Nepali Times
Carrot and stick

There used to be a time six years ago when we complained about how the rest of the planet didn't really care about the brewing crisis in Nepal. As far as the outside world was concerned, Nepal was a cute little kingdom out in shangrila somewhere. People refused to believe that nasty things were starting to happen here.

Now, the pendulum seems to have swung in the opposite direction. There are dire predictions every other day that Nepal is failing.failing.failed. The international media can't get enough about paradise lost and prophesying doomsday. The world rarely reacts with required urgency, or in direct proportion to the magnitude of a crisis. For its part, the international media when it decides to take an interest seems incapable of seeing things in anything other than black or white. For years, it ignored Darfur, now we get hour-by-hour updates. The United Nations could do nothing to stop the Rwandan genocide, and now the world has moved on.

Let's hope that in our case the change from international indifference to obsession is driven by a desire to catch Nepal before it falls off the edge. In recent weeks we have been buried in an avalanche of foreign delegations here on fact-finding missions. After the Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists, we've had the International Crisis Group's president Gareth Evans, the EU's high-powered Troika, the UNHRC's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances. The National Democratic Institute brought the former Northern Ireland Assembly Speaker Lord John Alderice for consultations on mediation, and British special envoy Sir Jeffrey James has just passed through on his bi-annual migratory route between London, New Delhi, Kathmandu and New York.

All have sat and talked to the government, which has reiterated its commitment to restore the political process through elections.

They have talked to politicians who have given widely-divergent prescriptions from constitutional reform to House restoration to constituent assembly elections. Most visitors have gone back more confused than when they came.

When you can't see the forest for the trees, it is important to boil things down to their essence: who are the main players, what do they want, can they be persuaded to meet half way?

There is a political stalemate in Kathmandu between the king and the parties and there is a military stalemate in the field between the army and the Maoists. So, the rebels and the palace have a choice: we can let this drag on for another 15 years and talk, or talk now. Since both sides seem to be hell bent on a fight to the finish, since outside mediation doesn't seem feasible, the only thing that may work is a carrot. After all, the reason the Sri Lankan ceasefire is holding even though talks have failed is because the Tigers and Colombo have been promised $1.5 billion by the international community as a peace dividend.

There is a tendency in Nepal to look south of the border for answers. It is happening again. The king needs to talk to the Nepali people about a solution, not to the Indians. No one can seriously object if he engineers a peace process, but he shouldn't be tempted to go for it alone just for legitimacy. This is a home-grown revolution, it needs a home-grown solution.

A little carrot-and-stick approach from outside, however, may prod our war mongers to negotiate.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)