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Madhu Rana: Nepal - End Of Unilateral Ceasefire

Nepal - End Of Unilateral Ceasefire


By Madhu Rana

As always, it had great propaganda value for it enlivened very high hopes for the elusive peace amongst the national civil society as well as the international community. The net outcome of the dashed hopes was Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's complete turnaround with the declaration of national emergency, including the declaration of the Maoists as terrorists while issuing red corner notifications to the Interpol.

He even went further by taking his lessons from the U.S. in Iraq and NATO in Afghanistan, to place huge bounties for captured Maoists - dead or alive. Finally, he proceeded to expand the size of the RNA personnel and negotiated arms deals with the U.S., India and Europe.

The second ceasefire took place in February 2003 amidst even greater hopes for peace from all quarters as the Maoists chose to, on this occasion, negotiate directly with His Majesty's appointed Prime Minister, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, and the Council of Ministers.

Most commentators perceived that the Maoists found this an opportune occasion to seek a 'soft political landing' by cutting a deal with the Royalists. Having stuck by their well known demands for a Round Table Conference of all the political forces, interim government and elections to the constituent assembly, while negotiating that the RNA be returned to their barracks, it was not surprising that it would collapse, as it did within seven months in August 2003.

The third, and the latest, ceasefire was a unilateral one that concluded on January 2, 2006 after a lull in violence of four months. This time the real reason for the ceasefire would appear to be the attempt by the Maoists to isolate, internationally, the King for His Majesty's direct rule as per Article 127 of the Constitution. Additionally, the real reason for the extension by one month appears to have taken place under Indian pressure to isolate His Majesty nationally and to impress the general public that His Majesty's commitment to all the things said in the Royal Promulgation of February 1, 2005 - peace, security, reinstitution of electoral democracy, economic reforms, good governance and speedier development - is suspect.

Despite the demands of the political parties, national civil society, the UN, EU and other international organisations, foreign embassies (most notably the Indian one that brokered the so-called 12-point understanding (not agreement) in New Delhi between multi-party democrats representing the seven parties and the totalitarian terrorists, it came to naught. At the political level, they were in a position to claim full leadership for the republican agenda by obtaining the endorsement of almost all the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist political parties.

Ostensibly, the reason why the Maoists broke the ceasefire is that "the Royal Nepalese Army has compelled us to end the ceasefire. It was not only impossible but suicidal for us to extend it". They go on to add, however, that yet another ceasefire may be possible "if HMG is prepared to form an interim government to hold elections to a constituent assembly". From this statement, it follows that for the Maoists, unilateral ceasefires are measures for an interim government and elections to an constituent assembly. What is rather surprisingly omitted in the latest CPI-M statement is any need for a round table conference as repeatedly demanded in the past.

The recent developments have complicated the chances for peace by turning the triangular negotiations into a semi-quadrangular unstable equation with the major political parties and the terrorists jointly allowing India to act as peace broker. It is now going to be complicated by the dictates of the Indian political scene where the communists and Naxals of West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Chattisgargh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are seeking an alliance with the Maoists to turn their cause into a pan-South Asian one.

This will undoubtedly mean that the triangular negotiations will, henceforth, invite the interference of the world's major powers, each with their own agenda with UN intervention being made the trump card by the US and European Union to safeguard Nepal's sovereignty and place in check, inter alia, the Indian geo-strategic grand designs over its weaker neighbours.

The important point that needs to be underscored is this: the purpose of any ceasefire should and must be to negotiate a ceasefire agreement so as to end the violence and cease military operations from both sides. It may, in the process, build confidence for final conflict resolution and restoration of peace, mutual trust, political stability and social harmony. This is what a ceasefire should be about, without which there will be no end to the conflict until the parties exhaust themselves with ruin to the nation.

Probable agenda items for the ceasefire negotiations should comprise: (a) agree to ceasefire terms and conditions, (b) humans rights, abstention from torture, terror, abduction, harassment and extortion, (c) return of the internally displaced persons, (d) treatment of the wounded, (e) release of prisoners, (f) making known the whereabouts of lost people, (g) settlement of compensation matters, (h) rehabilitation of the Maoist militia, (i) safety and security in the villages from local revenge and other forms of animosity, (j) schools as peace zones, including rehabilitation of child soldiers, (k) non-recourse to bandhs to stabilise the economy, (l) full respect for the Basic Operating Guidelines (BOG) signed by HMG with donors, and (m) reporting and monitoring of the agreement by independent individuals and the UN.

It needs to be stressed here repeatedly that the RNA must be allowed to continue with their legitimate operations of safeguarding Nepal's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The ceasefire agreement, once finalised, should lead immediately to a Round Table Conference of all the political parties, including civil society, to move the political and constitutional processes forward towards inclusive social reforms and modernisation.

Conclusions

Yes, indeed, what next? The Maoists have done the full circle, as it were. They have negotiated with the parliamentary parties; Royalists, and then the parties in tandem with India. The next time we hear of a 'ceasefire' let it be understood that without sitting down to negotiate a 'ceasefire agreement' that is meant for the laying down of arms by the terrorists and bringing them into the mainstream of Nepalese politics, it is simply a tactical ploy of the Maoists to destabilise the body politic, destroy the economy and raise false hopes amongst the people who, naturally, welcome peace at any cost.

A definite time table has been set by His Majesty to restore electoral democracy and hand over political responsibilities to the sovereign people. This must be pursued with steadfastness with the fullest mobilisation of the people to come out and vote in the municipal election on February 8, 2006 with the guarantee of security by the National Security Council along with fully ensuring free and fair elections that is duly monitored by the international media and organisations.

Experts, who have studied innumerable ceasefire agreements, have concluded that there are also dangers to such negotiations. Firstly, they may be manipulated by all sides to the conflict as has so obviously happened here in Nepal, too. For this fundamental reason, past ceasefires, unilateral or bilateral, were inherently unstable, despite the valiant efforts of the national facilitators. There was neither trust nor confidence built between the adversaries and was made more complex by the triangular nature of the political ideologies and interests in Nepal.

Simultaneously with the negotiations for the ceasefire agreement, the following processes should take place outside the corridors of governments: (a) dialogue must begin by and between the parties to build rapport and trust between themselves and between the parties and civil society to get feedback from the general citizenry at the grassroots; (b) dialogue must be specially held with the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to get first hand knowledge of the travails of the sufferers of violence and for them to put their needs as foremost priority for rehabilitation and reconciliation and (c) concrete actions must be taken to inculcate a culture of democracy through intra-party electoral democracy, transparency, accountability along with maximum competition for leadership positions at all levels, especially with access for youths, dalits, janajatis and women.

All affected districts must plan for reconstruction and rehabilitation, emphasising maximum mobilisation of domestic resources, especially labour. Donors need to be approached to help with funds for the resettlement, relief, rescue, rehabilitation of the IDPs and reconstruction of the damaged local infrastructure. We do not need funds for technical assistance, research, seminars and conferences as in the past.

Greater Nepal

2006, one feels deep down, will be a turning point in Nepal's history. Not because Nepal will descend to being a 'failed State'. About that, the UN bureaucrats should be reading what the King of Bhutan has to say about our dreams for a 'Greater Nepal' - which view the Bhutanese monarch has gotten from Indian security analysts, who alone believe that there lurches deep within the Nepali psyche a latent historical desire to regain the territories annexed by the British Indian empire in the 19th century!

2006 is the year when Nepal will make its successful bid, hopefully, to be a member of the Security Council for the third time. It will be an invaluable entrant for the UN itself with its successes in fighting terrorism and insurgency, protecting human rights, promoting participatory and electoral democracy, and giving voice (as a strong, non-aligned, middle-sized buffer state lying geo-strategically at the cross roads of the emergent new world order) for the noble cause of the mountain peoples of the world in the true spirit of the UN's Preamble that says " We the peoples of the world……."

*************

(Rana was former Minister of Finance)


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