reality of our situation is clear. Either the Government must win the
civil war and finally crush the rebels or it must negotiate with them
for peace. There is no 'middle path' in this issue. Serious negotiation
cannot take place at gunpoint. And the chances of military success are
always reduced if the Army believes the war will be settled at the conference
table rather than the battlefield. Plainly the Prime Minister must act
quickly and decisively if his administration, and indeed the nation, is
Tragically he is not only fighting rebels in the
mountains. The Congress Party is still polluted with open schemes of intrigue
and rebellion against him. Mr. Koirala may have reached retirement age
before most citizens were born but that does not stop him from seeking
power yet again. The veteran Prime Minister who refused to negotiate with
the Maoists and led us into outright civil war last year is now calling
for the resumption of peace talks. What a pity that he did not see the
wisdom of peaceful negotiation before so many thousands died.
But Mr. Deuba has said that no peace negotiations
are possible until the Maoists renounce terrorism, give up their weapons
and accept the modern democratic system. This is an unreasonable demand.
Thirty years ago the British Government gave the same conditions to the
Irish Republican Army that was fighting a terrorist war in British controlled
Northern Ireland. For more than 25 years afterwards the struggle continued
and thousands of innocent people were killed. Eventually a more flexible
British Government allowed the IRA to keep their weapons and attend a
new regional Parliament. The process of peace began and Europe's longest
running civil war quickly came to an end.
It is an impossible condition for any armed rebellion
to surrender their weapons before negotiations can take place. It requires
them to accept defeat and attend talks without any negotiating power.
It opens the rebel leaders to the chance of immediate arrest and imprisonment.
It is effectively a demand for unconditional surrender rather than a serious
offer of peace. By setting this condition Mr. Dueba is clearly indicating
his persistent belief in outright military victory and his complete lack
of confidence in any political settlement. We therefore face the prospect
of many more thousands of casualties before the struggle is finally decided.
Of course the Prime Minister can draw some hope
to achieve military victory from the over heated international situation.
America and Britain have still not destroyed the militant Islamic groups
in Afghanistan. Their need for supply bases in the region is increasing
as their army prepares for a long campaign. Consequently President Bush
will probably help our government fight Maoism but such Western assistance
will not be without its cost. Nothing in politics is free and Nepal will
face the prospect of growing Western influence and control as the price
of such vital military aid.
Some may argue that an American air base in Nepal
would violate a Constitution that strictly demands international non-alignment.
Others will argue that America is fighting a crusade against global terrorism
and that every civilised nation must support that campaign. But whatever
argument is justified, the establishment of any Western military base
in Nepal is bound to divide the nation yet further. And if that base were
used in offensive operations against Pakistan or Iran, as seems likely,
the Maoists might receive considerable military aid from wealthy Arab
nations as the conflict widens. Under these circumstances, Nepal would
become an international battlefield.
But the biggest danger to Mr. Deuba's military policy
is undoubtedly the time that is needed to achieve success by this route.
By his own admission, the campaign against Maoism is expected to take
between five and ten years. He is therefore asking the nation to suffer
an extremely long war costing tens of thousands of lives and millions
of dollars. It will affect everyone as more and more people find it difficult
to survive. The economy is already on the edge of collapse after just
one year of security operations. Tourism has virtually collapsed, our
exports are no longer wanted and considerable parts of the national infrastructure
have been destroyed.
According to Information Minister Jaya Prakash Prasad
Gupta, the Maoists have so far destroyed nearly 1,500 Village District
Council offices, 17 districts are without telephones, five hydroelectric
plants are out of action and 250 post offices have been destroyed. Many
parts of the country are now without any power or communications. The
total cost of repairing the infrastructure will run into many millions
of dollars and the cost of security alone is running at more than $50,000
every day. Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat told reporters last week,
"We cannot afford to suffer like this, we can't afford to be another Afghanistan"
In short, the Maoist strategy of targeting electricity,
telephones and banking systems across the nation has been extremely successful.
Although their spectacular attacks on armed police posts have so far killed
280 servicemen in 5 months, these are intended to hit army morale more
than any serious attempt to achieve military victory. Comrade Prachandra
does not need to storm Singha Durbar with an army of superbly trained
rebels. He only needs to dismantle the national infrastructure brick by
brick and simply wait until the economy collapses around us.
So Mr. Deuba does not have ten years to wage his
war against the rebels. The economy is unlikely to survive another ten
months of it and he will be lucky to keep office another ten weeks without
some success in his campaign. Killing rebels every day isn't enough. The
Prime Minister has to act immediately to stop the rapid dismantling of
our economy and infrastructure. Foreign aid given freely without conditions
or implications may sustain a continued military campaign. But heavy foreign
debt and long term obligation will be a heavy price to pay for a war that
could have been solved by simple negotiation.
The Prime Minister should accept the offer of new
talks without delay. It is not a sign of weakness to discuss peace. It
is the wish of the entire nation to end this nightmare and no chance should
be turned away. But such talks should be more open than before so that
every citizen is able to understand the demands of both sides. Eventually
there has to be a peaceful democratic method of solving this nightmare.
For otherwise the blood will flow for generations to come.
my best wishes to you all,