The past week has seen a classic Maoist attempt at "strategic rigidity and tactical flexibility". After two deadly demos of strike ability, the leadership has sent out an olive branch with a proposal for ceasefire and dialogue. This has several objectives: to tell the government not to take the movement for granted, to give the impression that it is the government that is against peace, and to prove that "the party controls the gun".
Maoist leaders Prachanda and Baburam Bhattarai wrote a letter to parliamentary parties recently in which they cited "geopolitical and international reasons" why they wanted a roundtable conference to come up with a political resolution. But 15 days later, they launched the attacks on Sindhukharka and Bhiman killing more than 110 policemen and soldiers.
It could be their way of saying: "You didn't listen to us. Here is another jolt." But what it did was prove once again that there is no consistency between what the Maoists say, and what they do.
The comrades have got Internet savvy of late, bombarding mailing lists with statements and posting analyses on their new website. The contents of a recent interview with Badal (Ram Bahadur Thapa) and "Rejoinder on Some Current Issues" by Baburam Bhattarai prove that ideologically, the Maoists are as hardline as ever.
And for the first time since the royal massacre, they have lashed out at India. Prachanda's 8 September statement calls the Indian government's arrest and deportation of Maoist central committee member Bamdev Chhetri to Kathmandu an indication of Nepal's "Bhutanisation", and pointedly warns New Delhi not to interfere in Nepal's internal affairs.
There is no doubt that the Maoists are feeling the pressure from India, and despite the this weekend's setbacks the Maoists were feeling the heat in Nepal as well. Some see Chhetri's handover as a move towards talks initiated by New Delhi.
The army is spread thinly, and the Maoists have exploited this weakness. They continue to use overwhelming force to attack small, isolated garrisons. It helped them this time that the army had not learnt lessons from Mangalsen in April, and allowed a repeat in Sindhukharka.
The security forces need to abandon their solely garrison-based defence for superior real-time intelligence with surgical strikes against command posts and training centres. The Maoists, for their part, appear to have struck a better balance now between their eastern and western regions, and will be expected to spread panic in urban areas with more bombs and arson attacks in the run up to their strike on Monday.