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Involving the United Nations

Bipin Adhikari
The Kathmandu Post, December 07, 2005
Source: The Kathmandu Post

Conflict is a complex and difficult matter. Apart from loss of life of soldiers, combatants and militias, the impact of armed conflict on civilians goes far beyond the notion of collateral damage.

In this context, the role of the United Nations (UN) in the global undertaking of peacekeeping is known to all. It is due to the recognition of its role that the number of armed conflicts in the world has decreased from 50 in 1992 to 30 in 2004. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations has already accumulated enough experience in dealing with this type of conflict.

Even now the United Nations directs 18 peace operations across the globe. It also provides administrative and logistical support to an additional 11 UN field missions and offices.

There is no reason why this world body with the experience of sixty-five years in the resolution of conflict cannot help Nepal solve the Maoist conflict the way many of these countries were helped or are being helped to solve their problems.

In fact, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has declared his willingness to help Nepal more than a dozen times.

Although the nature of the UN support to the resolution of conflict needs to be discussed, any credible role of the United Nations means a sincere process, which cannot only help solve the conflict but also ensure that the aspirations of the common Nepali people are not overlooked, and their human rights and sovereign political interests protected.

Unfortunately, the conflict in Nepal is no different than what we saw in most of the conflicts during the cold war era (from 1947 until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991).

The Korean peninsula remains a hotspot. Tension still remains high, especially since North Korea announced its acquisition of nuclear weapons.

This type of war was not considered hot during the cold war era because neither of the superpowers -- the United States or the Soviet Union -- directly attacked each other. Nevertheless, despite attempts to negotiate during periods of peaceful coexistence and détente, the super powers fought overt and covert battles to expand their influence across the globe.

The struggle was named the cold war because it did not actually lead to direct armed-conflict between the superpowers on a wide scale. The cold war was waged by means of promoting internal insurgency, economic pressure, selective aid, intimidation, diplomatic maneuvering, propaganda, assassination, low-intensity military operations and full-scale proxy war. This is what is happening in Nepal as well.

Whether it is the Cuban missile crisis, Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, American invasion of Vietnam or the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, all these wars had very little to do with the local issues. What was involved was the paramount interest of the superpowers.

One can also add to this list the Hungarian Revolution of 1956; the military coups against governments in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), and civil wars in countries such as Angola, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

In those conflicts, the major powers operated in good part by arming or funding surrogates, a development that lessened direct impact on the populations of the major powers, but brought the conflict to millions of civilians around the world.

Much of the conflict that is going on in Nepal owes to its strategic location and the cold war between regional superpowers than the prevalence of local conditions. The most of it is the outside design aimed at abolition of monarchy in Nepal rather than any issue on the agenda.

This is the reason why both the Maoist insurgency and the seven-party alliance are not much concerned with the substantial issues of political change that matters to this country. This is precisely the reason why the King, who finds himself insecure from outside, does not want to concede to what is being forced on him. Both sides are provoked enough to fight innocently for causes that only buttress others. If the purpose is clear, and there is no room for outside maneuverings, the Maoists can still achieve what they said they want to achieve in cooperation with the political parties and the King. They need to carve out fundamental reconciliatory strategies that can give vent to all including the King. Any other way out is fraught with difficulties.

Also for the King, who has developed self-fulfilling autocratic impulse, dealing with his own people is many times better than dealing with the designers who have their own agenda on the conflict.

Nepal can still emerge with little mediating role of the UN Secretary General who is in a better position to create a trustworthy environment. In fact, the Maoists are already prepared for it. Even now, on the tenth year of the armed conflict, Nepal does not have the symptoms of chronic deprivation and other complex underlying causes of an internal conflict. The state has not collapsed here, although its capacity has somewhat been weakened in conflict-affected areas.

As such nobody thinks that the job for the UN in Nepal is to undertake a much broader range of tasks in peace operations, such as serving as the transitional authority, or the deployment of a UN military component like those in the Democratic Republic of Congo or Haiti as the lead agency in providing security and countering threats to the peace.

The involvement of the Secretary General means a prudent meditative effort. It also means some involvement of the Security Council which can deal with all powerful countries around its roundtable and block the cold war intent of reaping benefits from the volatile situation in this country. The people of Nepal also want peace as much as the peoples in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territory, Sudan, Uganda, West Africa and elsewhere. But they are not prepared to establish another country in Nepal as the price of the peace that they want.

(The writer is a lawyer)

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