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Nepal, May 6 -- Nepal is fast heading towards a human rights catastrophe. Both the Maoists and the government have backed themselves into a corner. Having resigned in May 2009, the Maoists are trying to return to power through street demonstrations. The other parties continue to be unified only in denying the Maoists any share in government and their proper stake in the peace process.

Both sides offer compromises fully aware that such compromises will be unacceptable to the other side. At the same time the Maoists have ratcheted up threats to seize power while the Army and the government threaten military intervention.

As the largest party in parliament, the Maoists can veto an extension of the Constituent Assembly tenure that expires on May 28. On April 16, the Maoists announced that they would veto the extension if a new unity government headed by UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda was not formed. If things don't change the May 28 deadline will run out and Nepal will enter uncharted and dangerous political territory.

The issues that underlie the crisis - control of the government, control of the content of the constitution, Army integration, its democratisation, impunity, land reform and particularly, control of the outcome of the next election - remain unresolved as a result of weaknesses in the 12-point agreement, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and a breakdown in consensus in response to the result of CA elections.

India to a large extent is responsible for the current crisis. In collaboration with the Army and the elite, India created and propped up the current government headed by an unelected prime minister and at best, an unrepresentative government. India's unconditional support for the Nepal's highly politicised Army has allowed the military to have a disturbing influence in the current government and a destabilising veto over the peace process. The Army's opposition to integration of Maoist PLA and to civilian control of the Army has become government policy. Indian actions, combined with polarisation in Nepal, have only deepened the military's hold. This was most recently demonstrated by recent media reports suggesting that the government was proposing to ask the UN not to monitor the Nepal Army. This tone was inflammatory at best.

Indian claims of non-interference are absurd. Nepal's peace process has been largely defined by constant Indian interference. Prior to the SAARC Summit in Thimphu there was room for the formation of a government of national unity. Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was wavering until India's unconditional support hardened his position. On April 30, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao announced: "India supports a strong purposeful government in Nepal which Prime Minister Singh said he believed that Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and his government can give the country at this moment."

But Nepal's peace is based on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which underlines the need for "power sharing and consensus". India's public support for the current Nepali government post-Thimphu summit should be seen in this context. By definition support for one side is inconsistent with the need for consensus required in the CPA, not least at such a sensitive moment. Not surprisingly, despite Madhav Nepal's energetic denials nobody in Nepal has missed the hardening of his line since Thimphu.

Time is running out. If India continues with the current policy it is difficult to see how the present coalition government can reconcile with the Maoists. Without reconciliation there is little prospect of resolving the intractable issues of the peace process including the drafting of the constitution. The longer India discourages reconciliation, tensions and conflicts will only rise.

The Maoist street demonstrations in the beginning were remarkably disciplined, albeit run with a high level of coercion and threat. As time passes the Maoists are increasing the pressure from the street. Reports of violence from day five of the strike are coming in thick and fast. The Army and government continue to threaten military intervention. The environment increasingly favours extremists on both the sides.

The Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) has repeatedly condemned the Maoist violence, intimidation and threats. But the reality, demonstrated in the streets of Kathmandu today, is that there is no solution to the stalemate in Nepal without the Maoists, just as there is no solution without including the Nepali Congress or the UML. Nepal's main political parties have all repeatedly demonstrated that if they are not included in government they can make governing Nepal impossible.

The Maoists and the other political parties have held repeated talks since May 2 to resolve the crisis. But these are unlikely to succeed unless India changes its position. India now has only two options: either support the formation of a national unity government in the spirit of the peace process and the CA election results or continue the current policy of trying to weaken the Maoists. The former may lead to increased prospects for peace. The latter is likely only to return Nepal to conflict, end democracy and end in a human rights catastrophe. ACHR urges India to support the formation of a national unity government and a renewal of the mandates of both UNMIN and OHCHR to provide independent support to the peace process.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from EKantipur.com. For more information on news feed please contact Sarabjit Jagirdar at htsyndication@hindustantimes.com

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Publication:Kathmandu Post (Kathmandu, Nepal)
Geographic Code:9NEPA
Date:May 6, 2010
Words:899
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