Maoist talks with Nepal govt begin on a positive note
KATHMANDU: A long, rocky road still lies ahead for the Nepal peace process despite a positive note struck during the first round of talks between government and Maoist rebels, an analyst said on Monday.
At the end of the groundbreaking first round talks at a Kathmandu hotel on Sunday, government and Maoist delegates said they were satisfied with the encounter.
Maoist representative Krishna Bahadur Mahara said the talks went smoothly and were held in a cordial atmosphere. Government minister for communications Ramesh Nath Pandey said, “The talks were very satisfactory and we are very much encouraged of a successful conclusion.” However, the guerrillas said they had various demands, including that the army be recalled to barracks within a week and all Maoist prisoners be released within 15 days. Maoist convenor Babu Ram Bhattarai also demanded at the talks that anti-terrorism laws be scrapped and that all political charges framed against Maoist activists throughout the country be dropped. The Maoists also outlined their preferred procedures for the creation of a new constitution and ways to deal with economic, social and human rights issues. The demands had “discouraged” hopes of a quick breakthrough, analyst Professor Guna Raj Shastri of Tribhuvan University said. “In view of the Maoists’ agenda, (reaching) peaceful settlement may prove to be a Herculian task,” Shastri said. “The people’s aspiration for a successful conclusion of the talks for a durable peace in the country has been discouraged after hearing Bhattarai’s political, economic and social agenda.” Mahara said, “We are awaiting a response from the government.” “We are going to start discussion on a proposal (on the agenda for future talks) at the monitoring committee as from Tuesday,” he said. A four-member monitoring committee was constituted during the talks, comprising Narayan Singh Pun and Ramesh Nath Pandey from the government side and Mahara and Ram Bahadur Thapa from the Maoists’ side. Mahara said the government may ask for more time to study the rebels’ agenda. “The proposals have come from only one side and we will not take an immediate decision before hearing the reply from the government,” he said. Pandey would say the proposals were being studied. He did not wish to comment further. The Maoist “people’s war” for a communist republic has claimed more than 7,800 lives since 1996.
A previous attempt at peace talks in 2001 stalled after three rounds over the Maoist demand for the abolition of the monarchy. —PTI