Rebel visit moves Nepal closer to peace
(Page 2 of 2)
"And when they join the interim government in a month, which army will be the legitimate state army: the PLA or the Nepali Army? The Maoists are pushing the argument that PLA is the legitimate state army while the Nepali Army is the residue of a rejected regime. This is dangerous," says Pradhan.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Problems notwithstanding, leaders of the major parties are upbeat. "The destination – constituent assembly election – is set now. The only big issues that remain are the future of the monarchy and the structure of the future Nepal," says Bam Dev Gautam, an influential leader of Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist. Mr. Gautam added that the rest are "small issues" that can be taken care of with mutual consent.
Beyond Friday's agreement, journalists and ordinary citizens closely followed the details of Prachanda's first public appearance in nearly 30 years. Prachanda, whose nom de guerre means "The Fierce One," was provided security by his longtime foe, the state army, both at the prime minister's residence and at a modest downtown hotel.
The dialogue with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and top leaders of the alliance of seven democratic parties represented the highest level talks ever between the rebels and the government.
Prachanda, whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has been pushing for a republic ever since the insurgency started in February 1996. However, after talks, he said that parties are free to go to the elections – to take place by May 2007 – with their own stand on the monarchy. In his 30-minute speech to the press, he came across as a rather accommodative visionary with great oratory skills, contrary to his image as a rigid revolutionary.
Even staunch royalists have congratulated him for that. "I was deeply impressed by Prachanda's presentation of his vision of future Nepal," says Ramesh Nath Pandey, who was foreign minister in King Gyanendra's cabinet. "I must also add that he demonstrated admirable nationalist sentiment."
However, those who have been in contact with the rebel chief for quite sometime now point out that flexibility is not an excuse for rushed agreements.
Arjun Karki, the president of NGO Federation Nepal, an umbrella body of Nepal's nongovernmental organizations, says that the flexibility is because the Maoists are in a hurry to join the government. "They have demonstrated flexibility on a number of issues in the last couple of years. But the peace process remains very fragile, especially because it is being conducted without transparency and without participation of conflict resolution experts," he says.
Mr. Karki, whom the government named as a member in a cease-fire code of conduct monitoring committee announced on June 15, was not even asked for consent. "Neither did the government inform me that I was named. I came to know only from newspapers," says Karki, adding that such opacity won't help the peace process.