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Nepal: Peace Postponed International Crisis Group 2007-12-18

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 Policy Briefing
Asia Briefing N°72
Kathmandu/Brussels, 18 December 2007
Crisis Group
Nepal: Peace Postponed
Nepal's progress toward lasting peace is seriously but
not yet irreparably faltering. A further postponement of
constituent assembly (CA) elections reflected the weak
implementation ofthe November 2006 Comprehensive
Peace Agreement (CPA) and lack of will to follow the
agreed process. Leaders have now vowed to forge a new
consensus and agreed to hold the elections by mid-April
2008 but have yet to address the problems that led to past
postponements. Suspicions among the parties - especially
between Nepali Congress (NC), which dominates the
government, and the Maoists, who remain outside - are
echoed in ebbing public confidence: whatever promises
they hear, most voters believe the politicians prefer to
stay in power rather than face the electorate. All parties
urgently need to inject new momentum into the peace
process and take steps to win back trust and earn
legitimacy. The international community can support them
in this but must also maintain pressure to keep the polls
and peace process on track.
The peace process from the outset was based more on a
convergence of interests than a common vision. The threat
of a resurgent monarchy prodded mainstream parties and
Maoists into alliance, but their major remaining shared
interest is continuation in power. Even when elections
seemed to be on track, no party paid more than lip service
to calls for broader public participation in the constitutional
process. Popular pressure to move the process ahead
is not likely to worry political leaders. Civil society is
divided, and the public has few openings to channel
its pressure; the ultimate option of a mass movement is,
for now, improbable. Constructive proposals have little
outlet; parliamentary opposition is weak and without
constitutional standing.
The peace plan was not inherently flawed, but it depended
on all parties reforming their political behaviour, a
process that should have been founded on implementing
commitments starting from the November 2005 agreement
between the mainstream parties and the Maoists. It also left
many crucial issues to be negotiated at an unspecified date.
The erosion of a common platform is not surprising. The
consensus on power sharing that existed is foundering on
partisanship and disputes over patronage. The prospect of
impending polls has added to manoeuvring and further
weakened unity. Although all parties are still talking,
mutual recrimination has grown.
Other options are now likely to come into focus, although
none yet appears attractive enough to win critical support.
Talk of a new "nationalist alliance" - with Maoists and
renegade NC leaders courting the royalist constituency -
may for now be a bargaining tactic but underlines the
seven-party grouping's fragility. This has constitutional
ramifications: the interim constitution cannot function
without seven-party unity. Those in power, as well as the
palace and the army, might not be disappointed with
another deferral of elections but prolongation of the
cunent limbo has little to offer the nation. It could provide
stability in Kathmandu and a new lease on life for a
modified power-sharing formula but the capital's political
games increasingly fail to reflect the realities of a turbulent
Holding an increasingly fractious nation together requires
more than reapportioning the Kathmandu spoils. It needs
action rather than the usual quick-fix backroom deals
which command less and less credibility. The two armed
forces have started to exert greater influence on the
positions ofthe sides; neither has been defeated, and each
would like to establish its own red lines. Maoist fighters
have already left the cantonments in large numbers;
on completion ofthe UN verification process, thousands
of disqualified personnel will be discharged with no
realistic plan for how to deal with them. Maoist parallel
structures, notably the Young Communist League (YCL),
which is already led by People's Liberation Army (PLA)
commanders, still hold sway over much ofthe country.
Elsewhere identity-based movements have left political
calculations in flux and law and order in tatters. The
resignation of Madhesi parliamentarians, including an
NC minister, to form a new party suggests the Tarai
unrest may finally be impinging on national power games.
In this inherently unstable situation, Nepal risks slipping
back toward renewed conflict even if no party actively
seeks it. Two intact armies remain ready to fight.
This fundamentally adversarial structure blocks other
confidence-building efforts. A disillusioned public will
have little appetite to defend parties which have betrayed
their promises to reform and seek a new mandate. Many
fear the opportunity for securing peace and institutional
change is already lost. More militant groups stand to gain.
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 2
The one hopeful sign is growing recognition in all parties
that implementation of existing agreements is a priority.
If this is coupled with the will to create conditions for
holding elections by mid-April 2008 as promised, it could
produce a genuine popular endorsement and stabilise
the country.
The seven parties (government and Maoists) should:
□ preserve unity through a combination of immediate
confidence-building measures, jointly reaffirming
the CPA's shared vision, developing consensual
decision-making procedures and transparently
negotiating a durable power-sharing deal to bring
the Maoists back into government, including if
necessary a cabinet reshuffle and discussions on
the shape of a post-electoral consensus government;
□ demonstrate commitment through behaviour -
with the Maoists halting parallel activities and other
abuses ofthe CPA, and other parties setting an
example by fulfilling their own commitments in
a non-partisan fashion;
□ engage with other parties represented in the
legislature or registered for the elections and with
civil society to build broader support for the
electoral and peace process and avoid charges of
narrow self-interest, including considering specific
mechanisms for consensus building;
□ review progress on implementing the CPA and
subsequent agreements, establish mandated
committees (and report to the public regularly
on their progress) and tackle the gaps in earlier
negotiations by initiating discussions on such issues
as security sector reform (SSR);
□ review the role ofthe NC-led Ministry of Peace
and Reconstruction and consider forming an all-
party mechanism to oversee the peace deal, backed
by an independent monitoring body;
□ refocus on the constitutional process, developing
mechanisms to bring in the public in order to ensure
it is meaningful and convince Nepalis elections are
□ develop a viable public security plan to rebuild
confidence in the police, uphold the rule of law and
end impunity whether of state or non-state actors
and reestablish local government based at a
minimum on seven-party and community consensus;
□ increase the focus on political inclusiveness, starting
by implementing agreements on representation
of women, janajatis, Madhesis, Dalits and other
International actors should:
□ agree on a common message pressing for a realistic
roadmap to elections, offering support and reminding
all that international recognition is conditional upon
demonstrated commitment to peace and democracy;
□ UN Mssion in Nepal (UNMIN) should continue to
clarify its role, improving communication with the
public to counter criticism about lack of transparency;
□ donors should only support projects with all-party
approval and demonstrably in line with peace
process goals, including strengthening local
governance to contribute to confidence-building and
service-delivery to local communities to convey
the sense of a peace dividend.
A.    What Happened to the Peace
Constituent assembly elections have twice been postponed.1
Following the failure to meet a June 2007 target, the 22
November date was abandoned on 5 October. The Maoist
demands, which were the most immediate cause of the
November postponement, have led to signs of a political
reconfiguration within the seven-party grouping.2 In
temporary alliance with the UML, the Maoists used the
interim legislature to pass non-binding, but symbolically
significant, resolutions calling for immediate declaration
of a republic (with gradual implementation) and a fully
proportional electoral system (not yet clearly defined). As
1 On the political tensions that led to the October 2007
postponement, see Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°68, Nepal's
Fragile Peace Process, 28 September 2007. Other recent Crisis
Group reporting on Nepal includes Asia Reports N°128, Nepal's
Constitutional Process, 26 February 2007; N°132, Nepal's
Maoists: Purists or Pragmatists?, 18 May 2007; and N°136,
Nepal's Troubled Tarai Region, 9 July 2007. Nepali translations
of all these reports are now available at
2 In this briefing the term "seven parties" refers to the six
mainstream parties and the CPN(M). The "six parties" are the
continuation of the Seven-Party Alliance, whose membership
was reduced when the Nepali Congress and Nepali Congress
(Democratic) reunited. Past Crisis Group reporting referred to this
alliance as the SPA; "SPA" is now confusingly used in the Nepali
press to refer to either the six-party grouping, or the six plus the
CPN(M) - although there is no "alliance" binding them The six
parties are the Nepali Congress (NC); Communist Party of Nepal
(Unified Marxist-Leninist, UML); Nepal Sadbhavana Party
(Anandidevi, NSP (A)); Janamorcha Nepal; Nepal Workers and
Peasants Party (NWPP); and United Left Front (ULF).
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 3
the deadline to amend the interim constitution (which had
specified elections should not be later than 15 December
2007) expired, party leaders agreed on a new, mid-April
2008 date but have continued negotiation on other issues.
The current limbo is not hurting the major political parties,
or indeed, other powerful institutions. The readiness ofthe
six parties in government to accept the postponement
suggested quiet relief rather than anger at Maoist
obstruction, although the UML appeared ready to go to the
polls, and frustrations on other issues (such as Maoist foot-
dragging on land returns) increased. Deferring the verdict
of a sceptical electorate will not cause major tensions
within parties and will particularly please sitting members
of parliament (MPs) concerned about their personal
Further delay also suits the palace, since the king is likely
to regain some respect just by his continued silent presence.
The army has benefited from staying out of political
machinations, at least in public, and from projecting a solid
image as a functional institution. Both palace and army
stand to gain from resurgent nationalist sentiment by playing
on their reputations for protecting state sovereignty against
external influence. Although sidelined by the interim
constitution and formally disowned by major parties, the
palace is a factor in all calculations. Parties, including the
Maoists, have maintained discreet contacts: in the delicate
web of alliances that shape the political scene, the king
is a power-centre none can ignore and many would like to
woo. The army, Nepal's most powerful single institution,
has tilted slightly away from the king and toward the
Nepali Congress; a more decisive shift in its stance could
alter the balance of power.
For all their threats of mass public action or having their
PLA fight on for decades, the Maoists' options are limited.
They can remain within the political process, while
simultaneously mobilising extra-parliamentary pressure;
this could cause great disruption but what it would achieve,
other than further alienating moderate opinion, is unclear.
Building critical pressure would require making alliances
with marginalised groups and others dissatisfied with the
six-party government; while possible, a significant shift
in Maoist attitude would be needed to win the trust of
potential allies.
Resuming all-out conflict remains a possibility but the
leadership's clear antipathy against returning to the jungle
- with the hope, at best, of eventually regaining the pre-
2005 stalemate and less chance then ever of forging
alliances - weakens the credibility of this ultimate threat.
Plans for an urban-based campaign are more credible,
since the ceasefire enabled the Maoists to build their
presence in the capital and other major centres, but do not
offer the hope of a decisive political advantage, much less
a sustainable victory. The YCL can assert local influence,
even in Kathmandu, but the strategic leverage it offers is
not straightforward: its size and extent of deployment act
as a practical constraint on Maoist options if other parties
are not willing to cooperate in demobilising it and finding
alternative employment for its cadres.
The impasse highlights the structural weaknesses ofthe
peace deal. Simply implementing the CPA is not sufficient:
the agreement is sketchy in many areas, its architecture
vague and some provisions (for example, on land returns
and reform and the security sector) cannot be put into
practice without further negotiations. The low-trust
atmosphere following postponement ofthe November
polls is not encouraging for implementation of existing
agreements let alone a start on the new talks needed to
address neglected topics.
B.    A New Consensus?
The governing parties and the CPN(M) agree they should
continue to work together; most have described the ciurent
challenge as one of forging a "new consensus". The
consensus that underlay the peace deal had survived until
the Maoist ultimatum of September 2007 but was weak
in three respects. First, it rested on immediate common
interests rather than a shared long-term vision.3 Secondly, it
depended on a roughly equitable power-sharing deal, which
has been thrown out of balance by NC dominance of
the government and the Maoist walk-out. Thirdly, it was
predicated on the idea that the then-SPA and Maoists more
or less were the political spectrum. From April 2006
until the end of the year, this was a plausible working
assumption (royalists of any stripe were tainted, and other
groups had yet to flex their muscles), but since early 2007,
the mainstream parties/Maoist combine has looked as if it
is increasingly less representative ofthe nation's political
Still, the basic structure is intact, and no one can afford to
break it. The Maoists cannot go it alone; nor can the other
parties hope to govern without Maoist consent. Although
constituent parties are tempted to explore alliances beyond
the current configuration, none yet looks capable of
supplanting it. A renewed consensus remains the logical
first choice and is achievable.
Principles and policies. The policy basis for a revived
consensus depends on resolving differing perspectives over
the long-term goal ofthe peace process. There is significant
3 For an analysis of the contingent nature of the twelve-point
agreement that first brought the mainstream parties and Maoists
together, see Crisis Group Report, Nepal's New Alliance, op. cit;
on the convergent interests underlying the CPA see Crisis Group
Report, Nepal's Peace Agreement, op. cit.
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 4
common ground. For example, the Maoists still point out
that their understanding of a "democratic republic" is distinct
from that of other parties but belated discussions on the
shape of a federal republic suggest the gaps can be bridged.
The CPA and interim constitution have already chalked out
the basis for agreement on the fundamental principles
of a new constitutional settlement; further work on state
restructuring could give these principles a more concrete
Power. The common interest in preserving a grip on state
power is the best motivation for revisiting its distribution.
The NC hold on the top positions, already a source of
annoyance to the other parties, has been buttressed by the
party's increased parliamentary weight since its September
2007 reunification. The NC can block any constitutional
amendment requiring a two-thirds majority (something that
was not a given when the Deuba-led NC(D) was able to
take an independent stance), although it lacks an interim
legislature (IL) majority and thus runs the risk of further
defeats on parliamentary resolutions - as well, ultimately,
of being left as a minority administration should the
UML withdraw support.
Apart from the prime ministership, the NC occupies four of
the five key ministries: home, finance, defence and peace
and reconstruction (which must sign off on key decisions
to implement the peace process). The UML-led foreign
ministry has in effect been bypassed with the prime minister
taking major decisions and meeting ambassadors and
visiting officials separately for all critical consultations.
The NC's twin control ofthe finance and peace and
reconstruction ministries has ensured a stranglehold on the
release of post-conflict relief funding and encouraged the
tendency to view it as one more partisan bargaining tool.
The shape of government does not help: the concentration
of powers in the prime minister's office, especially given
the lack of a separate head of state and weak checks
and balances,4 makes it the only meaningful position in
government and encourages an incumbent to do almost
anything to retain it. In short, the structure and functioning
of government are in practice inimical to the stress on
consensus and cooperation.
All parties need to use their stake in government to take care
oftheir own constituencies: this is part ofthe political game
and applies to the CPN(M) as much as to other parties. The
interim power-sharing deal left both the UML and CPN(M)
with little influence and patronage in comparison to the NC
- "just the crumbs off their table", in the words of one
analyst. The Maoists are probably not looking for a veto so
much as a reasonable share in power and the chance to tend
to their core support base. Aside from headline political
See Crisis Group Report, Nepal's Constitutional Process, op.
demands, their key concerns relate directly to delivering
what their supporters need: cantonment payments and
facilities, compensation for martyrs' families, resolution of
disappearances and support for their injured.5 The Maoists'
20 August 22-point demand and 18 September walk-out
from government were widely interpreted as desperate
attempts to block an election they feared. However, they
were also a successful gambit that resulted in the release of
three more months of delayed cantonment payments - a
significant sum which may have approached $4.4 million
(Rs.279,000,000), although the government pushed to
reduce payments in line with the lower numbers of
personnel passing verification.6
Parties. Ofthe six mainstream parties, only the NC and
UML have significant weight. Although the breakaway
NC (Democratic) rejoined in September, the NC remains
disunited and ill-disciplined. Senior leaders have spoken
out repeatedly against its adoption of a republican platform;
the prime minister's daughter, Sujata Koirala, has led
attacks on the home minister and calls to scrap the interim
constitution and return to the 1990 set-up. The UML, more
than ever the fulcrum ofthe alliance, remains a delicate
balance of internal interest groups. More confident than
others in its electoral prospects, it has sometimes sided with
the NC against the Maoists and sometimes the other way
around. Many of its senior members expressed discontent
at voting with the Maoists in favour of the immediate
declaration of a republic.
The Maoists have lost ground domestically and are close to
squandering the international legitimacy they fought hard
to gain. They do face concerted opposition and a hostile
media but this is partly a result oftheir own actions, partly
a reversion to old loyalties. The onus is on them to change
course before they lose trust irreparably. There are some
signs they have realised this and started to take action. But
only a serious demonstration of changed behaviour (such
as immediately halting intimidation and extortion and
starting to dismantle parallel structures) will make sceptical
observers sympathetic to their legitimate grievances with
the shape ofthe peace process.
"Rastrapatiko chunav samvishansabhapachhi", interview with
Baburam Bhattarai, Himal Khabarpatrika, 2 December 2007.
6 The government is responsible for cantonment infrastmcture.
It has funded the construction of around three quarters of the
required accommodation blocks, but overall facilities remain
poor. It agreed to pay a Rs.3,000 (approx. $50) monthly allowance
to each registered combatant, regardless of whether they passed
or failed later verification, and backdated to November 2006. The
first monthly payment was only released in June 2007, as a lump
sum transferred to the CPN(M) rather than as individual stipends.
A second tranche of three-month payments was released to
Maoist divisional commanders in mid-October.
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 5
The shape of compromise. Compromise on the two
headline demands is possible, as illustrated by the
parliament vote. Top Maoist leaders would prefer to push
hard for the republican declaration and make concessions
on proportional representation; more nationalist leaders
view them the other way around. There is also time to
cement the deal and make sure it works: the Maoists are
now talking of a May 2008 deadline for the republic. A
reasonable split between proportional and first-past-the-
post electoral systems is likely to be viable.7 The Maoists
are not asking for dominance, however much they trumpet
the superiority oftheir ideology. They are willing to be
second or third players but they wish to be recognised as a
force and, in their view, the main initiators ofthe people's
movement and the demand for change. They can
compromise but not at the cost of self-respect. Those in
other parties who want to see them "exposed" or humiliated
are an obstacle to progress.
A reshuffle could also be a convenient excuse for the prime
minister to drop unpopular ministers; many in the party and
beyond are unhappy with the performance of senior figures
such as Home Minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula and Peace
and Reconstruction Minister Ramchandra Poudel. A new
consensus will require clear moves toward a revised
political mainstream. The Maoists are not the only ones
disillusioned with the old politics; public opinion supports
the idea of changing the style, as well as substance, of
C.    Risky Alternatives
Elections are still viable; ifthe seven parties will it, they are
technically and politically possible within the new deadline
of mid-April 2008. Technical viability rests primarily on
managing changes in the electoral system: the chief
election commissioner has warned his staff will need 110
days to prepare after new legislation is in place reflecting
any alterations in the mixed system, quotas and regulations
for parties to implement. Continued wrangling over all
these aspects suggests meeting this timetable will be tough,
even if a deal is agreed. In the meantime, alternative
scenarios are being discussed. Each bears its own risks,
as does the fragile general situation.
1.       "Conversion"
Many members ofthe parties represented in the interim
legislature are tempted by the idea of extending their
7 The 70:30 split publicly proposed by former U.S. President
Jimmy Carter, who visited Kathmandu in late November, may be
an acceptable division. It builds on earlier proposals, including
the 60:40 split originally suggested by the UML and endorsed
by Indian prime ministerial envoy Shyam Saran.
transitional mandate and deferring polls in the medium term.
Parties beyond the six in the government and the Maoists
might support this if they were brought into a broader
coalition government. Politicians have for many months
been quietly floating an option to convert the interim
legislature (IL), possibly with the addition of some members
to better reflect diversity, into a constituent assembly. Others
have suggested that a roundtable or broader national
conference could be called as a new, more representative
(but still unelected) body. Either such an assembly or the
IL, or a combination ofthe two, could delegate drafting to
a separate commission. Ratification could be achieved
via a referendum, through a vote during the first sitting of
a newly elected legislature or simply, as in 1990, implicitly
through mass participations in parliamentary elections
under the new constitutional dispensation.
Supporters of such alternatives argue that they would
ensure stability and are not inherently undemocratic: there
is no universal norm that constitutions must be drafted by
a specially elected body, and ratification can take various
forms. The danger is that neither the constitution drafters
nor the government would retain sufficient legitimacy to
function, let alone produce a constitution that could stand
the test of time, any better than Nepal's past five efforts.
More specifically, it would be difficult, and perhaps
dangerous, to settle the sensitive question ofthe monarchy's
future without a clear public mandate. The army has let
it be known that any attempt to establish a republic without
a public vote (whether for the constituent assembly or a
separate referendum) would invite a revolt. The king and
his supporters would not accept an unfavourable decision
from an unelected body; confrontation would be almost
inevitable. In any case, avoiding elections would be
considered duplicitous by outside observers. A frustrated
ambassador commented:
Nobody's interested in elections - they all want a
fix.... The parties, and individual MPs, are all scared
of losing seats. 60 per cent ofthe current crop of NC
MPs may go. They're the ones who started the
"conversion" idea - it's a fraud and a betrayal,
a cynical finesse.8
2.       Elections without the Maoists
Even though the Maoists need to understand they have
no veto over elections, trying to force them without Maoist
participation would likely invite disaster. The idea has been
floated by Prime Minister Koirala but most other leaders,
including those ofthe UML and the NC's Sher Bahadur
Deuba, have rejected it. Indian diplomats, however, believe
the threat must be made seriously:
' Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, November 2007.
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 6
If we get to a situation where the political parties do
want to go ahead with elections, and the Maoists are
implacably opposed, then the international
community should have no hesitation in taking
a stand with the parties. We have no doubt that
ifthe political parties tomorrow wanted to regain
legitimacy with elections we must support them.
The Maoists cannot have a veto on the process, and
saying they must be on board is to grant them a
de facto veto.9
There is wide sympathy for the principle that no side should
have a veto on progress (whether the Maoists or another
force, such as the NC or the army, whose condition-setting
is treated with considerably more indulgence). However,
the reality is that any side with the capacity to block peaceful
progress does have a de facto veto: the process will always
require assuaging the suspicions that would tempt anyone to
wield that veto inevocably. To call for elections in the face
of Maoist opposition is in effect to threaten war; regardless
of moral questions, there is no evidence to suggest a return
to all-out conflict would be any more successful than in the
past. Frustration with the royal army's failure to dent Maoist
strength was a major cause for New Delhi's preference of
a political solution to the conflict in the first place. Without
a viable plan for victory, talk of military pressure will
strengthen Maoist militants, reduce the options of those
willing to argue for compromise and invite confrontation
without necessarily making elections any more feasible.
3.       Risks in any case
Political players may feel comfortable but the sensation is
deceptive. The current configuration can only be sustained
for a limited period; even in the medium term the risks of
drift are serious. These risks include:
Resumed conflict. Neither a return to full-scale conflict
nor a coup (whether by the Maoists, who retain plans to
seize power, or by "nationalist" forces, led by the army,
who have talked up the option of a "democratic coup")
is immediately likely but an unintentional slide back to war
is possible. Apart from the continued co-existence of two
standing armies, the completion ofthe UN's verification
of Maoist combatants will present a challenge. More than
10,000 personnel are likely to fail the verification. Plans for
the rehabilitation ofthe thousands who will be discharged
from the cantonments are limited and assume they will be
content with vocational training and later job opportunities.
More likely, they will either add to the numbers ofthe
militant discontented or be redeployed by the Maoists
in new roles.
Maoist splits. There are already tensions within the
movement. Some opponents would welcome a split which
locked some leaders into the democratic process and left
a small band of diehard renegades to defeat militarily. But
this is a dangerous course; attempts to engineer a split would
likely strengthen more militant leaders rather than bolster the
chances of a stable peace deal. There is no solid evidence to
suggest that only a few would choose to fight if forced
to choose sides; it is perhaps more likely that the Maoist
army's coherence and commitment would be maintained,
leaving those calling for peace in a weak minority.
Mainstream marginalisation. The peace process gave the
parties an opportunity to redeem themselves. The twelve-
point agreement was explicit: "The seven political parties,
undertaking self-evaluation, have expressed commitment
not to repeat the mistakes ofthe past which were committed
while in parliament and in government".10 They have
not used this opportunity well and might be marginalised
if politics again becomes a confrontation between more
extreme elements.
Communal tensions. There is still no coherent plan to deal
with ethnic and regional demands. The government's
preference for privately negotiating individual deals with
troublesome groups has only added to the incentives to
resort to unrest. The deal with the Madhesi Janadhikar
Forum (MJF) did not sufficiently address grievances (even
if it had been implemented, only one section ofthe MJF
itself supported it - other groups saw it as a sell-out), and
the tensions that have riven the Tarai show no signs
of abating. The emergence of a new front makes a renewed
protest movement all but inevitable: this kind of popular
mobilisation is the best way for a new party to quickly
build support. Without a strategy for inclusive negotiations,
the government may try to impose its will by force, an
approach that would likely inflame radical sentiment further.
Already, the call for an autonomous Madhes has moved
from being a fringe proposal to a central demand of
formerly moderate leaders.
Weakening state. Nepal is not yet a failed state but it may
be coming closer. Without steps to reverse the erosion of
government capacity and the breakdown of law and order,
especially across the Tarai, the ability of Kathmandu
to govern a fractious country will be further reduced.
Institutions such as the police and judiciary are already
dangerously low on morale and public esteem. Local
government officials have used mass resignations, strikes
and other protests to demand security from the
government, complaining that it is impossible for them
to carry out their duties.
1 Crisis Group interview, New Delhi, December 2007.
1 See Crisis Group Report, Nepal's New Alliance, op. cit
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 7
Continuing stalemate is in itself dangerous. The lack of
action to address the conditions that allowed the Maoist
insurgency to start and flourish remain in place, including
economic inequality and the exclusion of many
communities from meaningful participation in the state.
The perception of injustice is more acute and widespread
than ever. The insurgency's legacy has, so far, been
to heighten demands without opening a route to their
fulfilment and to suggest the utility of armed violence as an
entry point to otherwise restricted political space. While the
state remains reluctant to grant concessions on substantive
issues, it is usually ready to offer impunity for criminal acts,
a negotiating stance that enhances the attraction of violent
protest. The situation is more complex and volatile than it
was before the insurgency - and self-evidently that earlier
status quo was itself unstable. High public political
awareness has added to the demands made on the state,
while its capacity to address them is at a low ebb. The
conclusion must be that the current stasis is unsustainable.
A.    What Has Been Done
The seven parties deserve credit for shepherding the process
this far without any permanent falling out or return to
bloodshed, in itself an achievement that many had thought
extremely unlikely. The ceasefire has held, with no major
violations by either army. Despite continued intimidation,
extortion and abductions, Maoist breaches ofthe CPA have
not approached the resumption of full-scale military action,
although they have sharply increased since the August
2007 plenum, which adopted a more aggressive stance
in the face ofthe perceived failure ofthe peace process to
deliver results. The basic framework ofthe peace process
was put in place: the interim constitution was promulgated
on 15 January 2007, followed by replacement ofthe
revived parliament with an interim legislature incorporating
Maoist representatives and formation of an interim
government including five Maoist ministers on 1 April.
Some steps towards reshaping the state were taken, for
example the May 2006 declaration of Nepal as a secular
state and gradual trimming ofthe king's ceremonial duties.
The immediate task of separating and managing the armies
has been successful. Although the number of Maoist
weapons registered with UNMESf (3,475) was barely a tenth
ofthe number of personnel registered in the cantonments,
there is no evidence they have hidden large stores.11 The
The Maoists also placed over 6.7 tons of explosive materials
under supervision. Many oftheir fighters used improvised devices
Nepal Army (NA) fulfilled its side ofthe bargain, placing
a similar number of weapons in storage and remaining
confined to barracks, apart from fulfilling security duties
permitted by the CPA. UNMESf registered 31,152 Maoist
personnel in the cantonments and has now completed a
round of verification. Although no figures have been
officially released,12 indications are that some 12,000
personnel have not met the criteria for verification, either
because of being underage or because they were not part
ofthe Maoists' regular forces before the May 2006 cut-off
date. Although there were some incidents involving
weapons designated for leadership and camp perimeter
security, the Maoists have not removed weapons from
storage; the NA has similarly refrained from unauthorised
transport of weapons or other activities.
Other steps have also been taken. The distribution of
citizenship certificates went rapidly: 2.6 million by the end
of May 2007, a largely unsung logistical success. Some
initial moves followed the commitment to make state bodies
more inclusive, including the pledge to give 33 per cent of
government jobs to women; in October 2007, 45 per cent
of new positions in the Nepal Police and Armed Police
Force were reserved for marginalised groups. The
government ratified International Labour Organization
(ILO) Convention No. 169, on minority rights,13 and in late
October released funds for district officials to compensate
the families of 48 activists killed in various clashes and
protests, most notably the eighteen protestors killed in the
January-February Madhesi movement and the 27 Maoist
victims ofthe March 2007 Gaur massacre.14
The situation of those displaced during the conflict is
unclear, with no reliable statistics. Since the CPA, estimates
suggest the number of internally displaced (IDPs) may have
fallen from 200,000 to 50,000. An interim report prepared
by a peace and reconstruction ministry task force has
estimated a total of 25,000, based solely on compensation
applications, but expects the number to rise significantly.15
Chief district officers have been authorised to assess
applications for benefits, including compensation for
damaged property, daily allowances and interest-free
such as socket bombs and pressure cooker bombs rather than
12 Numbers were given to the government and CPN(M) after
each cantonment verification but they have not publicised them.
13 For this convention, see
14 On the Madhesi movement and the Gaur massacre, see Crisis
Group Report, Nepal's Troubled Tarai, op. cit. Most of the
Madhesi victims were killed in police action to contain and
break up demonstrations; the Maoist activists killed at Gaur
were targeted by a crowd assembled under the banner of the
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum (MJF).
15 "Govt figure on IDPs questionable", The Himalayan Times,
7 December 2007.
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Page <
agricultural loans.16 Following criticism of a proposed
truth and reconciliation commission bill, the government
has shelved the draft and shown a willingness to consult
more widely before proceeding.
B.     What Needs To Be Done
It is hard for political leaders to deliver on all fronts
simultaneously, especially when they cannot escape from
their inclination to resort to horse-trading over many issues.
Nevertheless, the parties to the peace process are coming
closer to identifying urgent priorities. Work in the following
areas is essential not only to move the process forward, but
also to regain public confidence and deliver some ofthe
benefits of peace that people have been waiting for.
1.       Delivering full peace
The peace process has brought a cessation of full-scale
armed conflict but a growth in other forms of insecurity,
including violent crime and intimidation. Law and order
is precarious; the judicial system is overstrained and faces
questions of legitimacy and efficacy. Widespread lack of
public confidence in policing and justice provides the space
for Maoist action, which for all its brutality gives many
people a sense ofthe order and authority that the state no
longer commands.
The Maoists' YCL has been at the fore ofthe new wave of
extortion and pressure tactics, forcing donations, disrupting
other parties' activities, assaulting and abducting politicians,
business people and other perceived opponents,, and
refusing to relinquish the aim of becoming a parallel
policing and justice authority.17 The CPN(M) leadership's
repeated promises to rein it in are unfulfilled; its cadres
continue to threaten journalists (and, in two cases, appear
to be responsible for abducting and killing local journalists)
and use aggressive labour union tactics to pressure
businesses. Business people willingly turn to the Maoists
for dispute resolution, apparently preferring rough but
speedy decisions to protracted court actions.18 "We don't
want to harass anyone", a Maoist law enforcer in the
capital said, "but if we receive a complaint we investigate
it straight away; after all, who trusts the police?"19
Strikes and shutdowns have severely disrupted everyday
life20 Lack of policing and government presence, especially
in Tarai districts, has exacerbated a widespread sense of
insecurity. While the state crackdown on demonstrations,
particularly during the early 2007 Tarai unrest, was harsh,
there has been little follow-up in terms of arresting those
responsible for the worst violence, such as the March 2007
Gaur massacre. Normality has yet to be restored in rural
areas. The Maoists have made only a limited return of
seized land, and no mechanism has been put in place
to oversee returns.21 Local government has not been
reestablished, although there are indications a cross-party
agreement may be close.
□ The Maoists should cease all illegal activities and
pressure tactics, stand down parallel structures
and start the return of seized property, with a
government-formed commission established to
adjudicate on more complex cases of restitution
and/or compensation.
□ All parties should urgently agree a plan to revive
local government and explore ways to involve local
communities in conflict resolution and peacebuilding
□ New security plans are required to address the
dismal law and order situation, based on local needs
and community consent rather than heavy-handed
imposition from Kathmandu, which Madhesi leaders
have specifically warned will only add to their
determination to push for autonomy.
2.       Security sector
The shape ofthe security sector lies at the heart ofthe
peace process and remains one ofthe main blocks to
progress. The current situation is unsustainable: the
continued presence of two armies with no planning for
their future status is inherently unstable. It is also a great
financial burden on the state at a time when economic
development is the most urgent requirement.
16 A first tranche of Rs.250 million (almost $4 million) was
released in early October 2007. Benefits are not lavish ranging
from a $1 per day allowance for two months to Rs 10,000
(approx. $160) as compensation for a destroyed house.
17 For a detailed assessment of Maoist and state violations
of the CPA see "Human Rights In Nepal One Year After The
Comprehensive Peace Agreement", Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, Kathmandu, 12 December
18 See C.K. Lai, "Throwing justice to the wind", Nepali Times,
7 December 2007.
Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, December 2007.
20 From January to August 2007, the CPN(M) and YCL called
at least 30 bandhs (shutdowns). Other groups, particularly in
the Tarai, called even more, causing disruption to business and
21 On the lack of progress on seized land returns see "Human
Rights In Nepal", op. cit.
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The UN verification of Maoist personnel is near its end;
apart from those who have quietly left the cantonments, the
disqualified are either recent recruits or minors. The latter
should have been discharged immediately and offered
rehabilitation packages, but the Maoists insisted on linking
their discharge to the government's release of payments.
The many disqualifications could embarrass the Maoist
leadership but their claim of a more than 30,000-strong
force was always exaggerated; privately they were willing
to more than halve the number of claimed combatants
in return for other benefits. A more serious problem is that
many seasoned fighters never went into cantonments; many
of them appear to have taken command positions in the
YCL. There is no guarantee that those who are discharged
will not remain under Maoist command and control in
other capacities. The assumption that they are waiting
to be "released" and only wish to return to civilian life is
unrealistic; many are likely to be committed to the cause
and willing to be redeployed within the YCL or other
Fighters have also left the cantonments on several occasions
and have sometimes participated in protest rallies wearing
combat fatigues and carrying weapons such as knives; the
Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee (JMCC), which
consists of army, Maoist and UN representatives, formally
noted two breaches of the arms-carrying provisions in
the November 2006 Management of Arms and Annies
Two steps have been taken. The September 2006 Army Act
improved the framework for democratic control ofthe army,
although it failed to meet some basic norms such as making
personnel subject to court action for criminal activities,
including serious rights violations; and the Special
Committee for the Integration and Rehabilitation ofthe
Combatants ofthe Maoist Army (the "146 Committee")
specified in the CPA was finally established on 21 May
2007, though it has only met once, in July, and its terms
of reference have not been fixed. Neither of these steps,
however, has translated into meaningful progress. In
practice, the army remains autonomous. The new National
Security Council was established on 22 August 2007 but
exists only on paper. The government has taken no action
on the CPA calls to prepare a "detailed action plan" for
NA democratisation and resizing22 The "reintegration and
rehabilitation" of Maoist combatants has yet to be addressed.
In 2007 the NA has twice embarked on large recruitment
drives - a violation of agreements, although the recruits
filled positions left vacant by retirements. The cabinet
22 "This shall include tasks such as determining the right number
ofthe Nepali Army, preparing the democratic structure reflecting
the national and inclusive character and training them as per the
democratic principles and values ofthe human rights". CPA 4.7.
decision to slash the 3,000 to 4,500 troops deployed in the
royal palace has not been implemented. Some NA generals
have reportedly met Maoist leaders and indicated
willingness to consider integration of forces but the NA
wants to impose its own conditions23 Although the Maoists
and the NA appear to be implacable enemies, they share
certain characteristics (such as a nationalistic outlook
and preference for firm government) and have shown
themselves able to work together. The JMCC is probably
the best example of a functional body established by the
peace process. It has met 58 times, developed clear agendas,
mechanisms and secretariat support and built good
cooperation between members. This is an encouraging
example for other areas and suggests the start of preliminary
discussion on future security sector arrangements need not
be too painful and could generate collaborative goodwill
to ease tougher, later rounds of deliberation.
Dealing with the future ofthe two armies is not optional. A
peace process that fails to address the longer-term status of
the warring sides cannot succeed. India, which remains
determined to delay any reform ofthe NA, which it sees as
a bulwark against instability, believes that the international
attention to security sector reform has encouraged the
Maoists to raise it, belatedly, as a "ploy" to delay elections.
However, that the Maoist political leadership has been able
to raise the issue at all is an encouraging sign oftheir victory
over less accommodating colleagues, who were initially
determined to keep the PLA intact as a separate force for as
long as possible and more than happy to delay discussion
until after the elections if it preserved their private military
No one, including Maoist strategists, recommends rushing
into restmcturing but the start of serious dialogue offers the
best chance of finding a compromise while the Maoist
leadership is able to deliver on it. (A deal also presumes
that the six mainstream parties can control the NA and
guarantee it has no veto, which might test the NA's repeated
assurances it is totally under government control.) The
alternative is to continue with the PLA as an independent
military force and the NA confined to barracks - and a
further extension of UN supervision.
Prachanda claimed to have held positive direct talks with
NA generals on integration, but the NA has reportedly set five
preconditions: (i) full Maoist observance ofthe CPA and embrace
of multiparty democracy; (ii) U.S. delisting ofthe CPN(M) as a
terrorist organisation; (iii) any integration process to be initiated
only by a popularly mandated government formed after CA
elections; (iv) Maoist acceptance of liberal economic policy
well before integration; and (v) integration to be phased over five
years. "Maobadisanga senaka panch sart", Drishti, 4 December
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□ The 146 committee should be activated, preparations
begun on an action plan for the NA and broader
discussions initiated on national security
□ Decisions should be implemented such as activating
the National Security Council, carrying out palace
troop reductions and establishing the political
and bureaucratic capacity to exercise effective and
professional civilian control over the army.
□ The government should settle cantonment
allowances and improve cantonment conditions,
while the Maoists should discharge those deemed
ineligible through verification (with support from
the government and UN on adequate rehabilitation
programs) and rationalise the cantonment structures
for the reduced force.
3.       Justice, rehabilitation and reparation
The peace process has delivered little justice and practical
assistance to those affected by the conflict. The fate of
over 1,000 people forcibly disappeared during the conflict
(most of them apparently from army custody) remains
unknown.24 Neither side has fulfilled its commitment to
investigate and report. A June 2007 Supreme Court ruling
ordered compensation for the families of 83 individuals
who disappeared from the custody of security forces,
formation of a disappearances investigation commission
and drafting of an anti-disappearance law. The
commission is yet to be set up, though its terms of
reference have been discussed. The National Peace and
Rehabilitation Commission, mandated by the CPA to
"provide relief and rehabilitation works for victims and
IDPs", has not been established.
The proposed truth and reconciliation commission has
not materialised, though partly for the positive reason that
public criticism forced the ministry to consult more widely
on a draft bill. More worryingly, almost no steps have been
taken to tackle impunity or hold accountable those
responsible for gross rights violations. For example, despite
the CPN(M) admission of responsibility, Maoist cadres
have not been held accountable for the 2005 bus bombing
at Madi, Chitwan district, that killed three dozen people;
nor has action been taken against army officers responsible
for systematic abuses such as the well-documented torture
and disappearances in Kathmandu's Maharajgunj barracks
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) figures
say 1,042; national NGO estimates are higher.
from 2003 to 2004.25 The CPA commitment to tackle
corruption has been quietly forgotten.26
□ All conflict victims need to be compensated in
non-partisan fashion, preferably through an all-
party mechanism and not just at the discretion of
home ministry-appointed chief district officers or
central ministries.
□ An effective commission should be set up with real
powers to investigate disappearances, drawing on
international assistance as appropriate.
□ Impunity must be tackled by taking action against
those accused of the worst violations during the
4.       A restructured, inclusive state
The CPA made grand promises for reshaping the state.
Its signatories vowed to form, "at the earliest", a
"common development concept for economic and social
transformation and justice and to make the country
developed and economically prosperous".27 They also
To address the problems related to women, Dalits,
indigenous people, janajatis, Madhesis,28 oppressed,
neglected, minorities and the backward by ending
discrimination based on class, caste, language, sex,
culture, religion, and region and to restructure the
state on the basis of inclusiveness, democracy and
progression by ending [the] present centralised and
unitary structure ofthe state.29
The interim constitution reaffirmed a commitment to the
"progressive restructuring ofthe state in order to resolve
the existing problems ofthe country based on class, caste,
Action has been taken in a few cases. For example, police
arrested Maoist cadre Pomlal Sharma and two others in connection
with the abduction of a journalist, Prakash Thakuri. "Govt panel
submits report on missing reporter",, 7 December
2007. They also detained Maoists suspected of assaulting a
trekker who had refused to pay a donation. "Police arrest Maoist
cadres who thrashed Swiss tourist", The Kathmandu Post, 7
December 2007.
26 "To adopt policy to severely punish people amassing properties
by means of corruption while remaining in government posts".
CPA 3.11.
27 CPA 3.12.
28 On Dalits (those at the bottom ofthe caste hierarchy) Janajatis
(ethnic minorities) and Madhesis (plainspeople) and their political
mobilisation, see recent Crisis Group reporting, especially the
briefing Nepal's Fragile Peace Process, op. cit.
29 CPA 3.5.
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Page 11
region and gender".30 Few practical steps have followed
the rhetoric. A promised high-level state restructuring
commission has yet to plan how restructuring will work,
although here too there are signs of an emergent consensus
on the broad framework. Efforts to make the civil service
and other state institutions more inclusive have been
sporadic. Of 28 government secretaries appointed to vacant
posts in October 2007, only two were women and one
Madhesi; twenty were Brahmans. Individual agreements
reached with the MJF and the Nepal Federation of
Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) may not offer a
comprehensive solution (indeed, such bilateral deals
undermine the idea of a coherent approach toward all
groups), but the delays on implementing their provisions
reflect badly on the government's will to change.31
□ Improved inclusion of traditionally marginalised
groups is needed in state structures, political
parties, peace process bodies and local security
plan development.
□ The options should be considered for concrete
affirmative action, such as opening routes into the
civil service by offering fast-track training or
preparation for the entry examination.
□ The state restructuring commission needs to be
formed and measures taken to ensure it includes
representatives ofthe marginalized groups it aims
to benefit and conducts its business transparently,
taking into account popular aspirations and reporting
on its discussions to the public.
□ The MJF and NEFIN deals should be implemented,
for example by political parties improving their
own representativeness at all leadership levels,
honouring the victims of protest movements and
compensating their families and establishing a high-
level task force to determine rules and draft laws
to ensure inclusion ofthe traditionally marginalised
in state structures.
□ Options for canvassing broader opinion should be
considered, such as a national convention, which
could form part of a more participatory constitutional
process without being used as an excuse for further
postponement ofthe elections.
C.    How To Get There
1. Rebuild confidence and cooperation
The seven parties' leaders need to convince the public they
remain committed to the whole process, including the
elections. This will not be easy. Domestic and international
opinion is unlikely to be content with a new date and
renewed verbal reassurances. The seven parties will only
win trust by showing their unity is more than skin deep,
implementing the peace deal and demonstrating that they
have identified and addressed the disagreements that led
to earlier postponements.
The Maoists' primary task is to demonstrate that they remain
committed to the peace process, including prompt elections,
and to their own rejection of violence. Recent actions and
statements have cast serious doubt on these propositions;
only good behaviour will allay the fears of naturally
sceptical observers. Peaceful protest is a legitimate political
tool but the repeated threat to resort to a mass uprising
suggests little respect for the aim of building cross-party
consensus. Other parties need to show leadership - both
by illustrating inclusive, democratic conduct themselves
and by making greater efforts to assist the Maoists in their
2. Develop monitoring and implementation
National monitoring ofthe peace deal has failed but there
is little appetite for greater international assistance.
Viable monitoring can only be carried out by a genuinely
independent body, but the seven parties would have to take
the initiative to establish one. The other major aspect of
improving the process is a realistic plan for implementation.
There is a growing will to implement agreements but it
depends on ministries and other bodies to function efficiently
and in a non-partisan fashion. As long as the peace and
reconstruction ministry is controlled by the dominant party,
it will be seen, however unfairly, as less than impartial. Clear
cross-party consensus might be better served by a neutral
mechanism that could not only handle contentious issues in
a balanced way but also help to prioritise tasks - a practical
necessity given the multitude of demands on a government
of limited capacity. All-party approval of priorities would
reduce the chances of delays on certain actions turning
into party political grievances.
30 Interim Constitution 2007, preamble.
31 On these deals, see Crisis Group Briefing, Nepal's Fragile
Peace Process, op. cit.
3.       Earn legitimacy and public trust
The government and constitution are in danger of losing
legitimacy. The principle of consensus lies at the heart of
the interim statute, as does the primary goal of making a
prompt transition to an elected constituent assembly.
The absence of both has led to serious questions over
the government's mandate and authority. The lack of
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Page 12
communication and consultation with the public, as well
as weakness in service delivery, has exacerbated public
frustration (although this is probably more acute in the
urban middle classes, which did not suffer so much in the
war and have seen less benefit in the ceasefire).
An indefinite postponement of polls would raise more
serious questions over the government's legitimacy and the
status ofthe interim constitution. Political leaders across the
spectrum have expressed dissatisfaction with the interim
constitution. Among them is the prime minister, who has
hinted at a preference to return to the 1990 constitution and
complained, somewhat implausibly, that he was pressured
into accepting the interim constitution against his better
judgement on the insistence of drafting commission chair
Laxman Prasad Aryal.32 Senior constitutional lawyers are
restive; the 1990 constitution drafter, Biswanath Upadhyaya,
has accused the government of "betrayal".33 Elections are
the main step to ensuring legitimacy but they alone will
only fulfil the original mandate ofthe people's movement
if they deliver a meaningful constitutional process that
is not directed solely by the political calculations of a small
handful of parties. Agreement on mechanisms to secure
public participation in future deliberations would enhance
confidence in the government and its intentions.34
suggested a neutral caretaker government to oversee
There may be no alternative to maintaining seven-party
unity as the engine ofthe peace process but those parties
alone cannot claim to speak for the whole ofthe country. If
they wish to maintain their position at the heart ofthe
political process, they will either have to prove they can
deliver promptly or reach out to other forces and persuade
them that they too can be part ofthe process. Most other
parties have, however nominally, bought into the constituent
assembly process. Some, such as the RPP and RJP,37 have
become more vocal advocates for pushing ahead with
elections than the parties that devised the plan in the first
place. The seven parties could build on these openings
to prove that they are not merely a self-interested syndicate.
If they do not, they face further loss of confidence and
the likelihood that individual constituents will seek to build
their own links outside the club. The Maoists have already
floated the idea of a nationalist alliance; they and individual
leaders of other parties have explored links with the
palace and royalist parties.
4.       Bring in other actors
Complaints that the seven parties had turned the government
into a self-serving syndicate or even a new form of
dictatorship were initially confined to the more extreme
royalist part ofthe political spectrum. They can now
be heard from mainstream commentators instinctively
sympathetic to the major parties but increasingly
disillusioned with their behaviour. The moderate Nepali
Times warns that "the Nepali people will not tolerate an
indefinite seven-party dictatorship....The people's verdict
is that this coalition is unfit to govern".35 Others, on the left
and right and speaking for marginalised communities,
caution that the government's unwillingness to listen will
leave a new mass movement as the only alternative.
Moderate royalists, including structures such as the
Rashtriya Janashakti Party, have been floating the idea of a
broader "national government"; other commentators have
32 "It Was a Political Mistake to Replace the Constitution of
1990 by Present Interim Constitution", interview with GP.
Koirala, Spotlight, 29 November 2007.
33 "Upadhyaya charges seven parties of betrayal",, 27 November 2007.
34 See Crisis Group Report, Nepal's Constitutional Process,
op. cit, for recommendations on widening public consultation.
' Editorial, Nepali Times, 7 December 2007.
The international community is disunited. There is one
serious division in approach between the majority, who
view the priority as establishing peace and democracy and
opening the path to reform, and a minority (particularly in
New Delhi and Washington) who have always seen the
main goal ofthe peace process simply as defeating the
Maoists, whether by electoral or other means. China has
become increasingly active, with frequent high-level visitors
engaging all political forces. India, frustrated with the
failure to hold elections and worried at weakening leverage,
appears to be using its influence in the Tarai to pressure
the parties and underscore its capacity to shape events.
International players all want to exert leverage on the
Maoists and other parties to move forward but disagree
on the question of whether threatening to hold elections
without the Maoists is viable or useful. Nevertheless, the
difference between those, mainly India, whose sole focus
is elections, and others who stress that successful elections
require overall progress in the peace process, is bridgeable.
Lack of public unity and perceptions of unwarranted
intervention have reduced the international community's
influence. Political leaders are resentful at being pushed,
even though they insist they want international support
36 For example, Nilamber Acharya "Five-point solution", Nepali
Times, 7 December 2007.
37 Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Rastriya Janmukti Party.
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Page 13
(and the CPA itself urged outside supporters to give it).38
Direct leverage is limited but concerted international
pressure to keep the process on track cannot easily be
ignored. All parties are aware of Nepal's reliance on
external aid; none, including the CPN(M), wishes to bum
bridges with the outside world.
India. Indian diplomats consistently emphasise that
they will support whatever the parties agree in terms of
a compromise on republicanism and the electoral system
(with the proviso that implementing a republic without
a vote would invite a dangerous confrontation). They are
comfortable with the Maoists being guaranteed a role in the
post-election government regardless of results and believe
the best solution remains for other parties to help and
pressure them to sign up to democratic politics definitively.
New Delhi wants to see the government address Madhesi
demands "gracefully and without foot-dragging - the
Madhes is looking for dignity, not spoils - and while trying
to bring splinter groups into the fold". The sole focus
should be the elections:
On elections our view has always been that they are
critical. This government and the interim legislature
are not democratically legitimate. Let the CA
[constituent assembly] go ahead, come up with
whatever it wants and we won't object. But there
is no peace process unless you have an electoral
process. If not, you'll open up political space for
precisely what you fear.39
The concern for legitimacy is genuine; it is also bolstered
by the assumption that election results would provide a
healthy reality check on the parties' (in particular the
Maoists') actual levels of support. In the words of one
diplomat, they would be "both catharsis and clarification"40
Indian officials remain resolutely upbeat in their assessment
oftheir own role, despite voicing multiple frustrations with
the parties and other international players. They do
not believe a new approach is needed; nor do they see the
election postponements as a setback worthy of intensive
analysis. As one said, "there's no need for a post-mortem
ofthe past election attempts".41
Some in New Delhi are less convinced that the Indian
government has taken the right approach - either for Nepal's
interests or its own. High-profile Kathmandu visits by the
"We heartily urge all the friendly countries and the United
Nations, as well as the International Community to extend support
to Nepal in this campaign of establishing full democracy and
lasting peace", CPA 10.8.
39 Crisis Group interview, senior Indian diplomat, New Delhi,
December 2007.
40 Crisis Group interview, Kathmandu, November 2007.
41 Crisis Group interview, senior Indian diplomat, New Delhi,
December 2007.
foreign secretary and prime ministerial envoy Shyam Saran
did not deliver results. "Shyam Saran's visit was a failure
- he didn't get any takers [in his push for a December
election]", commented an experienced Nepal-watcher.
"India is losing friends. We're upset with Koirala, the
Maoists and the UN, and losing the U.S. and UK - so where
does that leave us?"42 Prime Minister Koirala's relations
with New Delhi have cooled; his comments that the Tarai
unrest could be solved instantly if India cooperated touched
a raw nerve; politicians of all stripes in Kathmandu believe
India has deliberately encouraged Madhesi activists, or at
least refrained from using its influence to rein them in.43
UN. UNMIN is close to completing the verification of
Maoist combatants - a task that was delayed by political
wrangling. The Secretary-General's Special Representative,
Ian Martin, since his return from a 25 October briefing to
the Security Council, has taken a stronger public stance in
emphasising the need for all parties to do more to implement
the peace deal, monitor progress, rebuild confidence and
tackle remaining issues such as security sector reform
(SSR).44 However it faces challenges in making the most
of its role. A wave of negative press commentary has
sought to blame it for delays and to question why such a
visible deployment has not contributed more to moving the
peace process forward. As one commentator observed,
"UNMIN's presence has so far only ensured that a 'long-
term ceasefire' is not broken".45
Even those sympathetic to the call for the UN to do more
in areas such as security sector reform have asked ifthe
push for greater attention to neglected aspects ofthe process
is not belated. In terms of securing any expansion of
UNMIN's formal mandate, it certainly is: widespread
discontent at the mission's high profile and expansive
resources have made it politically impossible to sell the
idea of a broader role. However, the weaknesses ofthe
peace process to which UNMIN has been drawing public
attention are now increasingly often, and openly, recognised
by all parties. More transparency about its activities, better
communication with the Kathmandu media and the general
42 Crisis Group interview, New Delhi, December 2007.
43 One magazine report offered a detailed account of a meeting
that reportedly took place in Patna, India, involving Madhesi
activists and Indian government officials, to plan a renewed
protest campaign. See Sarojraj Adhikari, "Simapariko sanjal",
Nepal, 2 December 2007. Regardless ofthe weight of evidence,
the assumption that Indian manoeuvring underlies many ofthe
recent developments in the Tarai is widespread across all parties
and civil society groups in Kathmandu.
44 See press statement, Special Representative ofthe Secretary-
General Ian Martin, UNMIN, 6 November 2007, at www.unmin. -06-UNMIN. SRSG
Press. Statement.ENG.pdf.
45 Bhaskar Gautam, "Nepalma UNMINko kshetradhikaf', Naya
Patrika, 28 November 2007.
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 14
population and more sharing of information and analysis
with diplomatic missions and donor agencies would help
UNMIN counter some ofthe criticisms levelled at it.
India vs. the rest? Indian diplomats are frustrated with the
UN and what they see as unhelpful public positions taken
by Western diplomats. Although they want UNMIN to
fulfil its core mandate and still believe a large international
presence will help create an intimidation-free election
environment, they believe it is trying to overstep its mandate
and has diverted focus from the polls. Some suspect
prolonged UN involvement will inevitably erode Indian
influence and open a wider path for additional third parties;
others have more specific concerns, particularly at the large
UN presence in the Tarai districts bordering India and
at direct contacts with political leaders.
Indian officials all consider a united international voice
essential but worry that UN and Western public positions
have distracted from the core task of elections and afforded
further excuses for delay, especially to the Maoists. Pointing
to examples ofthe Maoists echoing international concerns
about issues such as security sector reform, an official
complained that "what UNMESf says today, Prachanda says
tomonow".46 Another frustrated Indian diplomat cautioned:
"The bottom line is: no one should make statements that
can be used by one party as bargaining chips. It's not
good for the international community if they themselves
become a factor in politics".47
In fact, substantive differences in understanding or policy
are few, and none are unbridgeable. UN and Western
diplomats insist they see elections as an inalienable part of
the peace process; their focus on making the process itself
more functional is simply an essential step if elections are
to take place and be meaningful. As one Western diplomat
pointed out, "any roadmap [suggested by the parties] will
only attract support if it comes with a firm election date".48
Neither UNMESf nor governments wish to hand the Maoists
a veto over the process but only New Delhi believes that
threatening to proceed without the Maoists is a viable
option. China may have doubts over the imposition of
a peace process that it sees as an Indo-U.S. package,
but it has not used its extensive political contacts to block
progress. Its public statements have been measured and
supportive ofthe process.
The language agreed for an India-EU joint statement
following their November Delhi summit suggests the
outlines of a common platform:
The leaders expressed deep disappointment at the
postponement of elections in Nepal. Repeated
postponement ofthe elections erodes the credibility
and affects the process of democratic transformation
and legitimisation in Nepal. Early elections and a
mandate from the people are essential for the peace
process to stay on track. The leaders urged the
Government and the political parties to honour
the agreements and commitments already made to
enable the people of Nepal to choose at the earliest
their own future and the manner oftheir governance
through a free and fair process, open to all without
As all diplomats recognise, there is no simple leverage that
can be exerted to keep the process on track. All parties,
and the Maoists in particular, need to be reminded
that international recognition oftheir legitimacy is neither
unconditional nor unlimited - and it can be withdrawn if
they do not move quickly to secure a popular mandate. But
other pressures, such as aid conditionality, are unlikely
to be effective.
Nepal's peace process was not inherently misconceived
and can still succeed. However, it has been held back
by poor political leadership, limited will to implement
its central provisions and growing mistrust between the
parties and the public at large. Talk of delaying elections
has understandable attractions for leaders scared of losing
power, but there is no viable alternative plan. However
flawed and incomplete, the CPA is the only stable
framework on offer. Ripping it up, or circumventing its
main goal, would invite serious risks. A sceptical public
has offered the mainstream parties and the Maoists the
chance to redeem themselves and seek a new mandate for
change. If they do so, they will also serve their partisan
interests. If they fail, the public will have little sympathy
for a collective betrayal of its aspirations.
Kathmandu/Brussels, 18 December 2007
46 Crisis Group interview, senior Indian diplomat, New Delhi,
December 2007.
Crisis Group interview, senior Indian diplomat, New Delhi,
December 2007.
48 Crisis Group interview, Western diplomat, New Delhi,
December 2007.
India-EU Joint Statement, New Delhi, 30 November 2007,
 Nepal: Peace Postponed
Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°72, 18 December 2007
Page 15
Map No. 4304    UNITED NATIONS
January 2007 (Colour)
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