Three top Kathmandu-based diplomats have expressed their views on how to approach the political situation in Nepal. UN Special Representative Ian Martin focussed on peace-building through constituent assembly elections while Matthew Kahane, the UN Resident Representative and Humanitarian Coordinator, emphasised a role for India in helping Nepal through its woes. The implication is that the UN does not take for granted Nepal's ability to handle its challenges by itself. In marked contrast, Indian envoy Shiv Shankar Mukherji told the media that Nepalis were fully capable of solving all problems on their own.
Martin said in New York that: (a) he is optimistic the twice-delayed constituent assembly polls will be staged successfully on 10 April; (b) the inclusion of Nepal's traditionally marginalised groups in the electoral process is central to ensuring that the polls are staged successfully; (c) a significant section of the Madhesi, janajati and dalit communities felt left out of the 23-point agreement between the mainstream parties and Maoists; (d) it should be possible to reach agreement on the participation of all groups in the elections because there is a common desire for such an election to be held; and (e) the dialogue needs to be urgent and real, and there needs to be a commitment to implement agreements reached with those groups.
It is difficult to find fault with any of his points, and he must be thanked for reminding the government in stark terms of its basic tasks.
Kahane, too, stated things that are obvious: (a) humanitarian vulnerabilities are increasing; (b) landlocked Nepal depends on India for food and crucial supplies; (c) conflict is exacerbating vulnerabilities in the Tarai; (d) some groups that are making life difficult in the Tarai may have links to northern India; and (e) it would be enormously helpful if India could keep these people under control.
Basically, it's a \'to do' list for India to prove its sincerity. And extremely well put, sir. In contrast, outgoing Indian envoy Shiv Shankar Mukherji's response was rather lame. Talking to the media on India's Republic Day, he said Nepalis could sort themselves out. If only that were true. Then it wouldn't have been necessary for our mainstream parties and the Maoists to go to Delhi to draft the 12-point understanding. Nor would we have had to wait for the top Indian spook to come to Kathmandu to bang heads together to sign yet another 23-point agreement.
Unlike the forthright observations of the UN officials, the ambassador's comments seem to be based on assumptions. Probably the Indian establishment considers that: (a) bringing the Maoists into the mainstream is more important than anything else; (b) the SPA government has the credibility, competence and commitment to address all other issues on its own; (c) the constituent assembly elections need to be held at all costs; (d) the uprising in the tarai is a minor irritant; and (e) another postponement of the polls on any pretext would be unacceptable.
Perhaps those were the messages that US Ambassador Nancy Powell, now in Delhi, understood from his remarks. In about a week's time, Pushpa Kamal Dahal will probably be following in her footsteps to the Indian capital.
Meanwhile, reports from Baluwatar suggest Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala is even less concerned about the fate of the elections than he indicates in public, preferring instead to work on securing his daughter's political future. Mahanth Thakur was used, discredited and discarded after being asked to negotiate with agitating madhesis a year ago. Ramchandra Paudel is awaiting a similar fate, with the government failing to implement any of the many commitments he made to Pasang Sherpa and Upendra Yadav. Meanwhile Bimalendra Nidhi and Ram Baran Yadav are attracting scorn by saying things they know to be untrue.
Clearly, NC hasn't changed its discriminatory attitude towards madhesis. Had it been any different, there would have been many more madhesi names in the list of party bigwigs slated to address mass meetings all over the country.
The UML had originally wanted a 24th point put in the agreement, stating that Koirala would go if he failed to conduct elections on the stipulated date. It was removed in deference to the old man. But the situation remains the same: the buck stops very much at Baluwatar.