Nepal’s major political parties inched closer to a deal on the peace process, but failed to achieve a breakthrough in an important and much-anticipated meeting on Monday. The three big parties – Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), Nepali Congress, and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) – have agreed to meet on Tuesday evening once again.
In the past few days, leaders from the Maoist-led government and the opposition party, NC, have expressed optimism about the process, heightening expectations that the political stalemate over the peace and constitutional process will be broken soon. The Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said that parties have not been as close to a deal in the past five years as they are at the moment. In an interview to the local Kantipur daily on Sunday, NC president Sushil Koirala said he felt that Maoists have become ‘serious’ towards completing the peace process. “The sticking point now is number of combatants to be integrated and rehabilitation package.”
The NC has insisted that a maximum of 5000 combatants can be integrated into the Nepal Army, while the Maoists have demanded that 7000 fighters be integrated. The NC has offered a cash package of $3900 to 7750 to those opting for voluntary retirement and rehabilitation, while the Maoists have asked for a package between $7750 to 11,600. There is a broad agreement on the modality of integration, whereby the combatants would be accommodated in a directorate under the Nepal Army. There will be flexibility on standard norms regarding age, marital status and educational qualification, but the combatants will have to meet the physical standards of recruitment. There is also an unwritten agreement that the NC will get to head the next government, which will take the country to the next elections.
Monday’s meeting, which was expected to thrash out the differences, got postponed because the Maoists asked for more time. Dr Minendra Rijal, an NC member of the all party Special Committee on Integration, told The Hindu, “Right at the outset, Maoist chairman Prachanda said that he needed to do some more homework and requested we have decisive talks on Tuesday.”
Another NC source involved in the negotiation said that differences were not intractable, and the problem was the internal dynamics of the Maoist party, referring to the opposition from vice chairman Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ to terms of the agreement. The source said, “We already have a two page draft agreement, but Kiran’s faction within the Maoists wants to revise that in a way which will not be acceptable to NC.”
At a tea reception organized by the Maoists, chairman Prachanda said, ‘As the largest party, we are committed to completing the peace and constitution process. Our well-wishers also want us to keep the party united, and I am committed to making any sacrifice necessary to keep the party intact.”