Nepali Times
State Of The State
Saving ourselves from relapse


The peace process was tottering early this week when Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala repeated his old drivel about ceremonial monarchy. It was not an off-the-cuff remark of a geriatric chief executive. Koirala merely stated publicly what was being whispered in Baluwatar: the peace deal had to be on terms dictated by the invisible but influential 'international community'.

Predictably, Baburam Bhattarai foamed at the mouth and issued dire threats about the peace process being in tatters. For a day or two, it appeared as if the seven-party government was once again going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Mercifully, this one was sorted out. The government and insurgents sent similar but separate letters to the UN on Wednesday asking it to help in five areas: human rights, truce monitoring, rebel encampment, army containment, and constituent assembly elections. For now, this has opened the door for Maoist participation in an interim government. However, doubts remain over the mechanism. The devil lies in detail and there is risk that misunderstandings may resurface. The Maoist leadership and the government will have to learn to tolerate occasional lapses and also refrain from making matters worse by playing brinkmanship.

The UN system is not exactly renowned for speedy response. Pressed with other hotspots, Kofi Annan may not be able to come our way with sirens blazing. The UN also needs to consult other stakeholders, the international community and then thrash out the details before dispatching a weapons management team to Kathmandu. But in Nepal the government and the Maoists need to keep up the peace momentum.

The Maoists must check their wayward cadres in the countryside. The kangaroo courts still being run in some parts of the country by the self-declared 'people's government' need to be dismissed right away. Rebels must also make sure that their guerrillas adhere to the combatant and weapons management system that has been proposed for monitoring by UN experts.

The responsibilities of the government are even more complex. Despite the assertions of some parliamentarians, almost nobody in the country believes that the Nepal Army has submitted unequivocally to civilian control. In a strange press release issued by the army's Directorate of Public Relations on Tuesday COAS Thapa was quoted as telling PM Koirala that he was "extremely positive" toward the peace process initiated by the government, and would support it to meet people's aspiration for peace. It did sound like he was saying it through gritted teeth.

The cabinet and the seven party leaders must also not be under any illusion about the intentions of Messrs Moriarty, Mukherji & Co. They are here to advance their own national interest, not ours. Even now, most diplomats would be quite happy if the Maoists can somehow be kept out of government in Nepal. Whether Messrs Koirala, Sherchan and Oli too want or can do the same is for them to decide. But they have no right to put the future of peace in jeopardy just because some of the dips don't like to see Grey Shirts being chauffeured around town in government vehicles.

Good sense has saved us from a conflict relapse. It needs to be nurtured. The journey towards peace is still long and arduous.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)