Within days after resigning from the CPN (UML), Kamal Chaulagain was appointed Minister for Labour and Transport Management as well as Minister for Population and Environment.
What is the status of the talks proposed between the government and the Maoists?
The ball now lies in the Maoists' court. There are two main reasons why the Maoists should not continue their mission to capture state authority through an armed struggle. Firstly, after 11 September any violent means aimed at capturing power is being defined as an act of terrorism. The United States is leading what has become a unipolar world in its fight against terrorism. Secondly, the Maoist leaders themselves have written about the threat of "Bhutanisation" or "Sikkimisation" of Nepal. The Maoist leadership must understand that violence begets counter-violence, which drags the country towards instability. This instability reduces the bargaining power of both the state and the Maoists. If it persists, foreign powers might intervene.
Has the government formally invited the Maoists for talks?
There is reason why we said the government has kept doors open for dialogue. Members of the erstwhile Deuba cabinet used to say that anybody could bring in the head of Maoist leaders and take away a bagful of money. But no member of this new government has defined the Maoists as terrorists. The prime minister is in touch with human rights activists and the government is taking initiatives towards holding talks. It will not be appropriate to discuss other issues beforehand.
How would you assess the failed peace talks last year?
Due to in-fighting, rival leaders within the ruling Nepali Congress (NC) tried to use the plank of talks with Maoists as a ladder to power. The Maoists also acted irrationally by walking out of negotiations. Instead of presenting their position to the government and going to the public, they attacked an army barrack in Dang. I feel that if the Maoists had not walked away, the in-fighting within the NC would have further escalated and the government would have been forced to accept their demands.
Do you hope the Maoists will sit for negotiations with this government?
The Maoists should not be influenced by what the parliamentary parties are saying. The latter do not want talks to take place between the government and Maoists because of their vested interests. There is no denying this government enjoys executive powers. How can you resolve the problem without accepting that the government always represents the state?