Settlement a must

Most of Nepal’s important bilateral donors have, more than once, made clear the limits of military means for conflict resolution. The European Union (EU) has reiterated this view, in a press statement issued in Kathmandu on Monday to condemn the Maoists for their setting off a landmine against a passenger bus in Chitwan. The EU has suggested a sensible approach, urging all parties to ‘recognise that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict’ and so to adopt a ‘joint approach towards re-establishing dialogue and peace based on a negotiated settlement.’ India and the US, which exercise tremendous clout over Nepal, have also ruled out a military solution, though, paradoxically, they are the main suppliers of arms to the government.

But the government has laid emphasis, particularly after February 1, on crushing the Maoists rather than talking with them, trying to paint its anti-Maoist campaign as a ‘war on terror’ a la the US ‘war on terror.’ This peg seems to be aimed at winning international support at a time when the monarchy has assumed direct rule, the constitutional processes have been derailed, and severe curbs on various democratic freedoms, including press freedom, have been imposed. But this strategy does not seem to be taking the country nearer to peace or the restoration of the constitutional processes. The security situation, as the recent incidents and clashes have demonstrated, appear to be the opposite of what those in power make it out to be.

Besides, the pro-democracy movement seems to be picking up momentum, with an increasing involvement of professional bodies such as the Nepal Bar Association and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists, after the seven political parties formed an alliance with their common agenda for the restoration of the Lower House. The fact that representatives of all sides are making a beeline for New Delhi mainly for political consultations also indicates how complex the state of affairs has become. Therefore, it is now clear that no single political force can supply a solution. If the country is to be saved from anarchy, a settlement must be found through dialogue and reconciliation. And this is not possible without enlarging and securing the people’s sovereignty.