‘Peace process first; will talk the rest out’
As political parties enter the final phase of negotiations on the peace and constitution writing processes, much depends on how the Nepali Congress and the UCPN (Maoist) find common ground. NC President Sushil Koirala, who has been arguing that integration of former combatants has to end for constitution writing process to move ahead, reiterated the position with The Kathmandu Post. On state restructuring, Koirala said the country must be federated in such a way that each state has a link with both China the India, allowing them to benefit from the giant economies. Excerpts:
Of late, leaders are upbeat about major contentions in the peace process being resolved and say the peace process will complete within the next one week or so.
There is no other alternative to completing it. We are at the final stages.
Have all knotty issues been sorted out? For example, what has been agreed on the issues of integration, such as ranks?
No. Not all issues have been resolved. But there is the Special Committee to discuss and find a way out if there is any confusion. But let me say clearly that the Congress is not for any other agreement. Everything must be completed as per the seven-point deal. We have had enough of these agreements in the past: the 12-point agreement, the CPA, the three-point, the four-point, six-point, seven-point and on and on.
Some leaders say that if the peace process moves forward and reaches an irreversible position, which seems likely, there is a chance for a give and take on other issues, such as on constitution.
Let the peace process end first and we are here to discuss the rest.
Have you indicated that if the peace process progresses irrevocably, the parties could search for a common ground? Will Congress show flexibility on issues of new constitution, such as forms of governance?
We cannot be flexible when it comes to upholding democratic values and system. We are for a system that has proper checks and balance of power. The parliamentary system is the best to that end. But I really don’t know why the Maoists are so averse to this system. This system is no longer “traditional”.
We have moved way forward from the traditional parliamentary system: now we have federalism, we have republic, and we are more inclusive. It has been reformed. The system [presidential] the Maoists are after is more likely to give birth to a dictator. Nepal cannot afford to pave way for another dictator.
A group led by Narahari Acharya in your party has come up with a mixed model—directly elected prime ministerial system. Could this be a meeting point?
This is not the party’s line. They are going against the party’s policy. You have to follow what the party’s Mahasamiti and General Convention has okayed.
What will be the final agreement on federalism?
One of the things we are clear about is that the number of states should be small. We want them to be economically viable. When we discussed last time with UML leaders, we had agreed to go for seven states. The Maoists have the same views that the number of states should be small and ethnicity cannot be a basis for federalism. We should start with few states as we can always go for more later, if needed. The next important fact we need to take note of is we are between two giant economies, China and India. If we have a federal composition, the important question is how do we ensure international contact? This has been a matter of concern of late.
We are also concerned about keeping intact the harmony among the Himal, Pahad and Tarai. Tarai has agriculture, the mountains have water resources and the Himalayas have the herbs.
Do you think this is possible the way we are federating the country?
This has to be discussed and debated. We should also listen to what the people have to say. There was a strong feeling in the beginning, now people are more concerned about sustainability.
But the Congress seems to have already given up the concept of north-south federal mapping, once proposed by the late Girija Prasad Koirala.
What I believe is there has to be an international link.
Do you mean that the border of each province should touch both the northern and southern neighbours?
Yes. But this is just a concept. This is not my or the NC’s position. This is yet to be discussed upon.
There are some who say that once the constitution commits on federalism, the details could be left to evolve gradually. It is still evolving is Switzerland, for instance.
There are numerous views on this and the party has not fixed its position. We have to hold discussions.
We have barely 60 days. Is it possible to fix these issues during this period?
Yes it is possible if we get serious. It is the Maoists who are stalling the process. They should implement what they have agreed to. That is it.
Will the NC join this government if the peace process progresses irrevocably?
That will not happen. The next government will be of national unity under the Congress.
When will that happen? Before May 27?
Yes. That will happen before the constitution is promulgated.
There seems to be another factional feud over the student union issue.
I don’t want to say anything on this. There is no dispute within the NC.