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Agreement Between Political Parties And Terrorists

Agreement Between Political Parties And Terrorists

P. Shrestha writes from Kathmandu

In a rare unity Nepal's political parties in the mainstream and the underground Maoist rebels have reached an agreement, which is being considered as a major breakthrough for the ten-year-old Maoists' insurgency.

The twelve-point accord having a bottom line of going with an election to a Constituent Assembly – previously the Maoist agenda – has certainly given a new dimension to the Nepali conflict, which is triangular in nature. Nevertheless, a crucial question remains: How will the deal between the democratic forces and Maoists gain legitimacy, as the state or the King is not involved into it?

"The parties and Maoists may reach an agreement but they will not be able to implement it without the palace," says Dr Gunther Baechler, a Swiss diplomat based in Kathmandu. He even warned the political parties that they might loose their credibility if the parties depend upon the Maoists' tolerance, or the rebels fail to keep their commitment of laying down their arms to United Nations as said. In such a case, "it will only further strengthen the Maoists, certainly not the parties."

In a separate statement issued by the seven-party alliance – Nepali Congress, Communist Party of Nepal – Unified Marxist Leninist, United Peoples' Front, Nepal Sadvhawana Party and Nepal Workers' and Peasants' Party, – and the Maoists leadership this week, they said that they have reached a conclusion: "autocratic monarchy as a major obstacle in the path of full democracy." The press statements signed by the alliance leaders and Maoists Supremo Prachanda, however, rules out a joint agitation.

On one hand such an agreement between the parties and Maoists may lead to reduce, if not end, the escalated violence. On the other hand, it may also lead to an even more violent situation as the government might ban the parties claiming them to be anti-national element for joining hands with "Maoists terrorists." Some military experts even believe that the Maoists are just using the political parties to achieve their goal.

Neither is there any guarantee that the Maoists and political parties, who could never hold a fruitful dialogue in the past when the latter was in the government, wouldn't disagree again as they still harbor differences on their roadmaps towards the election to Constituent Assembly. They have agreed to abide by the outcome of such an election, but the seven party alliance has referred to the revival of the House of Representatives, an all-party government, talks with the Maoists and election to the Constituent Assembly as its path to full democracy; while the rebels still stuck to a national political conference and an interim government to conduct an election to the Constituent Assembly in order to establish a Republican set up in Nepal.

Nepali people are crossing their fingers and waiting for the government's reaction to this new development. King Gyanendra is still on his visit to African countries and is expected to return via India and Bhutan. Political analysts are more concerned about the monarch's New Delhi visit as it has raised possibility of a major change in Nepal's politics. Interestingly, the Maoists and political parties had also reached the new agreement after their reported meetings in the Indian capital recently.

In such a context, it is no surprise for the western powers to think that "it is ultimately India's job to resolve Nepal's conflict." International community in fact has "no unity and clear strategy" on resolving the conflict in the tiny Himalayan Kingdom. "Western powers hesitate, even fear of influence by India, China and Japan in Nepal's affairs, so they have not pressurized the Palace, the main actor here, like they had done in resolving the Macedonian conflict," a European diplomat, who is working as a conflict expert in his country's mission in Kathmandu, disclosed to PROBE.

Now with the political parties and Maoists coming closer, and the King becoming isolated, Nepal's triangular conflict has taken just an opposite shape. The constitution forces – the monarch and the democratic forces – were closer for quelling the Maoists' insurgency until the parties were in the government before the February 1 royal takeover.

In fact, the new development has taken place because the protest of seven-party alliance against King was not gaining any momentum, while the announcement of municipal elections by the government was creating a "tricky situation" for them. Given the current scenario, the parties couldn't get space for political campaign in order to win any election, neither they were firm that they can uproot monarchy, the institution having a more than 250-year-old history.

Political bigwigs including a former Prime Minister, Lokendra Bahadur Chand, have welcomed the agreement reached between the political parties and Maoists, but they are not sure if the agreement will achieve its objectives. "The understanding, which is intended to restore peace in the country should be welcomed, but will it achieve its goal immediately? It is yet to be seen whether such an agreement is enough. or yet other initiatives are needed," said Chand, who is also a leader of Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), the party close to the Palace.

Not only other leaders of RPP recommended an understanding to be reached with the King, even the international community representatives say that the seven-party alliance should reach out to the Palace in order to address the constitutional crisis. "Reaching an agreement with the Maoists won't work if the parties don't talk with King," emphasize the western diplomats, who are even ready to help create an environment to conduct free and fair elections announced by the government.

"Why doesn't the government call us to discuss creating a favorable environment for holding elections? The political parties may participate in elections under international monitoring," said Dr Baechler. Meanwhile, a senior leader of Nepali Congress Saileja Acharya has been suggesting the parties to participate in the upcoming elections provided an all-party government conducts it. Security situation in villages and cities has improved, as people now are a bit relieved for free movement due to the Maoists' unilateral ceasefire, which the government is yet respond. Thousands of villagers have come to a western regional headquarters to pressurize the government to reciprocate Maoists' ceasefire. Nothing can be said for sure now, but in such a context it is highly likely that the King may form an all-party interim government after he returns home.

The sunny side of the Nepali conflict, according to conflict experts, is it has not yet gone out of control. Compared to African conflict, "Nepal is not a failed state yet, but it is failing slowly" and the government should notice that if the Himalayan Kingdom fails she has a lot to lose. International community has a "wait and see policy" until a huge catastrophe arises to act with all means including peace enforcement, the Swiss diplomat said.


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