Recently envoys of various countries including those representing the permanent five in the UN Security Council called for strict implementation of the Nepali peace process at a time when UNMIN’s continuation has once again become a hot topic in Kathmandu’s diplomatic circle.
Certainly the UML leadership is not in a position to give favorable support to the continuity of UNMIN, and based on this writer’s inner sources, given UNMIN’s recently purported biased favor shown to the Maoists in their rather unruly democratic ways, UML is not in a position to see UNMIN bless the Nepali peace process any further. But if one is to believe Prachanda, who has recently come back from Singapore with the blessings of Nepali Congress boss and the “voice that matters” Mr. Girija Prasad Koirala, the peace process will be concluded with a Maoist government in Singha Darbar very soon and hopefully UNMIN will stay.
Nepal’s foreign Heads of Mission might not fully agree on UNMIN’s recent report presented to the Security Council and the UN Secretary General, but they do they see the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) an absolute must if the political parties are to truly rededicate themselves to the original commitments of the 12 point agreement, and hence to the Nepali people on whom true governance is vested. The final judgment will definitely rest on UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, who is all too aware of the recent Nepali government allegations of the UNMIN staff showing favoritism to the Maoists in Kathmandu, which the Maoists themselves have accepted as a non-biased political blessing.
All of this has left Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal as Prime Minister, significantly strained to rule from Singha Darbar, in fact, having to assume the role of a shadow Foreign Minister to try to balance the different ‘foreign’ forces that are pro- and anti-Maoist in the current leftist power struggle in Nepal. The truth is: Girija Babu might only offer his blessings to Prachanda if Miss Sujata Koirala is promised something better than the current portfolio she holds, namely Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister.
However, Mr. Nepal’s close advisers are wary of giving NC a stronger power berth, since the current coalition is already proving a stateless one, neither representing those who won the election, nor the ones who truly wished to govern Nepal (which the Maoists claim their legal right). Add to it, voices who were anti-Maoist such as Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, who have suddenly gone quiet. So too with other politicians who supported a stronger G-8 support in the peace process, translated as the extension of UNMIN. India and China’s final say in the UN Security Council and that of the US which has shown its frustrations in the past in the lack of true democratic progress in the Nepali peace process in the absence of a constitution building process, will certainly weigh in on UNMIN’s term renewal or else, final winding up act. Thus, Mr. Madhav Kumar Nepal is trying to clinch a last minute show stealer; he sees the continuity of UML for the moment, but cannot guarantee his rivals’ wishes, such as Mr. Jhala Nath Khanal within the same UML senior leadership fold, but who see a Maoist inclusion in the current power sharing agreement a must for the peace process to continue.
The portending reality is: Girija Babu will neither bestow his full blessings on the current Maoist street protests, nor will he endorse a full NC collaboration with UML, except where it comes to passing the essential budget. Mr. Ram Baran Yadav’s role as President thus remains assured constitutionally with Mr.Koirala’s continued backing, and it is likely that the Maoists will eventually lessen their demands for a total confrontation solely based on the President’s ‘unconstitutional’ decision taken to retain former Chief Rookmangud Katawal of the Nepal Army. However, the Maoists do have larger power sharing demands which both UML and NC will have to meet before the end of 2009. The Maoists are not in a position to go back to the jungle, but also feel discomfort in being sidelined from the current decision structure, after Prachanda’s principled resignation from the PM’s position in openly defying President Yadav‘s ‘ unconstitutional move’. In the end, if Nepali leaders have realized at all, these cataclysmic events have only succeeded in eroding the national economy, leading to inflation, lessened economic growth opportunities, increased corruption and more to depress already deteriorating Nepali living standards. It has even threatened the recently booming tourism figures which saw a significant 10 percent growth this year.
What of the future? Nepali leaders must now learn to play the coalition game on their own, if as Mr. Nepal vouches, there will no more foreign funds available to shape Nepali political reconciliation. Edmund Burke the quintessential political philosopher once wrote, people can never give up their liberties but under some delusion. In Nepal, it has been the delusionary leaders who have kept on fooling the Nepali people in the name of political justice, viz. democracy and economic growth. It is high time, they learnt the truth of Nepali politics in a democratic context: nothing seems permanent in Nepal’s political culture and neither the current leadership berth.
Many in Nepal’s diplomatic community are bound to believe in the present context that those who can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities. One cannot disagree with the foreign envoys that there is a clear lack of will to address conflict-era human rights abuses and unwillingness to tackle the continuing state of impunity in Nepal. It is true as the envoys note that …” the Constituent Assembly has fallen behind schedule and that there is so far no agreement on the future structure and governance of Nepal." This is short of stating that while Nepal is not a failed state, it is a stateless state with no visible signs of national governance, excepting the flagged ministers’ limos that roll out of the Minister’s quarters in Pulchowk every day on their way to Singha Darbar. Nothing is being achieved when it comes to concluding the Nepali peace process, forget its logical end. Sometimes I wonder what our friends in UN in Pulchowk are contemplating seeing this increasing statelessness and lack of development governance?
This all leaves a big question too on whether UNMIN needs a further mandate to bring about the much desired Nepali peace, hopefully to be guided by a practical timeline with a beehive of activities planned based on earlier obligations. One should note the joint statement, which comes from Nepal’s best friends: Australia, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, UK and USA. Coincidentally, it came at a time to mark the third anniversary of the signing of the CPA which went virtually unnoticed. The foreign envoys’ press note suggests, "A failure to agree on a vision for the future and to draft the constitution on time will be a clear disregard of the expectations and aspirations of Nepal's citizens, and will set back the country's economic and social development." Voltaire once said to succeed in the world is not enough to be stupid, you must also be well mannered. At least for Nepal’s political leaders if they are truly seeking peace beyond a Himalayan mirage, they have learn to be well mannered and work as a team to bring about this much desired transformation. UNMIN, in turn, must reciprocate with its kindest gestures by stationing the best and brightest of its global peace team in Kathmandu so that the Nepali peace process is achieved swiftly and hopefully by the end of 2009.
(Surya B. Prasai is an independent global strategic communications, media and international development resources consultant based in Washington D.C. His views have appeared globally on Google, Yahoo and American Chronicle News Nets on international affairs, development, public health, immigration, and climate change issues. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)