From our man in Kathmandu – Government and communist rebel leaders failed to reach any agreement in peace talks over the weekend despite high hopes for a breakthrough.
The meeting on Sunday between Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, leaders of Nepal’s ruling Seven-Party Alliance were only able to sit down with the rebels’ leader, who goes by the single name Prachanda, for half an hour before both sides stormed out.
“It was agreed that there needs to be more homework done, and there will be a meeting in the near future,” said Arjun Narsingh of Koirala’s Nepali Congress party.
No date has been set for the next meeting. Before Sunday’s meeting, the government and rebels had both said they were close to agreeing on an interim constitution and legislature.
The area was crowded with hundreds of activists carrying banners demanding an end to the communist insurgency that has left more than 13,000 dead since it began in 1996. There was also, tellingly, a number displayed showing support for the King.
The political parties agreed in June that the rebels should be allowed to join an interim government in return for surrendering their weapons, but negotiations stalled over the rebels arms and, crucially the role of the King – who the Maoists demand be deposed and executed.
The government and rebels declared a ceasefire and began peace talks in April after King Gyanendra gave up his authoritarian rule and political parties took over.
Since then, the Seven-Party Alliance has, in attempts to assert itself, forced through a number of unpopular measures, stripping the King of almost all political and ceremonial roles and declaring the Hindu Kingdom a secular democracy. The government have also failed in the fundamental premise of their mandate – disarming the Maoists who now threaten renewed violence.
In the wake of this, popular support is increasing going back to the King, who took a strong stand against the insurection and is seen to stand for the rapidly disappearing traditions of Nepal. The government are now in the uncomfortable position of opposing the King but incresingly needing him.