Nepali Times
State Of The State
Precursors to peace


Our hardcore royalist chums are working up a frenzy over the fact that the 12-point pact between the Maoists and the seven-party alliance was reached in New Delhi rather than at the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Perhaps they believe everyone must share King Gyanendra's penchant for exotic locales.

They forget that it was New Delhi where the primacy of the Shah dynasty was restored in 1950. Initial negotiations between Tamil rebels and the Sri Lankan government were held in Bhutan and Thailand. The Aceh agreement was struck in Helsinki. It's too early to call the parties and the Maoist leadership 'peace-makers' just yet. But it's not difficult to identify who the peace-wreckers could be. Whether with the consent of the palace or on their own, some of them are active behind the scenes to sabotage the first tangible step taken towards getting the Maoists to abandon armed struggle and bring them into the political fold.

An unseen 'Foreign Hand' is ominously mentioned, the implied allegation being that the two sides were manipulated to enter an understanding inimical to the national interest. This is a classical fascist technique: throw wild allegations at opponents to put them on the defensive. One simple question: in the past three years what has actually been accomplished to end the senseless violence in this country?

It's too early to predict whether the ballot shall prevail or the bullet but the country may now be on the verge of entering a phase of peaceful politics. This is where the choices that the palace makes will affect the future of the 12-point agenda and by implication, the fate of monarchy in the country.

In the absence of their chairman, royal nominees in the council of ministers looked somewhat confused. Garrulous ones like Ramesh Nath Pandey and Tanka Dhakal have proclaimed the pact an 'unholy' alliance. Kirti Nidhi Bista was playing the good cop: giving a cautious thumbs up on camera. But after that, he hasn't uttered a word. On return from his African exploration on Friday, the king will be greeted by mammoth processions in Kathmandu. He is obviously not happy about an alliance between political parties he doesn't like and an underground group that wants to overthrow him but he will need to respond.

Meanwhile, after switching their slogans from democracy to peace, the parties are getting an overwhelming response across Nepal. From Butwal to Pokhara, the UML has been drawing huge crowds to its protest rallies. NC leaders have been reaching out to their rural constituencies for the first time in six years. Unlike rented crowds that were bussed in to cheer the king at district headquarters, these people have turned up despite roadblocks at great personal risk. The people seem to want to forgive the parties' past mistakes if they can deliver peace.

hould the palace appear as a barrier on this road to peace and democracy, the silent majority will take note of it and will respond at an appropriate time. Despite Pushpa Kamal Dahal's protestations to the contrary, it is a fact that the party-rebel agreement leaves enough elbowroom on the question of constitutional monarchy. Should the king make a serious attempt to transform this bipartisan arrangement into a tripartite settlement, there is a still a chance that monarchy will have a role in the future of Nepal. Otherwise, as Tulsi Giri himself says, "Time and tide waits for no man".

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)