“It’s the beginning of a new beginning,” Dahal declared,Special EDITORIAL: Promises to keep, AKHILESH UPADHYA

KATHMANDU, NOV 02 – Turn the clock back to November 2006. Then Nepali Congress President Girija Prasad Koirala and CPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had all Nepalis in thrall when they signed the historic peace deal in International Convention Centre. The agreement marked the beginning of a new era; an end to 10 years of bloody civil conflict.

“It’s the beginning of a new beginning,” Dahal declared after the signing of the agreement. The nation applauded.

Yet the new beginning seemed to take years to dawn. The five years after 2006 happened to be a time of numerous missed deadlines and opportunities. Countless doubters emerged; they vilified every political party leader. Party leaders, in deep distrust of each other, occupied themselves with mutual recrimination.

The parties rekindled much of that early hope yesterday. After bickering for five long years and repeatedly playing the game of brinkmanship, they once again demonstrated the capacity to come together for a larger cause. The agreement on the peace process, which looked elusive only a few hours before it was signed, is now a reality.

The credit should go to all the parties and prime ministers since 2006. Until the very end, Girija Prasad Koirala told us that sustainable peace could be achieved only through close cooperation between formerly warring parties, Prachanda inspired the vision of a new republic, Madhav Kumar Nepal reined in Maoists when they were at their most arrogant and over-reaching, Jhala Nath Khanal came in at a time when the peace process looked dead and planted the seeds for its revival. And the new Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai was able to restore trust in the political leadership at a time when the Nepali people were beginning to give up on it.

Yet, the peace process is far from finished. The pledges made in the inter-party agreement last night need political will to be implemented. Every major party is riddled with factionalism. Since the 2008 elections, there have been new splits. The Maoist hardliners have already voiced their “note of dissent” regarding the terms of the new agreement. It remains to be seen how this will play out both within the Maoist party and in relation to the larger peace process and constitution writing. Even so, with the agreement last night, the parties do deserve commendation and the nation a renewed hope, though the roadmap to the new constitution is still blurry.

For now, we can celebrate that there is a major inter-party deal after five long years, and hope that this will result in rich “peace dividends” that will uplift the sluggish national economy and thus the national mood. The recent signing of BIPPA with India, visits by US and UK trade delegations and China’s pledge that it is ready to lend generous support to Nepal are hopefully a harbinger of better days ahead. If only we can complete the peace process and the new constitution. from ekantipur

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