Himal: When will the talks resume?
Krishna P Sitaula: Informally, it is already happening. We want to hold formal talks between the prime minister and Chairman Prachanda by Thursday or Friday.
What will be the main points on the agenda?
The constituent assembly will be the main point. There will also be discussions about modalities to go about it. Crucial issues include arms management, fixing dates for an interim government and constituent assembly elections. It will be the first time top leaders will sit for formal talks and it will send the message at both national and international levels about commitments from both Maoists and us about institutionalising loktantra. We will definitely reach a decision once Girija babu and Prachanda sit face to face.
So, when will the interim government that includes the Maoists be formed?
We are preparing for July or August.
What about constituent assembly?
By October this year at the earliest or April 2007 at the latest.
What did Prachanda tell you in Siklis during your meeting?
The chairman said that we should move as per the 12-point understanding and that there has been a delay in going for constituent assembly despite mutual consent. He also felt parliament should have consulted his party while making decisions. It is natural for him to say those things and the meeting removed such confusions.
And how about his stance on arms management?
Very positive. There was no beating around the bush. Demobilisation of the PLA will happen before the Maoists join the interim government.
How about the army and police?
As per the 12-point understanding, the army will be confined to the barracks. Police will have to work towards peace and security. The Maoists say they will still mobilise their militia. They will work as activists, this is not a big concern. The main problem is managing the Maoist army and disarming them. This is a very sensitive and significant issue. We will ensure that both the armies are monitored by a reliable organisation.
In that case, there will be two armies under the Maoists when they join the interim government?
There is no need to fear that because the Maoists will join the government only after demobilising their own army. The important thing is that the army should not go out during assembly elections.
But the Maoists are saying that they will keep their army in demarcated zones?
That is true. And we have to see about that. There are various modalities for that as well.
Do you trust the Maoists when they say they will not take up arms no matter what the results of the assembly elections?
We have that firm belief that arms will not be taken up.
This means the problem can be solved?
I am very optimistic. We reached the 12-point agreement even at a time when the political antagonism between us was intense. The problems in the present situation are just relatively minor. But we have to be cautious about some forces trying to jeopardise our efforts.
Then, why the delay for the constituent assembly?
We can no longer afford to plague our country with indecisiveness, suspicion and fear. The Maoists should not be suspected anymore and they should also not suspect us. We were the ones who put a price on their heads and declared state of emergency in protest. They are also the same Maoists who had killed many of our cadres and rendered many of us homeless. But both have corrected their mistakes by reaching the 12-point agreement. We have to put our past behind us.