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Nepal: Precarious Premise Of Peacemaking

Nepal: Precarious Premise Of Peacemaking

By Sanjay Upadhya

The grins, quips and all the other breezy displays of optimism surrounding the post-Dasain phase of the peace process have dissolved in the somberness of the indefinite postponement of the Seven Party Alliance (SPA)-Maoist talks.

Given the murkiness of the enterprise, however, another phase of ebullience and enthusiasm could bounce back with surprising speed. The “homework” hiatus should afford the country an opportunity to reflect on the predicaments on both sides.

For the Maoists, blaming the palace and foreign powers for conspiring to keep them out of power would help energize the base and thwart the prospect of serious discontent over the political leadership’s capitulation to the machinations of the mainstream.

When the rebels continue to ascribe to the palace the ability to torpedo the peace process, they are virtually negating the finality of the “historic” proclamation the House of Representatives adopted in May. Yet the SPA – at least the sections of the two Nepali Congress parties that seem to be propelling the ruling alliance – does not seem too bothered.

The Unified Marxist Leninist (UML) and the other communist constituents may be too busy protecting their own turfs against the imminent influx of their more radical cousins to challenge Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s deepening affection for the monarchy. The mainstream communists, like the republican wing of the Nepali Congress, have evidently recognized the asset a sufficiently and certifiably tamed palace could prove to be.

The two factors supposedly holding back the breakthrough that was so tantalizingly close – the monarchy and Maoist arms – have brought out the painful predicaments of peacemaking. The government’s annoyance with the Maoists eagerness to maintain simultaneous access to their arms and political power – in defiance of international pressure – is understandable.

No less so is the Maoists’ bafflement over the government’s refusal to “suspend” the monarchy, when, for all practical purposes, the House proclamation has already done that.

Introspection is in order. Considering the approaching anniversary, it should begin with the 12-point SPA-Maoist accord reached in New Delhi last year. The reality that the accord stands on flimsier ground than the 1951 Delhi Compromise rests not on the absence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as the preponderant player.

The real distinguishing feature is that Jawaharlal Nehru represented India far more credibly than the current Congress premier – and perhaps any future leader of the world’s most populous democracy – can expect to.

The fragility of the peace process becomes more ominous when Maoist chief ideologue Dr. Baburam Bhattarai praises India for facilitating the accord and then blames it for conspiring to keep the rebels out of power, almost in the same breath. If the adroit hair-splitter is making a distinction between those in the Indian Left who mediated the talks with the SPA and the “official sources” who leaked reports to the media that Indian intelligence agencies were “chaperoning” him around New Delhi, then he needs to be more explicit about those negotiations.

The question is, can he? When UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal traveled to Lucknow in November 2003 to meet with Prachanda and Dr. Bhattarai, there was palpable mix of outrage and embarrassment in both sides of the border over the ease with which the leader of the opposition could meet “terrorists” on Indian soil.

Those sentiments obscured the more relevant story: Dr. Bhattarai’s candid acknowledgement that the Maoists, like any other political organization in Nepali history, could not advance their objectives by criticizing India. The Indians, for their part, must be equally baffled by how the Maoists, who have vowed to launch massive peaceful urban protests in case the talks fail, could still keep their broader pledge to turn South Asia into a flaming field of Maoist revolutions.”

Such fiery rhetoric cannot obscure the flexibility behind the Maoists’ growth. An organization that took up arms against both the monarchy and parliamentary democracy – more vigorously against the latter until the June 1, 2001 royal palace massacre – has now allied with one.

A 40-point list of grievances heavily targeted against India has now been distilled into diatribe against the 238-year-old monarchy. The obfuscation and prevarication that has gone into justifying such shifts are not helpful. Yet the Maoists persist.

Providing revolutionary ardor to Prithvi Narayan Shah’s famous counsel, the Maoists describe Nepal as a dynamite between two boulders. The yam metaphor of the first Shah king may have contained traces of weakness – as the Maoists allege -- but it still pulsated with a quest for life.

The notion of self-destruction – and its wider devastation -- inherent in the dynamite analogy may not have alarmed many Nepalis. The international community has taken notice. No wonder U.N. General Assembly members on Monday refused to be taken in by the peace-and-democracy platform in Nepal campaign for a two-year seat on the Security Council.


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