Nepali Times
Guest Column
Born again


The 21 November peace agreement was a rebirth in many senses: for Nepal, for Pushpa Kamal Dahal, and for Girija Prasad Koirala.

Koirala can finally mask his sordid behaviour from 1991 to 2001. He can make the political connection between his present and what he was before 1991. Similarly, Dahal has washed his hands of the blood of thousands of Nepalis whose lives were lost during the ten years of conflict. He can separate himself from those who still think that a society can be violently transformed into utopia.

Behind both of these metamorphoses is a series of mechanisms, events, and commitments. There\'s no point trying to find fault with the peace agreement, it\'s as thorough as it could be. Even before they signed the deal, the Maoists and the seven parties had already agreed on 105 of the clauses. Ten more points were decided upon on the day of the agreement. The document is the result of one year of negotiations, six meetings, and 230 points of discussion.

What we need to do now is test the commitment of both parties to the peace process they have set in motion. There have been delays, and certainly peace can\'t be rushed. But not every deadline can be pushed back, either.

This agreement is being touted as stronger than the weapons the Maoists and the state have depended on for the last decade. Dahal claims the agreement is something of a shock to the world\'s system, since it is the 'first time in history\' that leftists have participated in a peaceful movement, sat down to talks, embraced democracy, and joined the government. It\'s not strictly true, but if it makes everyone happy, why not?

The fact is, it became necessary for the Maoists to give up arms and walk the path of peace. By the same token, the political parties who treated violence as anathema also felt the need to join hands with armed rebels. Perhaps the outcome would have been the same even if Gyanendra had not taken his executive decision on 1 February 2005. Perhaps our awareness of the looming possibility of a civil, ethno-separatist and regional war motivated us to participate in Jana Andolan II.

This comprehensive agreement is a direct result of many months of Indian diplomacy, and behind-the-scenes spadework by the EU and the UN. Yet, conspicuously missing from discussion is what the loktantrik foreign policy of the Maoists and the seven parties will look like. With the eclipse of the monarchy and the dawn of a new Nepal, we urgently need a clear policy and principles that define our relations with the rest of the world. That does affect internal affairs, like it or not.

When Dahal was in India for a leadership conference recently, he was emotional when talking about India\'s assistance to his party while it was still underground. He also made the now-famous comments about ISI activities in Nepal. Surely a leader like Dahal, whose career is built on talk of national pride and integrity, shouldn\'t make such blanket comments at an international conference.

Gyanendra, who remained silent after relinquishing power on the night of 24 April, has welcomed the peace agreement. Some may argue that this is his last attempt to save the monarchy, and others may say he is trying to define his new role. Whatever the case, he, like the nation and in particular its two top leaders, are moving into a new era.

Purushottam Dahal is president of the Human Rights and Peace Society. A longer version of this piece appeared in Himal Khabarpatrika.

Purshottam Dahal in

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)