Monday, July 11, 2005

Seize The Moment: Match The Maoists

I think this is a major development, this appeal by the Maoists to seek a peaceful resolution to the civil war. This has to be seized. It can not be allowed to go waste.

It is for the seven parties to say that yes we also are for a Constituent Assembly like you, but we can not go there with you still up in arms. As to your disarming, we are open to possibilities of mediation by the UN or some third party. That is the broad outline of what is to happen. I think all parties to the conflict understand that.

So it is ultra important to not mess up the mechanics of the process, the outcome of which is already broadly agreed upon. I think the Maoists themselves do not think it is realistic that there will be elections to a Constituent Assembly while they are still up in arms, and the army is not in the barracks yet.

Personally I think the UN is in the best position to mediate, but other possibilities are also welcome. It could be a broad team of the UN, Indian and Chinese representatives, as well as those of other SAARC countries, as well as members of Nepal's civil society, people like Padma Ratna Tuladhar. The key thing is that the three parties to the conflict should feel the mediating team is sufficiently neutral and with enough powers to be able to ensure implementation of agreements that will be arrived at that they can stay engaged in the process.

Peace is at the doorstep if this initiative is cashed.

So seven parties, don't be idiots, form a formal team. Make the hitherto back channel dialogue official and upfront and, for the most part, public.

Nepal does not need suicide bombers and worse.

The conflict in Nepal does not have parallels to the one in Sri Lanka. The Maoists are not fighting for a separate state. They want Nepal intact. They just want to modernize the state. A peaceful, respectful exit has to be facilitated.

The parties should not insist on the Maoists ending violence with immediate effect. They have already toned down the violence substantially. At best they can get defensive with the Royal Nepal Army. But violence will only cease at the culmination of peace talks to which also the Monarchists will be party. Baburam has touched upon this, and it is important to take note. Only a peace team with the authority to pull the RNA back into the barracks can ask the Maoists to bring violence to a total halt, to disarm. This is mechanics. This is called being realistic.

What the parties should celebrate instead is that the Maoists are saying they intend to go towards multi-party democracy. As opposed to fighting for a communist republic here and now. That is a big demon vaporized. And that is a major achievement that should not be washed away by the seven parties that right now have no state authority in Nepal and no major leverage beyond insisting upon a Maoist disarmament. Right now, just open up a formal channel of communication. Form a team as Prachanda has suggested. How ridiculous would it be to not do so? Because you want violence to cease, you refuse to engage in talks that might vastly diminish the violence! What king of logic would that be?

And then there is the political fallout. Nothing will weaken the current regime like a formal political alliance between the seven parties and the Maoists. Such an alliance will also tell the international community in no uncertain terms that the Maoists really are for multi-party democracy. And then the Monarchists will not be able to blackmail the internatioal community into supplying it with ammunition it is fast running out of. I don't care about the ammunition, the RNA may have it if there are givers, but such a step would be a major political victory for the Monarchists, and that can not be allowed. The solid international coalition for democracy in Nepal can not be allowed to weaken.

The very idea behind a dialogue is that two camps have different starting points and they are both open to the possibility they will end up at some third place. A new common ground will be formed. That is what dialogue brings. That is what peace process is about. You don't go into a peace process with ultimatums, although adherance to a bottom line is understandable, a point beyond which you will not go.

The seven parties need to avoid the chicken and egg situation. The parties will not talk to the Maoists until they renounce violence. The Maoists will not renouce violence unless they are guaranteed a Constituent Assembly. The seven parties can claim the political mainstream by taking the lead here. Own up to the fact that you do not have the powers to guarantee the Maoists anything. You are not in power, you are in disgrace. So do the political work for now. Which is to get an iron clad commitment from the Maoists towards a multi-party democracy.

The most important thing the two of the three forces that are now for a Constituent Assembly, the Maoists and the Democrats, need to realize is that work on a Constituent Assembly can begin right away. They could start work on a new constitution right away. They could end up with a list of things they agree on, and a list of things they do not agree on. Among the things they agree on will be multi-party democracy, and it is at that point the Maoists gain formal legitimacy of sorts with the global powers. The things they disagree on will be settled through the formal Constituent Assembly. And then they wage a more potent, peaceful struggle against the Monarchists to demand an interim government and a Constituent Assembly.

Somewhere along the way the idea of reviving the parliament will have to be thrown out. Because it symbolizes a contradiction. To revive the parliament is to say the 1990 constitution is alive and kicking. The idea of a Constituent Assembly is to suggest the 1990 document is dead and a new one has to be shaped. Both can not go hand in hand.

South Africa did it great. The players in Nepal could learn a lot from the South African experience. Even the king could learn a lot. Because the Monarchists in Nepal are nowhere close to what the apartheid whites were in the South African context. And they still happily participated in an Assembly, and did not feel cheated in the aftermath. That is the beauty of a skillful, respectful negotiation process.

Another big impediment might be caused by the Nepali Congress and the UML. Both could end up losing their status of the 1990s to the Maoists in a peaceful Nepal, possibly. And so they might want to fight the Maoists now, rather than in a peaceful Nepal post-Constituent Assembly, electorally. That would be a major disservice to the nation. The little respect I have for these Congress and UML Bahuns stands to be further eroded if they play dirty like this and cheat the people out of a quick peace.

Say post-Constituent Assembly, in a new parliament of 180 seats, if the Maoists end up with 60, the UML 45, the Congress 30, Congress (D) 20, RPP 10, Sadbhavana 10, and other Left parties 5 seats, then so be it. At least both the UML and the Congress parties will have the option to improve their stock through peaceful, democratic means. The people will be supreme. After there is peace, there will be more than one election. There will be elections every few years. Parties can work to improve their stock then. That work would be ligitimate. Playing foul with the peace process now is not legitimate.

We have to watch out for this Congress-UML tendency to count the chicken before they are hatched. Before you can worry about your party's electoral prospects, you have to make elections possible first.

And about UN mediation, if it were something improper, would someone like Kofi Annan, someone of his stature, and intelligence, and authority suggest that? Never. But he has offered it non stop for god knows how many years. That itself shows UN mediation is a very legitimate thing to do. And no you don't have to worry about offending India. India, if you have been following the news, has embarked on a major global campaign to get itself a seat on the Security Council. Why would it want to be seen ruffling the UN feathers? No foreign power is against UN mediation. All are for dialogue and peace. Don't give them undue credit.

The failure of those who can but do not take steps for peace gets measured in blood. For now the step to be taken is to form a formal seven party team that will talk to the Maoists. Do it.

Hunters are people who hunt, fish are beings that live in water. Similarly Maoists are groups that believe "power flows through the barrel of a gun" and they work towards a one party communist republic. So when the Maoists are giving clear signs that they are willing to move beyond both those two fundamentals, that is some major ideological progress for them. It is that ideological shift that the seven parties should seek to facilitate right now. Their disarmament is where the peace talks will culminate. That is not where the peace talks can begin. This is basic mechanics. The seven parties should not put the cart before the bullock. If they do, they push peace further away. And they will end up further proving their incompetence stereotype.

In The News
  • Maoist chief sets the Nepal political ball rolling Indian Express, India In a significant development, outlawed Maoist group chief Prachanda has asked seven pro-democracy parties to constitute a ‘‘team’’ for finding a democratic way to resolve the political stalemate in Nepal. He has made it clear that the Maoists are willing to talk to the United Nations or ‘‘anyone’’ from the world community in pursuit of Nepalese wishes for peace, democracy and progress..... This is the first time that the Maoists have committed themselves to peace, democracy and progress.... The choice of words like fight against ‘‘absolute monarchy’’ and for peace, progress and democracy mentioned in the statement give a clear indication that the Maoists have accepted the condition laid by the pro-democracy political parties that there could be no struggle together if the Maoists do not renounce violence. Prachanda reiterated that the Maoists would not ‘‘kill’’ workers and supporters of the seven parties. ‘‘We will strengthen the basis of mutual trust through this dialogue’’
  • Nepal Maoists offer talks with opposition A day after the media reported India's unhappiness with Nepal's King Gyanendra, pressure on the new regime headed by the monarch intensified with the Maoist guerrillas offering to hold talks with the opposition parties..... name a team that would liaise with the rebels.... The possibility of a pact between the Maoists and the parliamentary parties, who in the past were the prime targets of the rebels, is a matter of worry for the king. ....The Maoists have already entrusted their spokesman, former MP Krishna Bahadur Mahara and senior leader Baburam Bhattarai to hold talks with political leaders from Nepal as well as other countries...... The Opposition parties welcomed Prachanda's call for talks. Pradeep Nepal, spokesman of the UML, the largest communist party in the kingdom and once part of the same party to which the Maoists belong, told IANS his party had taken the call in a positive manner. ..... Last week, Maoist leader Bhattarai had said it was premature to ask the rebels' "People's Army" to lay down arms.
  • Maoists keen on talks The Statesman They refused to hold talks with King Gyanendra and his new regime but Nepal’s underground Maoist guerrillas today indicated they were ready to start a formal dialogue with the Opposition parties..... Dahal’s former deputy Dr Baburam Bhattarai, who is believed to be hiding in India, indicated informal talks between his banned organisation and the coalition had begun since summer, today’s statement puts the seal on the impression and will undoubtedly put new pressure on King Gyanendra. ...Maoists have asked the United Nations to join the talks
  • Maoists invite Nepalese parties to forge anti-king alliance ReliefWeb (press release) asked the seven parties to name an "authorised team'' to hold talks with his group...... the Maoist chief said that directives issued by his party to all its cadres not to target activists of the seven party alliance "was being enforced strictly ... except (for) some accidents''.... Political analysts say that the seven parties call to Maoists for help stemmed from their inability to bring the people out in the streets in any significant numbers during their protest rallies...... organizing serious discussions on the whole gamut of political issues..... The major Maoist demands include a roundtable conference, interim government, and elections of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution...... despite the Maoist invitation, political analysts say that the seven parties that believe in multi-party democracy will not immediately grab the Maoist offer....... They warn that any move on the part of the seven parties to start immediate talks with the Maoists might break up the parties, specially Nepali Congress and Nepali Congress (Democratic) which in the past did not want any dealings with even moderate leftists....... In an interview published Sunday in the popular Nepali language weekly magazine Nepal, leader of the United Marxist-Leninist Party K. P. Oli said, "The Maoists are against democracy. So how can we have common cause with them.'
  • Nepal rebels appeal to UN, political parties for talks Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates The appeal comes during a five-day visit to Nepal by Lakhdar Brahimi, a special envoy of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.... “The Maoists have not given any proof that they have given up violence against civilians. We will have to discuss the latest offer with other parties before we decide on a response,” said Ram Sharan Mahat of Nepali Congress
  • Nepal rebels say ready for talks with UN Reuters AlertNet Prachanda said the king's power grab was the main problem...... "We can hold serious discussions on all political matters"
  • Nepalese rebels urge UN mediation BBC News It remains unclear how the politicians, sidelined by the king since his coup in February, will react to Prachanda's call....The parties' general line is that the Maoists must renounce violence before there can be substantial co-operation.
  • Maoists ready for talks, call parties to come forward Outlook (subscription), India
  • * Update: LTTE and Maoist links: Indian intelligence sounds the ... Colombo Page, Sri Lanka Indian state intelligence agencies have sounded the red alert..... possible suicide attacks by Maoists in different part of the country..... We cannot take these reports of LTTE and French training lightly..... LTTE experts have already trained as many as 12 Maoist suicide squads from both Nepal and India.
  • 'Cautious' Welcome for Maoist Talks Call Himalayan Times, Nepal Leaders of the seven agitating political parties have "cautiously" welcomed Maoist supremo Prachanda's call to form an "official" talks team to initiate dialogue with the Maoists...... doubted their honesty saying the Maoists "have betrayed the parties time and again."...... "Issuance of statements alone won't do. We believe not in statements, but in action."
  • Kofi Annan's special advisor arriving in Nepal, India Annan has also repeatedly offered the UN services for mediation between the government and the communist guerrillas.
  • Nepal rebels say ready for talks with UN Daily Times, Pakistan
  • Prachanda's Statement INSN ... our party is for democracy, peace and progress
  • Maoists Positive About Koirala's Speech INSN
  • An Encounter With Tulsi Giri UWB If you keep aside your ideological differences with Dr Tulsi Giri, you will find a good human being in him....... “I am for an absolutely partiless democracy” .... For some Tulsi Giri is a hero but for many, including myself, he is a villain ..... even at the age of 79, Tulsi Giri is a damn handsome and attractive man. ..... the “mentally strong but weak flesh” of Tulsi Giri .... I did not go to Dr Giri to seek some headlines. I was there to explore his human side. ..... our appointment was fixed via some SMS text messages. I also admire Dr Giri for being tech-friendly...... SMS- savvy personality...... I assumed he wasn’t happy with me because in his recent press meet, he had condemned me and refuted my write-up. .... I am not a political reporter and no leader knows me by my name, let me confess...... mythical, mysterious, and to some extent, ‘infamous’, Tulsi Giri...... I have always been uttering his name for negative reasons. I have been grown up hearing Tulsi Giri Prabritti, or Tulsi Giri the villain, or Tulsi Giri this and Tulsi Giri that. I have always know him as a man who betrayed leader BP Koirala. (He denied this in my conversation and partially clarified his stand.)....... where there is no one to disturb you except a continuously moving fan, you will definitely talk a lot.... Dr Tulsi Giri, Nepal’s one of the most controversial figures in the recent history..... I will be disclosing the full transcript of the conversation in coming days.
  • Rule Of King's Handpicked Administrators UWB Local Acting Development Officer (LDO) of Siraha, Keshav Prasad Bimali, was beaten up and even locked inside a toilet before being detained without a warrant by his bosses - the regional and zonal administrators - on July 3. The charge against Keshav: “failing to maintain cleanliness in the guest house run by the District Development Committee"...... the Regional Administrator of the Eastern region, Jagdish Khadka, and Zonal Administrator of Sagarmatha, Ram Kumar Subba ..... Subba said, “Keshav was not physically abused, but was only taken under control since he was involved in a number of financial irregularities". “We had warned him twice,” Subba said. When asked about the legality of his arrest without issuing a warrant, he said, " It will be legal soon".... Bimali’s case is just the tip of the iceberg, however. Rule by iron fist has been the modus operandi of King’s men.
  • Nepal opposition ready to talk with Maoists with foreign help:- Webindia123 Responding positively to the Maoist call to start talks, Nepal's opposition parties Tuesday said they would seek international help for the parleys, which would be held abroad if King Gyanendra's government tried to stop them...... After his hour-long meeting with Brahimi at his residence in the city, Koirala said the opposition coalition sought the help of international agencies, including the UN and India, for talks with the Maoists..... "If we can't hold talks in Nepal, we will do it anywhere in the world with the help of international agencies," Khanal said. "It is the responsibility of the parties to engage the rebels in dialogue, not the king's.".... Khanal said his party was ready to hold talks if the outlaws agreed they would adhere to a process to lay down arms....... Khanal said the guerrillas would have to stop attacks on political leaders, cadre and civilians, as well as abductions, extortions and obstruction to public programmes organised by the parties in rebel strongholds. They have to also agree to allow an international rights organisation to probe the killing of political activists and civilians and punish the guilty....... Khanal said the rebels would also have to agree to a multi-party democracy and abide by the results of the parliamentary election that the coalition plans to hold after they make the king hand over power and form an interim, all-party government....... Ram Sharan Mahat of Koirala's party said the opposition coalition was discussing with Brahimi how the UN could facilitate peace talks with the Maoists.
  • 'LTTE not training Nepal's Maoists in Bihar', India Bihar has denied a report that Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers are providing military training to Nepal's Maoist insurgents in a northern district of the state bordering the kingdom.
  • Brahimi meets political leaders Kantipur Online held consultations Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala at the latter’s residence..... yesterday had met Padhma Ratna Tuladhar..... Pashupati Shumsher Rana, during his meeting with Brahimi said the crisis should be resolved through Nepal’s internal forces.
  • Parties call Prachanda’s statement positive overture Leela Mani Pokharel of Janmorcha said, “The committee to initiate dialogue with the Maoist would soon be finalised at joint meeting of seven-party alliance.”
  • Maoists loot a bank in Dhankuta Kantipur Online, Nepal
  • 'Alliance with Parties Only Way Out' Himalayan Times, Nepal Krishna Bahadur Mahara, said today his party's alliance with parliamentary parties — not between the King and the parties — can bail the country out of the current crisis..... Mahara said their actions were a "just violence." ..... “We have already taken action against (our cadres) violating party’s directives in Chitwan and Bardiya and have sent them to ‘labour camps” .....
  • Rape affects many Nepali women, yet a culture of silence ... OhmyNews International, South Korea .... authorities largely fail to investigate most women's complaints of rape and abuse. There is an obvious connection between the occurrence of rape in society and the dramatization and deception of it in the media...... unless male supremacy in every sphere of society and the subordinate position of women are changed, we will not end rape against women. Another problem is rehabilitating women who were raped..... Rape is the one of the most common forms of violence. A culture of silence in reporting sexual violence is due to such factors as a lack of confidence in law enforcement and the fear of being stigmatized..... there are currently more legal provisions that directly discriminate against women, strictly limiting their rights..... In no society today do women enjoy the same opportunities as men.
  • Bomb kills two children in Nepal BBC News, UK boys were apparently playing with the bombs - grenades made with iron pipe fittings - in a village... Police say the Maoist left the bombs behind after a clash with security forces in the area nearly a month ago.
  • Joint Maoists training center destroyed Kantipur Online, Nepal Monday night
  • Nepal rejects UN help on Maoist insurgency IANS, India .... saw no need to accept the offer of mediation made repeatedly by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan..... The opposition leaders had said they welcomed help from the international community, including the UN and India, to hold talks with the Maoist guerrillas and strengthen their movement against Gyanendra .... Interestingly, these parties when in power had ruled out UN mediation to hold talks with the outlaws..... The developments seem to isolate Gyanendra's regime all the more. Its call to the rebels to surrender arms and start talks has been rejected outright. Now, the parties appear to have wrested its mandate to initiate the peace talks.
  • Nepal: Maoist-Khmer Rouge Comparisons (press release) collaboration between the mainstream parties -- protesting against King Gyanendra’s Feb. 1 takeover of full executive powers -- and the rebel organization would be the only way of pulling the country out of its worsening spiral of death and destruction..... There is speculation in Kathmandu that the king may appoint a leader of one of the agitating parties to head a government of national unity. The Maoists, after all, have not forgotten that the mainstream parties, in power until 2002, were the ones that began unleashing the full force of the state against the rebellion....... Following a split in the UPF, Mahara and some of his allies joined another radical group to form the Nepal Communist Party (Maoists) .... The other UPF faction, while still wedded to a republican agenda, remained in the parliamentary process. ..... The Maoists resent comparisons with the Khmer Rouge. ...... a substantial section of Nepalis embittered by perceptions and realities of domination by their giant southern neighbor. ..... The Khmer Rouge regime is remembered mainly for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people, through execution, starvation and forced labor. In terms of the number of people killed as a proportion of the population of the country it ruled and time in power, the Khmer Rouge was probably the most lethal regime of the 20th century...... Mahara is among the more pragmatic leaders of the movement. During the brief peace process of 2003, the manner in which he went about reassuring the business community and international representatives of the policies and programs of a future Maoist government was admirable....... In terms of rank and responsibilities, Prachanda and Dr. Baburam Bhattarai are the equivalents of Pol Pot and Noun Chea. But the leader of the Nepalese Maoists and the group’s chief ideologue are locked in a bitter power struggle even before getting anywhere close to attaining their revolutionary objectives....... Each formal denial in official Maoist media of a deepening rift in the ranks is followed by a robust exchange of specific charges by the rival camps. ..... While the two men fight out their battles, Mahara could emerge as Nepal’s Khieu Samphan or Iang Sary, men who helped facilitate Cambodian reconciliation..... Cambodia remains one of the shining examples of the United Nations’ peace-building activities. Indeed, Nepalis may have to delve deeper down the Maoist hierarchy to find an equivalent to Hun Sen, the one-time Khmer Rouge member who won U.N-sponsored elections in 1993 and continues to head the Cambodian government.
  • India not satisfied with Nepal king Navhind Times “The situation in Nepal is the same. There is no improvement” ... there is an unsatisfactory stalemate ..... there was no move to resume lethal supplies..... there was no move to resume lethal supplies. ....
  • Nepal backs Japan UNSC bid, but not G-4 The Japan Times, Japan Nepal's position is widely viewed as an attempt to appease both India and China -- two emerging Asian nations with which it shares borders. While New Delhi wants a permanent seat on the Security Council, Beijing opposes Japan's ascension to permanent membership.

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