"In principle, we aren't against talks," Maoist leader Prachanda said as far back as 1997. Since then, the Maoists have sat down to talk three times and yet they are refusing to negotiate with the Deuba coalition. Why? Why are they refusing to consider the 13 January ultimatum?
The Maoists earlier used ceasefires as golden opportunities for launching campaigns to expand their military by at least two or three battalions and spread political presence in the countryside. If they accepted the present government's olive branch, they could have another opportunity to bolster their strength. Yet they have ignored the peace overtures. They have said this is because the Deuba government is a "servant" of the king and they will negotiate only with the "master". Yet, the Chand and Thapa governments that preceded Deuba were also royal nominated under Article 127 and yet the Maoists had no qualms about negotiating with them.
The real reason for not negotiating with the Deuba government is because the UML is part of the coalition. The Maoists believe that a country can have only one Communist Party: theirs. According to the Maoist viewpoint, the UML is a reformist and reactionary party and they are unwilling to accept them as communists, let alone talk with them. For its part, even though the UML regards the Maoists as extremist and anarchic it says it is willing to negotiate with them.
The Maoists believe that you need a diamond to cut diamond and the UML is just being used as an imperialist pawn against them. And vice-versa, the UML regards the Maoists as a nail in its heart. Especially since the Maoists are busy demolishing the UML's party network across Nepal and replacing it with their own. Ex-UML cadre from the districts have risen up the Maoist ranks to become senior leaders.
The UML needs peace talks for legitimacy and the Maoists are not about to do them the favour. That is why there won't be talks as long as the UML is in government. There could be other reasons why the Maoists don't want to talk: the desire of international comrades in RIM that the Nepali Maoists keep fighting, the fear articulated by Deb Gurung recently that if they do sit for talks this time India and the Americans are going to get the Royal Nepali Army to round up senior rebel leaders. (Hence the insistence on UN mediation.) And the last reason: for lack of progress in talks could be that the hardliners are calling the shots and that Baburam Bhattarai and even Prachanda may have been sidelined.
Without the prospect of peace, this government will have to go. Then it will just be the king versus the Maoists which is probably the kind of polarisation the Maoists have wanted all along. They also realise that unless they deliver a few more major military blows against the government forces, it will not agree to the constituent assembly. On the other hand, the government thinks that the only way it can bring the rebels to the table is by giving them a bloody nose.
By insisting on talking to the king through international mediation, the Maoists are just trying to raise their international legitimacy and equate themselves in strength with the army and monarchy. They don't really want to talk. And there are even fewer indications that they want to join the political mainstream.