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Farewell to arms

The historic agreement between the Govt and maoists is an uncommonly promising start for a nation moving towards democracy.

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 19:17 IST

After months of stalemate and two failed peace deals, there's good news at last from Nepal.

The trilateral negotiations between representatives of the Maoist rebels, the seven leading political parties and the United Nations have finally resulted in an agreement acceptable to all parties, and one that tackles crucial issues facing the country.

The two main stumbling blocks before the earlier peace deals were disarmament and the future of the monarchy.

Under the deal signed on November 7, the Maoists have agreed to disarm under UN supervision, in return for 73 seats in the interim Parliament.

Significantly, the Maoists' share in this Parliament is just one short of that of the largest party, the Nepali Congress (NC).

It reflects the government's recognition of the Maoists' strength, and should go a long way in getting them into the political mainstream.

The future of the monarchy, it has been agreed, will be decided by a constituent assembly, which is expected to be in place by June 2007 once elections are held un der the interim government.

All royal property, meanwhile, will be sequestered. The agreement, however, cannot be expected to be a magic wand that will wipe away strife and divisions overnight.

Many of the leading political players - including Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress-Democratic and the NC's Girija Prasad Koirala - are known to be moderately pro-monarchy and stridently anti-Maoist.

The Maoists will be heavily outnumbered in the 330-member legislature. For the agreement to hold, all parties concerned will have to exercise restraint to create conditions and institutions that will restore the desperately needed stability and peace in Nepal.

The Himalayan nation is torn along linguistic, cultural, religious, regional and class lines. For a genuine democracy, it will be important to ensure political and economic empowerment of all sections of the population.

This is a huge challenge. Undoubtedly, the task ahead is uphill. But the agreement is an uncommonly promising start.