National Seminar on
Conflict Resolution in Nepal
Organised by Nepal Foundation for Advanced
17-18 May 2003
Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies organized
a discussion among scholars and experts from various fields
on conflict resolution in Nepal to provide a scholarly perspective
to the prevailing conflict situation and the efforts aimed towards
alleviating it. About 60 participants indulged themselves in
the discussions which was organized into five sessions that
went on for two days. The first session introduced the theme
of the discussions to the participants while the remaining four
were working sessions where experts made their presentations
and opinions of the participants solicited. The seminar began
on May 17 and ended on 18. The programme was a product of NEFAS-Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung (FES) cooperation.
The first session was the inaugural where
Ananda Srestha, the NEFAS executive director, introduced the
theme of the discussions to the participants. He asked the participants
to seek the reasons that had kept the Nepali society a peaceful
one for a long time before the peace was broken. Searching for
a solution in the rich Nepali traditions may produce a solution
to the rising conflicts, he said.
Yadav Kant Silwal, who had taken the chair of the inaugural
session, said that conflict resolution could be a very tortuous
process in Nepal. He pointed to the Sri Lankan experience and
said that in spite of the efforts put in from both international
and domestic quarters, the insurgency there is still continuing.
Silwal, who is also a former South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) secretary general, said a United Nations
mediation would have produced a better outcome in the Nepalese
crisis scene. The reasons he gave for such a belief were: a)
because the UN had offered it, it had a high credibility, its
vested interests were limited to the development of this country
and Nepal had participated in its peacekeeping operations since
the fifties, hence, a good candidate, and b) a UN role would
allay many apprehensions about Nepal going the Sikkim way.
On the ongoing peace talks between the government
and the CPN (Maoist), Silwal showed dissatisfaction over the
inability of the two sides to take up the economic and social
agenda, thus far, which have been touted as the root cause of
all conflicts in Nepal. "It is this that is going to make
the talks a long and tortuous process," he said. The working
sessions followed the inaugural.
Dev Raj Dahal presented his paper titled "Conflict
Resolution: A Note on Contending Issues" in the first working
session. In it he explored the theoretical aspects of conflict
in general with references of Nepal and other countries. The
session was chaired by Ananda Aditya. Excerpts from the floor
discussions are given below.
Prof. Gunanidhi Sharma: Whenever there
are conflicts of interests, contradictions arise. There are
many such contradictions in Nepal because the development process
has always been involved in aggravating conflicts rather than
resolving them. Income disparities, wealth gaps, poverty and
other basic issues have always remained unsolved. Unemployment
has already reached about 15% and poverty is rampant, measured
according to World Bank index of 5,000 rupees per annum puts
82% of the people under the poverty line. Similarly the Ginni
coefficient has increased.
All these show us that most conflicts have been externally induced.
The 1950 treaty ties major polices with India's policies-- the
price policy, investment and fiscal policies have always remained
tied. The smaller economy has had to be dragged along the way.
In addition, proven conflict prone policies espoused by the
World Bank have been used by Nepal pushing the country into
further crisis. Our policies are making governance publicly
Conflicts have also been the result of the failure of the state
to resolve national issues like the border, trade, refugees
etc. The paper would have done better by highlighting conflicts
that have been externally induced. Instability has been created
by others, not by us.
Ananda Aditya: Constants, hazards and
threats need to be probed for the resolution of conflicts. Capacity
needs to be built to cope with crisis. The UN should be more
assertive in its role as globalisation is promoting trans-state
forces like the UN. For a meaningful resolution to the Maoist
crisis, we need not be apprehensive of foreign forces.
Srish Rana: The paper could have dealt more with sources
of conflict. For example, what is the relation between organisation
and sources of conflict. Are organisations a source of conflict,
e.g. Al- Quaeda? To be more specific, what is the relation between
political organisation and conflict?
Lal Babu Yadav: Is 'peace through peaceful
means' meant only for weaker nations? Superpowers have been
vouching for peaceful resolution of conflicts everywhere, but
when it involves themselves they come in with arms, like happened
How do we settle conflicts arising from regional power hegemony?
How do we resolve those arising from international regimes?
Keshav Jha: At the moment only the
establishment and the Maoists are talking and the other actors
are completely sidelined. How do you anticipate a resolution
of the Nepalese crisis in such a situation?
Krishna Pd. Poudel: The Maoists say
that they have shifted their policy and have been centering
on the constituent assembly but it is little likely that the
regressive forces will bow to their demands. What is the acceptable
point of compromise here?
Khagendra Prasai: If indeed conflict
is inherent in human nature, how can we avoid it in the society?
Prof. Mohan Lohani: Parties to conflict
must leave behind their mistrust and since they share the same
destiny they must come to an understanding sooner or later.
A peace dialogue has begun in our country. The focus of negotiations
should be on convergence in the beginning, not divergence. If
this happens failure of talks is less likely.
Bharat Pokhrel: Galtung's book, Conflict
Management by Peaceful Means, has not been quoted by the author
here. Generally, facilitators appear to be too interested in
their own interests and aggravating the conflict rather than
in resolving them.
I would have liked the author to conclude on his own rather
than depending on foreign experts to do so. The paper also has
not done the References section of the paper properly.
Durga Poudel: The Maoists generally
point at the resource distribution inequalities, injustices
and corruption. Most of the demands also appear to be along
the same lines. Are these voices within the purview of the term
Padma Nidhi Tiwari: Conflict in Nepal
is basically about unequal resource distribution. The Constitution
says that people are sovereign. So is the demand for a Constituent
Assembly genuine? Will the present negotiation lead us towards
a resolution? The 1990 negotiation does not appear to have paid
Som Bahadur Thapa: The paper should
have been more centered on the Nepalese case. For example, confusion
is being created at the moment. Two ministers have been making
conflicting remarks. Will this not obstruct a resolution? Transparency
and accountability should also be applied to the negotiators.
Ashok Kumar Pathak: What is the type
of state necessary for 'peace by peaceful means'? Our history
has shown that that has not always been possible. There was
no internal democracy in Nepal after 1990. We have been forgetting
our traditions and have not been able to adopt new ones properly,
leaving a vacuum there. We have only been pointing at problems
but have not produced any solution.
Karna Bdr. Thapa: There has not been
enough background study of the handling of the conflict before
sitting down for negotiation. The Maoists had closed all doors
before the Dang attack which is a rare case in any conflict.
Usually a door is open as an exit strategy. But in our case,
both the political and military doors were closed. Why?
The parties should be making their stance clear, if we are looking
for a proper solution. We need a political force that can cleanse
the system of the problematic people who have been in power.
Without such a political force there is no hope for conflict
to be resolved well.
Prof. Maheswar Man Shrestha: The paper
should have been more specific on the ongoing efforts towards
solving the crisis, not just a theoretical exhortation, as this
is the need of the day.
Dev Raj Dahal's reply: There are a
lot of conflicts being induced from outside throughout the world,
not just here. When conflicts are not solved internally, they
get outside attention. When some elites form state policies,
they heirarchize or sector