ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Nepal: Historic Deal

Historic Deal The speed with which changes have taken place in Nepal since April 24 when king Gyanendra restored parliament is quite staggering. A historic summit meeting on June 16 between prime minister G P Koirala and chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Prachanda, resulted in an eight-point agreement that promises to end conflict and usher in peace in the country. The agreement calls for dissolution of the seven party alliance (SPA)-led government as well as parliament and paves the way for the CPN(M) to join an interim government under an interim constitution, under whose aegis elections to a constituent assembly would be held. The agreement also reiterates support for the 12-point agreement reached between them in November 2005 as well as the 25-point code of conduct agreed to on May 25. And the Maoists endorse the principles of competitive politics and a free press. The summit made it clear that the stocks of weapons of the Maoists and the Nepal army would be monitored by the United Nations in order to ensure that elections are free and fair. The one point yet to be resolved is the allocation of portfolios between the SPA and the Maoists.

NEPAL

Historic Deal

T
he speed with which changes have taken place in Nepal since April 24 when king Gyanendra restored parliament is quite staggering. A historic summit meeting on June 16 between prime minister G P Koirala and chairperson of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Prachanda, resulted in an eight-point agreement that promises to end conflict and usher in peace in the country. The agreement calls for dissolution of the seven party alliance (SPA)-led government as well as parliament and paves the way for the CPN(M) to join an interim government under an interim constitution, under whose aegis elections to a constituent assembly would be held. The agreement also reiterates support for the 12-point agreement reached between them in November 2005 as well as the 25-point code of conduct agreed to on May 25. And the Maoists endorse the principles of competitive politics and a free press. The summit made it clear that the stocks of weapons of the Maoists and the Nepal army would be monitored by the United Nations in order to ensure that elections are free and fair. The one point yet to be resolved is the allocation of portfolios between the SPA and the Maoists.

Until recently, the SPA was insisting that the newly restored parliament would not be dissolved, that the Maoists must first disarm and that the “de-royalised” army could not be treated at par with Maoist army. They also wanted the Maoists to stop “extortion”, which Maoists described as “donations” for their parallel government. Such was the vitiated state of affairs that when G P Koirala visited India, Prachanda issued a warning against any new conspiracy. But no sooner had the prime minister returned from his visit than the SPA changed tack. The reason was simple. While the SPA governed Kathmandu, it exercised little authority over the rest of Nepal where the Maoists held sway. None of the constituents of the SPA could on their own organise large public meetings, whereas the Maoists demonstrated their support base by holding large ‘khabardar’ rallies. More worrisome for the SPA, which had divested Gyanendra of his powers, removed the royal tag from the army and arrested chiefs of the armed police was that it could not move against the army leadership. Without the SPA government asking it to do so, the army had begun mobilising itself on the eve of one of the biggest public meetings called by the Maoists in Kathmandu. The prime minister’s visit to Delhi brought home that neither India nor the US was happy with the prospect of the army being cut to size. India was also not very enthusiastic about the UN playing a role in its own “backyard” and appeared more keen on increasing its leverage by offering to resume aid for large projects in Nepal. However, the SPA was better aware of the reality that the Maoists were the dominant force and that popular opinion opposed keeping them out. Besides, the army had to be neutralised and this could be facilitated by taking on board the Maoists. The white paper presented recently by the finance minister brought out the debilitating impact of the military, which consumed more than a quarter of gov-

Economic and Political Weekly June 30, 2006

ernment resources. The G P Koirala-led government showed its sagacity here by not succumbing to manipulation by elements within the SPA and to pressure from India and US to placate the army or choosing the path of prevarication. It accepted that the best course was in reaching an agreement with the Maoists and moving swiftly towards an elected constituent assembly.

While the interim constitution is to be drawn up soon and the Maoists would join the interim government soon after, irritants have surfaced since the June 16 agreement. This is to be expected given the epochal nature of the deal, the circumstances under which it was drawn up and the speed with which the SPA government and the CPN(M) concluded the agreement. It is up to the two groups and their leaders to ensure that such glitches do not derail a larger process. The next struggle is for the popular mandate. The Maoists’ use of the armed struggle and their political tactics have served them well so far, but the real test will come when elections to the constituent assembly are held. That would reveal how much of the popular support will translate into a mandate for the Maoists and how much for the SPA. In the meanwhile, the Nepalese can indeed rejoice that they will soon be able to decide, on their own and of their free will, the structure of the state for their country. Given the role the Maoists have played in Nepal and how they have evolved and adapted their strategy to the times, the question before India’s Maoists is what lessons they will draw from the positive achievements so far of the CPN(M) in the Himalayan country. m

Economic and Political Weekly June 30, 2006

Dear reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Comments

(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Back to Top