The usual suspects

The government is yet to make a formal response to the 12-point political understanding between the seven-party alliance and the Maoists which sets elections for the constituent assembly as the bottom line for for peace and multiparty democracy. However, Tanka Dhakal, the minister for Information and Communication, spoke against the idea of constituent assembly at Tribhuvan International Airport on Wednesday, upon return from Tunisia. Dhakal asked, “Aren’t we becoming mere tools for others by accepting what the armed rebels have been demanding?” He said any understanding should be in line with the King’s February 1 step. Foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey, back home on the same day, said any understanding should be based on ‘patriotism’, and not be reached ‘at the behest of foreigners’. Former chief of army staff Satchit Shumsher Rana warned that the state could take action if the parties “collaborated with ‘terrorists’”

This line does not depart from the government’s existing policy. Anyway, ministers cannot decide on their own on such a vital issue, as the King is out of the country at present. However, the civil society and the international community have started responding more or less positively to the deal. In a statement, India has reiterated the need for dialogue to restore peace and has ruled out a pure military solution, calling on the King to talk to the political parties, something also urged by the American establishment in Kathmandu, in reaction to the fresh development. The UN secretary-general Kofi Annan has simply welcomed

the deal and urged the Maoists to extend its unilateral ceasefire and the government to reciprocate it.

Those in power have been raising the foreign bogey to dismiss any peace formula other than on their own terms. Some pro-establishment figures have started speaking against the accord on grounds that the political parties have ‘gone along with the Maoist agenda’. Such arguments betray a negative mindset. Any deal needs to be examined on its merit and, in Nepal’s case, on whether it promises to bring back peace and democracy. Some, for example, the Americans, have expressed doubt whether the Maoists will renounce violence. Any political settlement that makes the Maoists a mainstream force presupposes renunciation of violence, as is also underlined by their acceptance of the constituent assembly’s verdict and multiparty democracy, respect for human rights, etc. Talks are necessary to address all remaining doubts and differences as modalities for translating these commitments into reality are worked out.