’s support to the ongoing peace process and to discuss how best to assist landlocked Nepal in the “challenging period ahead.” It is quite clear the lady who is at the helm of Danish international development affairs since February 2005 went back home with a better understanding of the challenges the Nepalis are faced with, so also of the impediments in the road to peace. All in all, she seemed impressed by Prime Minister G P Koirala’s confident declaration concerning constituent assembly polls by April-May 2007. Koirala too, it is obvious, benefited from the briefing on ‘rural hopes and expectations’ he got from the soft-spoken young dignitary.

It is the issues of corruption and human rights violations that spark anxiety in the corridors of power and legislative creativity in Copenhagen. That much is absolutely unmistakable when Tørnæs, former president of Denmark’s Liberal Students (1988-90), confirms that the abiding political culture in her country is “zero tolerance” and “rule of law” insofar as they relate to governance overall and conduct of citizens irrespective of their ranks in the society. This part of her government’s policy worldwide and also in Nepal is well articulated in the statement her Embassy here issued on September 22: “Progress on human rights is fundamental for people’s security. There must be a firm commitment by all parties to abide by fundamental human rights. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to start work to ensure the rule of law throughout Nepal”.

Interestingly, though, Tørnæs would not directly respond to the issue of Maoists coming into the proposed interim government — with or without resting the arms in their possession. Stresses she: “That is going to be decided by the Nepali people. For the moment, it is fine to introduce democracy and adopt a new constitution, and of course it is very important to see the peace process on the right track.” Although the nature, volume and focus of Danish financial support to the peace process in Nepal is yet to be specified in concrete terms, it is safe to presume that UN monitoring the march to peace and creation of jobs for the rebels would claim the lion’s share of the Danish assistance to Nepal. It goes without saying, the possibility of this unconventional gesture being realised is directly proportional to the progress made in the peace talks or, better still, how committed the disputants are to the concepts of representative democracy, good governance, human rights and inclusive development — pre-requisites, one and all, for peace and stability in Nepal.