Raising the curtains on the government programmes and policies for the fiscal year 2008/09, the Maoists have announced that within six months the integration of the army will be complete. This was an assurance to the Nepali people and the outside world that the government would not operate with two armies.
The Maoists have taken the position that army integration is imperative to the process of state reconstruction, but there are parties like the NC that feel that merging a political army with the national army can only invite chaos. Reconciling these two views is the challenge. Ensuring long-term peace in the country will not be possible unless the former rebels are rehabilitated, but insisting that the only solution is army integration is not the only way out. We have to be open to other options. First and foremost we have to devise national security policy which will finalise the structure of the security apparatus, its work area and its responsibilities.
According to the constitution, a special committee may be formed with political representation. But these committees cannot decide on issues like army integration without extensive political agreements. On the one hand, the announced program and policies stated that the PLA would be integrated and rehabilitated according to the terms of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the Interim Constitution, but on the other, the major parties still have no common understanding on this delicate issue.
The committee can start the process of integration, rehabilitation and support only after there is consensus. The Maoists claim that an agreement has already been reached for army integration and all that remains is to construct the framework for it. For this a special committee will be formed. But the NC, UML and Forum do not seem be reading from the same page as the Maoists.
With their talk of building the New Nepal, the Maoists raised the issue of improving the security situation of the country. But even in this area there haven't been productive efforts to bring about the required political agreement. The NC refused to join the government unless it was given the Defence Ministry. The Maoists are aware of the dissatisfaction within the political parties over army integration, but choose not the talk about it openly.
It would be appropriate to move forward with the process of army integration only after the new national defence policy is formulated. While we do see understanding to formulate the new security policy, the major political parties do not seem to be working cooperatively in this regard. Two years ago, the political powers in Nepal proved their capabilities by announcing a ceasefire. The question of integration and rehabilitation can reach a conclusion only in the initiation of the political parties. They can bring in national consensus, not external powers or the UN. It is time for the Maoists to be wise and demonstrate flexibility. It is the state's responsibility to rehabilitate the former rebels into society according to their abilities and qualifications. But it would not be correct to integrate a political army into the national army The Maoists have to change their stance.