Khagendra Prasad Sharma
Conflict Management Expert, Nepal
K.P. Sharma is a conflict management expert of Nepal with rich experience and excellent academic backing. He has recently presented a working paper entitled 'Nepalese Perspective; Challenges in Security Sector Restructuring' at a seminar jointly organized by Germany based Berghof Research Center and Canada based Canadian International Development Research Center in Canada. Currently he is persuing his doctoral degree in conflict management from Nepal Sanskrit University.
Journalist Sujit Mainali for Telegraph weekly/ telegraphnepal.com talked with Mr. Sharma on several aspects of Nepal's peace process.
Here are the excerpts of this exclusive interview: Chief Editor.
TGQ1: Contradictory standpoints acquired by the major political parties of Nepal on several issues related to peace process is widely being held responsible for the ongoing political stalemate. Mr. K.P., can you forward some ideas on how to bridge such contending standpoints for concluding ongoing peace process in a win-win situation?
K.P.: Peace process in Nepal was initiated after a compromise was reached in between the then armed subversive force, Unified Maoists, and other parliamentarian parties of Nepal. However, after the Maoist formally entered into the mainstream politics; the parliamentary parties became very reluctant to acknowledge the former as a major political force. The Maoist also couldn't completely abandon the war mindset. I think this is the main reason responsible for the continuing political stalemate in Nepal.
To resolve the ongoing peace process in a win-win model, all the major forces of Nepali politics have to perform a constructive role. The parliamentary parties of Nepal should, first of all, acknowledge the Maoists as a major political force. The Maoist garnered largest number of vote during Constituent Assembly (CA) election held April 8, 2008. However, the other parties are insisting that Maoists are yet not eligible to steer the government. This is a ridiculous argument. The Maoist have had peoples mandate for it. Everyone must acknowledge this fact.
Secondly, the Maoist currently is in itself facing serious internal differences on several ideological and tactical issues. The party is highly polarized on two distinct poles where one pole favors conclusion of the constitution drafting and peace processes while the other prefers immediate revolt. The Maoist must forge common strategy and it should publicly announce its commitment on the logical conclusion of peace process.
Thirdly, Nepal is now experiencing acute absence of 'third party engagement' that could assist to reconcile, mediate and negotiate the parties in conflict through back channel. After the departure of UNMIN, civil society could have filled the vacuum. However, civil society in Nepal is sharply divided and adheres to different political leaning. The civil society should have to forge common agenda and try their best to continue the legacy of UNMIN.
Fourthly, Nepal is now suffering from the leadership crisis. After the demise of G.P. Koirala, Nepal couldn't produce any statesman (?) to replace him. We can understand the importance of statesman in resolving conflict from the study of conflict resolution process of South Africa, Ruanda, Burundi, etc.
Fifthly, Nepali politics is divided into different lobbies and each lobby is heavy influenced by alien forces. The international community is trying to impose their interests with the help of these lobbies. If these lobbying groups resolve their differences for the sake of larger national interests, this will provide positive impetus to the ongoing peace process.
And last but not least, the Maoists must abandon its war mindset. They should believe on the will of people, rather than believing on the barrel of the guns. If the above stated guidelines are strictly followed in practice, then I firmly believe that peace process can he concluded in a win-win model and current political impasse can be resolved.
TGQ2: Foreign community based in Kathmandu has been exhibiting its serious concerns on the ongoing peace process of Nepal. Moreover, it is widely believed that India is trying to impose its interest and concerns through different mode of intervention. Could you please enlighten our august readers on what might be the interests of India associated with Nepal's peace process?
K.P.: Well, the blatant interference of India in internal affairs of Nepal has now become an open secret. Because of the excessive intervention, its Nepal policy has now miserably failed. India is trying to recover the loss by sending its modest and calm envoy, Mr. Jayant Prasad to Kathmandu. Mr. Prasad will have to face daunting challenges to bag success in his assigned goal in the days ahead.
Right now, Nepal-India relation basically means the relations between Maoist and New Delhi. An antagonistic relation has developed in between them. In the current position, it looks as if India feels that Nepal-India relations are dominated by the Maoists. Each and every Indian attempt are becoming futile because of the Maoists.
I can give some examples to prove my argument. India's Nepal policy is primarily aimed to elevate pro-Indian forces in Kathmandu’s power corridors. Such force only can obey New Delhi's dictation and can address even the illogical and illegitimate concerns of New Delhi.
In post CA election period, Nepal got three successive governments. Among them, two government leaded by Chairman of Unified Maoist Mr. Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Chairman of UML Mr. Jhalanath Khanal were formed without the consent of New Delhi. This is the sign of failure of India's Nepal policy.
There are several political and security related interests of India associated with the ongoing peace process of Nepal. India wants to foil Maoist's attempt to make communism tilted constitution of Nepal. Such a constitution, India believes, will weaken pro-Indian forces in Nepal in the long term. To materialize this desire, India is trying to bring about a split in the Maoist top echelon. It is even trying to topple its leadership. This has posed serious hurdle in the conclusion of peace process.
India is against the integration of Maoist combatants in Nepalese Army (NA). The integration of combatants will limit the influence of India in NA structure because till now NA has remained in favor of our southern neighbor.
India had tried several times to make Maoist militarily weak. It had previously forwarded integration and rehabilitation package. However, the Maoist did not accept the Indian proposal. The Indian package was implicitly designed to curtail the military might of the Maoists.
India played crucial role in ousting UNMIN from Nepal by using its proxies in Nepal. And it is lingering Nepal's peace process by providing clandestine support to the anti-Maoist parties of Nepal. Strong and vibrant Maoist is not in the interest of India.
TGQ3: Communal hatred is gradually increasing in Nepal and it is widely believed that Nepal will witness widespread communal violence in the days ahead. If it so happens, unfortunately, what might be the regional impact of such a violence? What say you?
K.P.: Your question is more hypothetical. I don’t think Nepal will ever experience widespread communal violence. National and regional ground is not favorable for the emergence of such violence as you stated. Maoist had schooled their followers on ethnic grounds. They have assorted the class and ethnic sentiments. They are advocating for the formation of provinces on the basis of ethnicity with an aim to garner support from the ethnic communities of Nepal. If the Maoist fail to provide proper schooling to the people regarding their agenda, this may create hostile relation between ethnic groups. But I don’t think such hostility will ever crop up in Nepal.
Lots of people in Nepal believe that India may further provoke such hostile relations that presumably exist between ethnic groups of Nepal in order to make this Himalayan nation more unstable. If it so happens, it will be detrimental to the overall security of India itself. Ethnic violence of Nepal, if it ever happened, will be followed by enraged ethnic movement in Utter Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal of India which shares border with Nepal. There are many ethnic communities in India with secession motive. The situation of Nepal will encourage those ethnic communities. And eventually, Nepal may get many neighboring countries in its surrounding.
India is aware of this fact. Therefore, may use communal card for the short term to elevate some vested interest groups to the power corridor. However, India will not favor widespread communal violence in Nepal.
Similarly, unstable Nepal is also not in the broader interest of China as well. A strong, peaceful and stable Nepal can only ensure the security and stability of China's underbelly Tibet.
Hence, in conclusion I believe that communal violence in Nepal can be detrimental to the overall security and stability of both China and India. Hence, both regional and internal context do not favor communal antagonism in Nepal.
TGQ4: There is huge difference inside Unified Maoist regarding the ongoing peace and constitution drafting process of Nepal. What type of effect this internal division inside the Maoist will have an impact in the overall peace process?
K.P.: If the Maoist fails to bridge its internal differences, then the ongoing peace process is not going to see a positive end. The Maoist must be clear about their future move. If they want "People's Revolt", they should immediately prepare for it. Otherwise, they should be sincere towards the peace and constitution drafting process. Until and unless the Maoist do not favor the conclusion of peace process, this process is not going to end because the Maoists are one of the major stakeholders of this process. Maoist consent is required for the successful conclusion of these processes.
TGQ5: A French scholar Isabelle Duquesne in her latest book "Nepal: Zone of Peace" has proposed to declare Nepal as a Zone of Peace (ZoP). As a conflict resolution expert, what you would like to say on the proposal forwarded by Mrs. Isabelle?
K.P.: Being a son of Nepal, I praised her proposal. However, I don’t think situation has become favorable to declare Nepal a ZoP.
Nepal has not yet recovered from the internal conflict. Peace process has not yet reached to its logical conclusion. We have already ousted UNMIN, a lone mediator of the peace process. Things have become more fragile. The internal difference between Maoists has made the situation more serious. In these circumstances, if we propose to make Nepal a ZoP, I don’t think international community will endorse our proposal.
Right now, Nepal is being the victim of triangular rivalry. Pro Indo-US, pro Chinese and nationalist groups of Nepal are in direct confrontation. This has made Nepali politics fragmented and disintegrated. Amidst this situation, if we forward the proposal of ZoP, international community may laugh on us. First of all, we have to bridge our internal differences and should successfully conclude the peace process. The political parties of Nepal should unite for the common national agenda. Then only we should think about declaring Nepal as a ZoP. Right now, the concept of ZoP looks immature. However, the concept of Mrs. Isabelle is praise worthy one. I personally want to offer thanks to her for her affection towards Nepal.