After exhausting themselves, their nation, and all other possibilities, Nepal’s murderous Maoists and monarchists have finally pledged to give peace and democracy a chance, reports Christian Science Monitor correspondent Bikash Sangraula:
The two sides have also agreed to sign a comprehensive peace accord by Nov. 16, which will include provisions to compensate the families of those killed or maimed during the conflict, rehabilitate displaced civilians, and form a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to deal with cases of serious human rights violations.
Ordinary Nepalese appeared upbeat on Wednesday morning as news of the agreement screamed from the front pages of Nepal’s daily newspapers. “Congratulations to all for the success of peace talks,” wrote Raju Chhettri, general manager of Kawasaki motorcycle outlet in Kathmandu, in a text message forwarded to friends….
“The agreements have cleared all obstacles till constituent-assembly elections,” he says, referring to the body that will write Nepal’s new constitution. “After the elections are held, the rest of the steps for peace will be taken automatically.”
In fact, the violent insurgency first changed course in November 2005, when rebel leaders admitted, after nearly a decade of fighting state forces, that they could not secure political legitimacy through violence alone. The Maoists entered into a loose alliance with seven political parties to end the king’s rule. It was only after this alliance that the popular perception of Nepal’s Maoists shifted from a rebel group with a single-minded focus on violent revolution to a serious democratic political party.
Despite the long-overdue success, Nepal’s civil society leaders remained skeptical of Wednesday’s agreement. While acknowledging that the accord is likely to steer the country toward peace, human rights officials and observers were disappointed at the lack of specific legal protections for ordinary Nepalese.
The Acorn has a mind-boggling post about the time-zone politics of South Asian nations.
Officially it was to save daylight. But the standardisation of time is just another way in which the countries of the subcontinent seek to assert their distinct national identity. Start with India, which in a style befitting the character of its polity, centralises its reference meridien by splitting the differences, ending up five and a half-hours ahead of UTC….
But it is Nepal that wins the prize for asserting a distinct national identity. It is five hours and forty-five minutes ahead of UTC, or 15 minutes ahead of Indian Standard Time.
A Sri Lankan commenter adds background on Sri Lanka’s latest fidgeting with time:
The President’s office informed the public today that the clocks in Sri Lanka would revert back to the old time i.e. Indian standard time from April 14, 2006 onwards. April 14 is the traditional Tamil/Sinhalese New Year (known in India as Baisakhi), a major public holiday in the island.
The shift back to old time is intended to accommodate the political powerful Buddhist monks and astrologers who never accepted day light savings time in 1996. Parents had also complained that school children had to leave for school when it was still dark. The decision in Colombo also puts the clocks in the island in line with the LTTE which never adopted the original time change in its territory.
Rebecca MacKinnon’s RConversations and Jeff Jarvis’s Buzz Machine have introduced a new blog, Radio Free Nepal, with this “chilling intro”:
King Gyandendra of Nepal has issued a ban on independent news broadcasts and has threatened to punish newspapers for reports that run counter to the official monarchist line. Given that any person in Nepal publishing reports critical of “the spirit of the royal proclamation” is subject to punishment and/or imprisonment, contributors to this blog will publish their reports from Nepal anonymously.
The Acorn quotes The Economist (subscription) about the need for intervention in Nepal.
Like a severely disturbed individual, a failed state is a danger not just to itself but to those around it and beyond.
… there is no chance that the government can defeat the rebels; there is, however, a small but growing possibility that the rebels could defeat the government.
If this were purely an internal matter, the world could afford to look shamefacedly away. But it isn’t. Nepal’s Maoists have formed links with India’s own Maoist insurgents, who go by the local name of Naxalites, and, says India, with some of the vicious groups fighting secessionist wars in its north-east.
The Acorn‘s prescription follows.
It does not take much to take the wind out of the Maoists’ (already flagging) sail — usurp their agenda, especially the one calling for a new constituent assembly. Even in the absence of the Maoist threat, King Gyanendra has sufficiently distorted Nepal’s politics that a return to the 1990-system is next to impossible. Clearly, Nepal needs reconciliation, but the Maoists are the worst possible agents to provide it.
The constituent assembly can then decide whether Nepal becomes a republic, or ends up with a Japanese-style constitutional monarchy. India should intervene to bring about this outcome by bearing down on the king and his prime minister. Should the Maoists continue their armed struggle even after this, India would have no alternative left but to intervene militarily. In that case it must take up the responsibility, preferably but not necessarily with the sanction of the UN Security Council.
As martial Nepal sinks into bloody anarchy, blessed Bhutan begins “operationalizing the concept of Gross National Happiness“!
Nepal (see map):
Outside the capital, a dangerous anarchic vacuum is developing throughout the countryside, the majority of which is under the control of neither the Maoists nor the army. Nepal’s civil structure is disintegrating in the face of conflict, weak central control and the absence of local elected leaders. Thomas Marks, author of Insurgency in Nepal, says that since 1996, Maoists have destroyed 1,321 village administration buildings and 440 post offices, while police have abandoned 895 stations and teachers have abandoned 700 schools. Little has been done to address the endemic poverty that fuels the conflict, with 42% of the population earning less than $1 a day. Adding to the sense of a nation in flames, past weeks have seen students demanding a republic by setting fires, torching effigies of the King and smashing car and shop windows in Kathmandu. The fear of deepening chaos is now on every observer’s lips. “The smell of burning tires on the streets of the capital reeks of democracy in decay,” writes Nepali Times commentator C.K. Lal. Says Kenichi Ohashi, the World Bank’s country director for Nepal: “The student agitation could get out of hand. And outside the capital there is a risk of things slowly falling apart, a sense that the country is at risk of becoming a failed state. The next 12 months seem pretty critical–it’s a race against time.”
Bhutan (see map):
“Gross National Happiness” represents the highest Bhutanese values. The development philosophy of Gross National Happiness was first expressed by His Majesty the King of Bhutan. Rooted in Buddhist philosophy and culture, it provides an alternative to GNP as a measure of, and approach to, development. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is Bhutan’s vision of development beyond material economic development and growth. Bhutan had recognized and accepted happiness as a policy concern and objective. However, there are no substantial or innovative studies done to further this concept. This seminar is the first national initiative to bring cross-fertilization of ideas from various disciplines and cross sectors.
A Gurkha royal salute to The Argus.