"The pen is mightier than the sword." For nearly a decade, Brahm has used newspaper articles, magazines and authored over 20 books to explain current affairs, reshape stalled negotiations, and provide a communication platform to Asian leaders and policymakers. His writings reveal underlying central challenges facing Asia over the past decades.
Written by Laurence Brahm - Published by South China Morning Post on 12/05/2006
While President Hu Jintao has been busy wooing nations from Africa to India, major political change is occurring just across China’s sensitive Tibet border that could set a new international precedent. Nepal’s Maoists came in from the cold last month. By signing a comprehensive peace agreement, they joined Nepal’s political mainstream as a player within a multiparty democracy.
Under the deal – hacked out in an 18-hour marathon meeting in the prime minister’s office – eight parties will have seats in the central assembly and share power in a coalition government. A constitutional assembly will meet in July, and the Maoists have begun to lay down their arms, monitored by the United Nations.
Most significantly, this political solution was achieved without any external interference. This sets a new precedent for smaller, developing countries. In many smaller countries, internal problems are prolonged by foreign governments’ efforts to mould the peace process along lines that fit neither the local cultural sentiments nor conditions. But Nepal’s Maoists proved Washington’s theorists wrong.
Observers were shocked. With one order from Pushpa Kamal Dahal – the Maoist leader known as “Prachanda” – an estimated 35,000 guerillas began to leave the hills and jungles to settle in makeshift peace camps. Leela Mani Paudyal, Nepal’s consulgeneral to Lhasa , Tibet , said: “Now all parties concerned should come forward with a common vision to build the nation. Nepal is a diverse culture, with castes. Earlier, people did not feel that they were in the mainstream of running the country. The Maoists claim to have given them a voice.”
There has been something of a behind-the-scenes confrontation between the Maoists and the United States. Upon signing the peace deal, Prachanda delivered a stinging speech revealing how the agreement had been delayed by outside political forces – hinting at a US role. The outsiders, he said, tried to prevent the Maoists from joining the political mainstream. Prachanda pointed out how such interference had frustrated the desires of the Nepalese people, who wanted the conflict to end.
His frustrations are not without basis. During the peaceful democratic movement in April, American representatives had pressured seven political parties to join the king and crush the Maoists. When they refused, the Americans reportedly threatened that any party allying with the Maoists would be labeled terrorists.
In November last year, Maoists and members of the seven parties took to the streets in a massive protest against the monarchy and government. People faced off against government tanks. Meanwhile, during a meeting between the king, the seven parties and Maoists, the US and Indian ambassadors to Nepal – defying all diplomatic norms – took an active role, pressuring the political parties to support the king.
Later, New Delhi corrected its position, congratulating the Nepalese for standing up to tanks and vowing to support the course they set for their own country. Washington said nothing. Richard Boucher, the US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, recently visited Nepal and met major parties, but refused to meet the Maoists. He called them terrorists – despite their agreement to join the mainstream political process and willingness to disarm.
Maoists will become the secondlargest party in Nepal’s national interim parliament. But Washington still has not removed them from the terrorist list. Such a US approach will do more to destabilise peace than facilitate it. Maybe this explains the disastrous US foreign policy towards smaller nations in Central Asia and the Middle East, where violence continues while US representatives try to create a solution using cookie-cutter theory.
Such a blind approach to regional politics may be a major contributor to the instability in developing countries today. One Nepalese political observer said: “The US can bulldoze over and depose the governments of weaker nations. But it cannot win the sentiments of their people.”
Laurence Brahm is a global activist, international mediator, political columnist and author. He is the leading advocate of a fresh development paradigm - The Himalayan Consensus - an innovative approach to development.