Silver lining

Everybody hopes that the postponed second summit between the CPN-Maoist and the SPA will end the political logjam and uncertainty, putting the country firmly on the road to the constituent assembly (CA) elections soon. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has struck an optimistic note by saying that all pending issues will be sorted out through talks after Tihar. But he is reported to have stressed the separation of Maoist arms from their combatants before the Maoists join an interim government. The last talks ended inconclusively because of the differences over the interim status of the monarchy — the Maoists’ insistence on its suspension versus Koirala’s stance of a “ceremonial role” — and over arms management — Koirala’s demand for a complete separation between arms and combatants, to which the Maoists did not agree. However, Prachanda said on last Friday that the peace talks would be successful.

Political leaders have come out with their own versions of the deadlock. CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal has blamed both Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Maoists for the lack of any breakthrough. The CPN-UML leader warned that the King might have to abdicate if the eight parties decided in favour of a republican order. Bamdev Gautam, a politburo member of the CPN-UML, has, however, put the blame at Koirala’s door alone by claiming that the SPA and the Maoists had almost reached an agreement and that the Maoists were ready to give up arms if the NC also took a “concrete” pro-republican stand, but that the NC failed to keep its promise of coming up with an official stand on the issue. In the meantime, US and British ambassadors to Nepal have reiterated their governments’ stand that the Maoists should first lay down arms.

It is indeed unfortunate that the talks should become stalled over the above-mentioned issues, as the people are going to decide the monarchy’s fate in a few months. As for arms management, the latest five-point agreement has already dealt with it (only the details have to be worked out), and accordingly, both sides requested the UN’s help in the matter, and a UN team is eagerly waiting in the capital to assume its designated role once both sides reach a settlement. Similarly, the two sides appear to be a bit more obsessive about the arms issue when the Maoist combatants are, anyway, to come under the UN scanner in their temporary cantonments. From the side of the Maoists and others who sympathise with their position, the question may arise whether there is a guarantee that everything will go according to agreement if the Maoists lay down arms now. All this is the result of mutual distrust. While so much has been agreed upon, it is difficult to think that intransigence on these two points is delaying a settlement. But given the optimism of Koirala and Prachanda, the SPA and the CPN-Maoist are expected to rise above quibbles at the forthcoming talks to create a new Nepal — fully democratic, peaceful and prosperous.