Nepali Times
Guest Column
Aceh and us


The Indonesian Government and the Free Aceh Movement prevailed over deep-rooted distrust to sign a peace MoU in Helsinki on 15 August. Brokered by the Crisis Management Initiative headed by former Finland President Martii Ahtisaari, the shaky truce could smooth the way for $5 billion in aid for reconstruction of this war and tsunami ravaged region on the eastern tip of Sumatra.

The Helsinki accord is still fraught with pitfalls, but is a wake-up call for the warring sides in Nepal. However, the same week the pact was signed Nepali officials said they wouldn't allow outsiders to "meddle in our internal affairs". Speaking in Beijing, Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey said: "Nepal has now been pressurised by a terrorist group and their supporters and sympathisers to accept outside intervention in its domestic problem."

All this sounds incongruous when even the top brass in the Royal Nepali Army have said this war doesn't have a military solution, all the military can do is force the Maoists to negotiate. If guns could do the job in Indian-administered Kashmir an estimated 500,000 Indian soldiers and paramilitaries would not have, in 15 years of warfare, failed to eliminate an insurgency now waged by perhaps 2,000 surviving militants.

From the safety of Kathmandu's bubble it is easy to keep arguing that the insurgency is home-grown and we are capable enough to solve the Maoist problem by ourselves. That may be true, but is the ever-deepening distrust among the king, political parties and the Maoists ever going to lessen so that substantial and meaningful negotiations can take place? Will the three forces ever muster the political will to negotiate?

The Nepali state gets military help with strings attached: pressures, international geopolitics and strategic interests. If we are happy to play along with that, what is wrong with international pressure for mediation to find a peaceful way to end the war?

The international community can be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. If only we had our house in order and we could forge a political consensus to end the war as desired by a majority of the population. It is up to Nepali political forces to choose a credible mediator to lead us to a ceasefire and a peace process.

"Nations have no permanent friends or allies, they only have permanent interests," said Lord Palmerston, who was prime minister of Britain when that country's East India Company was waging war against the Kingdom of Gorkha. Today, we bend over backwards to lean on China while needlessly alienating others. China has other concerns, we should be pragmatic and seek a solution in our own geopolitical reality.

Seventy percent of Nepal's development budget depends on outside aid. An increasing chunk of it is being channelled into fuelling the war. As the conflict escalates, the Nepali people are insecure and despair for the future. The insurgency feeds on itself, and on poverty, neglect and repression. The Maoists capitalised on these by presenting themselves as liberators, and although they may no longer be seen as knights in shining armour there seems to be no effort by the other political forces and the government to address the alienation that drives the conflict.

After ten years and 13,000 lives, even if we find a solution we owe it to the victims to once and for all address our society's core injustices. Even if this war is worth prolonging, it shouldn't be Nepal's long-suffering poor who should be doing the dying.

It is about time the powerful people in Kathmandu figured that more helicopters and guns are not going to end this madness. If the Achenese with all the bad blood of 30 years of separatist conflict can do it, why can't we? l

Subindra Bogati is a student of international relations at London Metropolitan University.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)