Foreign Editorial Views: Match Word With Action
So far, few world news outlets have shown interest in editorializing the recent progress in Nepali peace. Those that have, mostly from India, emphasize that words must now be matched by action.
The following are some of the editorials in the foreign press regarding the recent progress in the peace process in Nepal. We will continue to monitor editorial coverage and will continue to update this page.
Compromise in Nepal
The Washington Times, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006
Eight months after widespread protests forced the Nepalese king to relinquish his authoritarian hold on power, the democratic Seven Party Alliance agreed to an interim constitution with leaders of the Maoist insurgency, signaling another successful step toward democracy in the small Himalayan nation. The interim constitution relegates King Gyanendra to an effectively powerless symbolic role, and with the Maoist rebels renouncing violence and entering the political mainstream, Nepal finds itself in a good position to shape its political future and move away from the costly conflict of the past decade.
The Indian government supports the agreement in Nepal, and with good reason. India, along with the United States, called on the king to restore democracy, fearing the worst case scenario: that the Maoist insurgency would simply overthrow the monarch -- which it was, by some estimates, capable of doing -- if he did not abdicate his power. Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee was in Nepal Sunday to meet with the new Nepalese prime minister and reaffirm his country's support for "all efforts that are aimed at achieving peace, democracy and development in Nepal." The Indian government has even agreed to supply food for some divisions of the Maoist rebel army, which were confined, like government troops, in cantonments under U.N. supervision.
India itself faces a threat from a violent Maoist insurgency, particularly in its Northern states. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced in April, when the crisis in Nepal was reaching its full fervor, that "the challenge of internal security is our biggest national security challenge," in reference to the Maoist threat.
The inclusion of the Nepalese Maoists in the political process has been accompanied by a changed outlook -- at least rhetorically. After an initial agreement had been reached in November, the Maoist leader told reporters at a press conference that "our experiences have shown we could not achieve our goals through armed revolution, so we have chosen the path of negotiation and formed an alliance with the political parties." This revelation, which led to the Maoist's consent this weekend to a new constitution, has brought harsh criticism from the Indian Maoists, reported in the Indian press, but has been welcomed by the Indian government.
The triumph of democracy in Nepal will be measured in the next few years. U.S. State Department officials supported the November agreement with the condition that policy toward the government would be determined by how fully the Maoists' respect the agreement to disarm. So far, the rebel group has abided. The Maoists' commitment to democratic principles and their complete renunciation of violence will continue to be the standard by which the success of Nepal's new government should be judged.
Peace at the top of the world
The Japan Times, Friday, Dec. 1, 2006
Citizens of Nepal have been rejoicing since their political leaders agreed to a peace deal that ended 10 years of bitter and bloody civil war. The accord lays the foundation for a durable peace in Nepal, but much depends -- as always -- on its implementation. Two other factors will also have a profound influence on the prospects for peace: the work of a truth and reconciliation commission that will look hard at the past, and the creation of jobs -- and hope -- in one of Asia's poorest countries.
Nepal has been wracked by a Maoist insurgency for over a decade. The civil war has claimed more than 13,000 lives. The guerrillas had joined the parliamentary process as a political party, but opted out to take up arms. They have been fairly successful, now controlling large parts of the countryside. When the government succeeded in retaking territory, it was usually because the guerrillas withdrew. Rarely defeated in battle, the guerrillas were also quite ruthless. Human rights groups accuse the Maoists of forcible recruitment, kidnappings and extortion.
The political equation in Nepal, however, is far more complex than a simple split between rebels and the government. The political establishment itself is divided between royalists and democrats. Tensions between the two have long been high; King Gyanendra has been suspicious and intolerant of political parties, and saw their activities as infringing on royal prerogatives. The growing insurgency gave him the opportunity to seize power in February 2005: He claimed he would end the disorder and corruption that permeated Nepalese politics as well as defeat the insurgency.
While the king proved unable to beat the Maoists, he did do one important thing: He united the opposition, bringing the various democratic parties together along with the guerrillas. They launched mass protests that culminated in a violent confrontation last April that left 19 people dead. The uproar that followed forced the king to restore the Parliament he had suspended four years earlier. It quickly stripped him of power and then convened peace talks with the Maoists. They responded with a unilateral ceasefire as a sign of good faith. That set the tone for the negotiations that bore fruit with the signing of the peace accord on Nov. 21.
Under the agreement, signed by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist rebel leader Prachanda, the rebels will join the interim Parliament, taking 73 of the 330 seats as the second-largest party after the prime minister's Nepali Congress. An interim government is to be set up, but those details are still being worked out. The government will oversee national elections for a new Parliament that will write a new constitution and decide the fate of the monarchy. One of the rebels' key demands has been an end to that institution. The Maoists have said they will respect the election outcome. Even if the monarchy is retained, Prachanda has said his group will work through the parliamentary process to bring about change.
The accord calls for the rebels and their weapons to be confined to camps; army troops will return to their barracks. The rebels are not giving up their weapons, however: They will be locked up and monitored by the United Nations with closed-circuit cameras. The rebels will retain the keys to the storehouses.
Can the Maoists be trusted? They say they are adapting to changed circumstances. They have honored the ceasefire, although human rights groups charge they have been recruiting new soldiers, and extorting and blackmailing ordinary citizens. This could be the work of local cadres, which raises the question of whether the guerrilla leadership can control its troops.
The peace process will be aided by the truth and reconciliation commission, which will examine human rights abuses and crimes committed by both sides during the civil war. Both sides need to be held accountable for their behavior during a bloody decade. An important precedent was set when a government commission concluded that King Gyanendra was responsible for the crackdown in April and the 19 deaths that followed. The panel rightly recommended that he be punished.
A final key component of the peace agreement is to repair Nepal's battered economy. The country is desperately poor -- one of the poorest in Asia -- and the civil war and the more recent violence have done great damage to the tourist trade, one of Nepal's most important sources of income.
Ironically, another key source of income is funds sent from abroad by migrant Nepalis. It is unclear whether peace will inspire them to come home. With a majority of the population under 25, Nepal must create jobs and opportunities, or war will resume -- fueled by desperation and shattered hopes. That is a warning for all of Nepal's leaders -- and supporters of the new peace accord -- that should restrain the celebrations.
A high point for Nepal
The Los Angeles Times, November 28, 2006
There are a thousand ways for war to break out, it seems, but so few chances for peace to prevail. So let us take a moment to celebrate developments in Nepal, whose people danced in the streets last week after Maoist rebels signed a peace accord with the government to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed 13,000 people.
Nepal's political progress has been nothing short of remarkable. In less than seven months, its demonstrations of "people power" have forced a tyrannical king to surrender power and pushed the violent insurgents to the negotiating table. On Dec. 1, the insurgents will take their place in a temporary Cabinet; their army is to be confined in camps, and they will participate in elections next year. Meanwhile, the king has been stripped of immunity and virtually all his powers. It has not been easy or painless, but it has been accomplished without suicide bombings, without military action and, except for some skillful U.N. diplomatic help in the endgame, without foreign intervention.
There are, of course, many ways the peace deal could unravel in the South Asian nation of nearly 30 million people, home to eight of the world's 10 highest mountains. It is highly unlikely that the inept and reviled King Gyanendra could manage a comeback. He triggered the crisis by dismissing the elected parliament and prime minister. Still, his dynasty is 238 years old, and some Nepalis believe that he is the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The new legislature, to be elected in June, is slated to take up the controversial issue of whether Nepal should be a kingdom or a republic.
Long before the elections, however, there is the possibility that the power-sharing arrangement in the interim government will break down. The U.N. can provide monitoring, but it cannot force the rebels or the royal army to stand down their troops or heavy weapons — and light arms simply can't be corralled.
One of the most tragic legacies of Nepal's lengthy violence is the thousands of people who have disappeared. Human rights activists are keen to see those responsible on both sides prosecuted. Perhaps the Nepalis, who've shown great wisdom and creativity in applying the lessons of democratic activism in other lands to their own democracy movement, will manage the trick of balancing the need to punish the guilty with the imperative of reconciling a dangerously and bitterly divided society.
The Indian Express, November 23, 2006
In terms of both substance and procedure, the unfolding national reconciliation in Nepal that brings a brutal civil war to an end is an extraordinary one. The people of Nepal are celebrating Tuesday’s comprehensive peace accord between the government led by the seven-party alliance and the Maoist rebels. They can also take justifiable pride in the exemplary wisdom that has informed the peace process since they compelled King Gyanendra to hand power back to political parties last April. But the toughest bit may have just begun. Initiating a peace process is just a first step. The real challenge lies in sustaining it. Experience provides dispiriting examples of ceasefires between the state and insurgents falling apart. Power sharing is like that. Throw in the nitty-gritty of decommissioning insur-gents’ weapons during the transition to a new political order, and the task can seem daunting.
Yet, hope floats. In barely seven months since the April revolution, we have had a near political miracle in Nepal. Considerable credit for the peace process goes to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and his much younger interlocutor and Maoist leader, Prachanda, for the decisive steps in negotiating the difficult framework for Nepal’s political rejuvenation. Koirala and Prachanda have repeatedly surprised their well-wishers and detractors by striking bold political compromises. The real credit, however, goes to the people of Nepal, who have kept up relentless pressure first on the monarchy and then on the political parties and Maoists to enter uncharted waters of democracy and peace.
Now, the Maoists will have to demonstrate that the verbal change in their ideological positions is matched by actions on the ground. Koirala must make sure Kathmandu does not lose political nerve in the next few months and return to the old comforts of intrigue. India, which has the highest stakes in Nepal’s successful political evolution, must learn to be a little less condescending towards that country. New Delhi’s myopic security establishment had come close to choosing the wrong side last April when people were filling the streets of Kathmandu with their protests against Gyanendra. That alone should remind New Delhi of the importance of respecting the popular will in Nepal and avoiding imposition of its own anxieties on the Himalayan nation. The rest of the subcontinent, with its many intractable conflicts, may have a thing or two to learn from Nepal’s peace process.
Peace comes to Nepal: The way towards a new democracy
Tribune India, November 23, 2006
THE peace accord signed between Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the Maoist chief Prachanda is a historic development that marks the Himalayan country’s break with the 10-year-old insurgency. No less important is that the Comprehensive Ceasefire and Peace Agreement between the Seven-Party Alliance Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) signals a resolute march towards an inclusive democracy with the Maoist rebels as a full-fledged partner. Although the actual inking of the agreement was delayed, the critical part — of managing the Maoists’ weapons under UN supervision — had already gone through without a hitch. In the event, the differences that delayed the signing ceremony do not appear to have been of great import.
With the accord signed, sealed and delivered to the people of Nepal, the Maoists would now be a part of mainstream politics. The CPN (Maoist) is slated to join the 330-member interim parliament on November 26 and the interim government of Mr Koirala on December 1. According to the agreed timetable, elections would be held before June 2007 for a 425-member constituent assembly, which would draft a new constitution. This constitution can be expected to be a radical advance towards a republic.
The failure of past attempts — in 2001 and 2003 — by the Maoist rebels and the government to arrive at a peace agreement was exploited by the monarchy, especially King Gyanendra, to snuff out multiparty democracy and usurp executive authority. Given this experience, the monarchy is certain to be caged if not jettisoned altogether. Differences over this detail are unlikely to deter Nepal’s progress towards a new democratic society. The Maoists have all but given up their anti-India rhetoric, and the fact that they have acknowledged New Delhi’s guiding presence at the crucial stage of transition bodes well for Nepal and India-Nepal relations.
Afraid of Nepal? Don’t be
The Hindustan Times, Nov. 20, 2006
As the comprehensive peace agreement between Nepal’s Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is signed today, there will be people who will closely follow how Nepal’s ‘democratic experiment’ shapes up. Two major consequences of the agreement will determine the road ahead. One, the assimilation of the Maoists into the multi-party political mainstream; two, the process by which the monarchy will be sidelined and its after-effects. On the first issue, despite cynicism in certain sections about ‘Maoist intent’ — especially with regard to the efficacy of disarming the cadres under the ‘watchful eye’ of the United Nations — one should be hopeful. CPN(M) Chairman Prachanda’s statement that the party will proactively cooperate in conducting a free and fair election to the Constituent Assembly under an interim government can be taken as a genuine ‘letter of intent’.
Prachanda’s observation that “there is no link between Pashupati and Tirupati” adds weight to the argument that, barring nomenclature and tactics, Maoists on Indian soil are a different kettle of fish — and have a completely separate agenda — than Maoists in Nepal. At a more pragmatic level, the CPN(M)’s phase of ‘armed revolution’ has ended with the objective of sidelining a despotic monarchy having been achieved. The logical next step for the CPN(M) would be to enter and participate in a real democracy. Kathmandu and beyond needs governance and development. Anyone wishing for a stable Nepal — and India should certainly encourage such an entity — needs to be less paranoid and more optimistic of the Maoist-SPA alliance.
The second problem worrying some naysayers is the issue of the monarchy. This is, in a way, a red herring that is dressed up as concern over a popular demand for a king. The monarchy, so goes this thesis, provides the necessary glue for a Nepal that has disparate political forces making the country toss and turn like a ship caught in a violent storm. But this theory is played out to demolish the very reason why a peace agreement is being signed: to provide the glue of democracy. As theatres of turmoil in other parts of the world prove, democracy does not slip in and settle down where a vacuum exists. Democracy has to be nurtured. New Delhi has vacillated in the past about which horse in Nepal to put its money on. It should now be clear that the democracy filly is the one to back and that the past, especially in foreign policy, is another country.
New hope in Nepal
The Khaleej Times, Nov 13, 2006
THE turnaround in Nepal appears to be for real. The clearest and most significant sign of the change is the fact that the Maoists have joined the national mainstream by inking a historic power sharing deal with the multi-party coalition. The armed movement has also decided to surrender its weapons under UN supervision. Peace is the way forward for the Himalayan country.
It was the sidelining of King Gyanendra that paved the way for the establishment of a multi-party coalition government, signifying the formal hand-over of power to the people by the monarchy.
Without doubt, there is a ray of hope now, as is seen also from the new agreement. The new agreement between the government and the rebels, let’s hope, will bring lasting peace, stability and economic prosperity to Nepal. God knows the people of Nepal deserve a new dawn of hope, having suffered as they have at the hands of corrupt politicians, a reckless monarch and ruthless Maoist rebels.
Nepal’s new leaders would do well to heed the call by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who has called for greater human rights protection efforts in the country. Peace is an essential pre-requisite for progress and the new dispensation has its hands full, to catch up with the lost time and effort.
Path of Compromise
Arab News Daily, 11 November 2006
Many moderate Nepalis were probably understandably irked by yesterday’s triumphalist rally of 20,000 Maoists in a Katmandu stadium marking what they described as their “victory.” It was never quite that. Even so, the conclusion of long weeks of hard bargaining with an agreement among all seven political parties including the Maoists, on disarmament, a formalized peace and the process of creating a new constitution, was certainly worth celebrating, not just by the Maoists but by all Nepalis.
Though the negotiations had been difficult, there was always a general feeling that they were not going to fail. The cease-fire had been a victory for common sense. The ten-year insurrection, costing 13,000 lives had been a disaster for everyone. There was the political will to find consensus. The points at issue involved the compromises that all sides had to make to achieve that.
In the midst of their celebrations, the Maoist may not, however, have been reflecting that they need to make further compromises, if they are to play a successful role in the new polity that will emerge from the deliberations of the Constitutional Assembly to be elected next June. When Nepal was still an absolute monarchy, a Maoist challenge to the feudal system that still obtains in part of the country and to the corrupt elite of courtiers that drew their power from the king, made political sense. But when King Gyanendra ended his absolute rule and handed power to political parties, the Maoist challenge became anachronistic. True, there are social and land reforms, which will benefit Maoist supporters in the countryside, that need to be introduced. But the idea that Nepal should become a one-party communist state with a command economy is anathema to the majority of Nepalese. All important support for the insurgents among the country’s middle classes was based largely upon the conviction that only the Maoists could break the power of the monarchy.
That has been achieved. The new constitution may or may not see the monarchy abolished. Many Nepalese would like to have a purely constitutional role for the king. What seems certain, however, is that never again will any Nepalese monarch be able to seize absolute power. The future for the Maoists, therefore, must rest within a multiparty system. The organization is going to have to morph from its role as a tough and uncompromising rebel group into a left-wing political entity which will have to indulge in the horse-trading of parliamentary democracy. How many of its supporters, cheering their leadership yesterday at the Katmandu rally realize this truth, remains to be seen.
There are still dangers ahead. Diehards among both Marxists and monarchists may seek to derail the delicate political process that is now getting under way. There may be attempts at outside interference. The UN monitors coming to the country to oversee the stockpiling of arms and the disengagement of soldiers and rebels, have a delicate task which will however be made much easier if the general political will for peace stays in place.
Times of India, November 10, 2006
The agreement reached between Nepal's seven party alliance (SPA) and Maoists is a welcome step. Maoists, who have been waging an armed struggle, have agreed to lay down arms and confine their guerrilla army to barracks under the supervision of UN officials.
There appears to be a consensus among the parties on doing away with the monarchy. The constituent assembly, expected to take shape in the coming months, will have a decisive say on the issue.
Arms management is only a first step towards democracy, which is essentially a culture of achieving political goals through dialogue and negotiation. The Maoist leadership has said that they recognise the framework of parliamentary democracy to further the party's political priorities.
Their commitment will be under scrutiny in the coming days, especially as the party is set to organise a massive rally in Kathmandu this week.
There are reports that Kathmandu's residents have been told to accommodate the cadre who are expected to arrive in the city. Such politics by diktat is undemocratic and can never be popular.
The challenge for the Maoist leadership is two-prong. One, to convince and train its cadre to conduct politics in the framework of democracy.
Two, to recast its political priorities in a language that is acceptable to various sections of the society.
Maoist politics was the logical outcome of Nepal's social and economic backwardness. The political class, across parties, will now have to evolve a consensus to rebuild the country.
Social equality and economic equity have to be central to the new Nepal if democracy is to gain roots there. The state can't afford another spell of autocratic rule or guerrilla politics.
New Delhi can rightly pat itself on the back for the resolution of the crisis in Kathmandu. Prachanda, the leader of Maoists, recently said that New Delhi played a crucial and constructive role in restoring peace in Nepal.
New Delhi has also shown wisdom in allowing the UN to mediate arms surrender and limiting India's role to that of an advisor.
These columns have repeatedly argued that UN mediation is desirable considering the suspicions the Nepalese harbour about Indian hegemony.
A democratic Nepal is in New Delhi's interest. The hydel potential of Nepal could satisfy the energy requirement of Indian industry. Vice versa, the growth of the Indian economy would have a positive impact on Nepalese industry, especially tourism.
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Posted by Editor on November 23, 2006 11:22 AM