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Kathmandu experiment

The Nepal government?s decision to dissolve the country?s Parliament and form an interim government with the Maoists is the best news to come out of the Himalayan nation in some years.

india Updated: Jun 19, 2006 02:00 IST

The Nepal government’s decision to dissolve the country’s Parliament and form an interim government with the Maoists is the best news to come out of the Himalayan nation in some years. Ever since the palace massacre of 2001, things had been pretty much downhill. The Maoist insurgency and the monarchy’s ham-handed ways, including the usurpation of governmental authority, worsened the situation. But since the April 24 reinstatement of Parliament, Nepal seems to have hit a good patch. The king has been sidelined, and the all-party government of G.P. Koirala has been able to reach an agreement with the Maoists over a roadmap to the future. This involves the interim government holding elections to the constituent assembly, a process that will hopefully reconcile the deep political divisions that made the Nepalese constitutional monarchy unworkable.

At first sight, the concession made by the all-party government in inviting the Maoists into an interim government may appear fraught with risk. But consider the alternative: the Maoists control most of Nepal and have a disciplined army of guerrillas who cannot be wished away. Since the insurgency cannot be defeated by purely military means, the current moves are both bold and promising. They seek to fashion a mechanism that can incorporate the insurgents of today into the government system of tomorrow, without doing violence to fundamentals of a liberal democratic political system. For their part, the Maoists have agreed to dismantle their ‘people’s government’ as soon as the interim government assumes office, which could be in a month or so. The future of the monarchy remains a major point of difference between the two sides, but will be best decided by the new constituent assembly.

India needs to carefully watch the developments in Nepal. At the same time, it should do whatever is needed — economic aid, advice, and other facilitative assistance — to help democracy strike roots in the country. An unstable Nepal has negative implications for India, where the Maoist insurgency has taken hold in several states. On the other hand, a successful re-induction of Maoist revolutionaries into the liberal democratic governmental framework will be an experiment that can be replicated elsewhere in South Asia.