Nepali Times
Nation
High hopes


SUMAN PRADHAN


The job of the high-level UN assessment team in town this week is two-fold: get the government and Maoists to first agree on setting weapons aside and then offer UN help for the task.

Getting an agreement on arms will be the tougher challenge for the team lead by Staffan de Mistura, who arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday.

"There is already a Nepali peace process and we are here to help," de Mistura told reporters. The Swedish diplomat has served as special UN representative in southern Lebanon and Iraq.

The government's public position is that Maoist arms should be 'managed' before the rebels join the government and constituent assembly polls are held.

"The Maoists will not be included in an interim government until they are free of arms," Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told us, "the Nepal Army will subject itself to UN monitoring but it will also keep a watchful eye over the Maoists."

Maoist chief negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara says his party has accepted the UN's role in the peace process, but draws a distinction between 'monitoring' and 'management': "The UN can only monitor arms, we will do the actual arms management."

It's not just semantics. The army doesn't want its weapons under the supervision of any group, and therein lies the UN's difficulty. The Maoist demand for the military to also place its arms under UN monitoring could be posturing ahead of tough negotiations.

The three-month Maoist ceasefire announced after the April uprising, scheduled to end Thursday, has been extended.

Despite bending over backwards to appease the generals, the government's hold over the army is still tenuous. Minister Mahat told us: "The Nepal Army is fully under our control." But the only ones with leverage over the military are said to be India, the United States and, because of lucrative peace-keeping duties, the UN.

Despite its sorry experiences in Rwanda and Kosovo, the prospect of the UN playing an active role in Nepal's peace process has raised hopes here.

"Yes, I am concerned by high expectations," de Mistura said. "The UN has substantial experience in these areas, but it will only succeed if all sides want success."

The UN team is expected to meet government officials, Maoists and MPs. Its presence in Kathmandu this week coincides with a flurry of visits to Kathmandu by Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Wu Tawei and the Japanese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Yasuhisa Shiozaki.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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