Government-Maoist talks start; people’s mandate main agenda

KATHMANDU, May 26 – The first round of talks between the government and the Maoists after the success of the People's Movement 2063 started Friday afternoon at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort and Spa in Kathmandu.

Today's discussion will primarily focus on the mandate of the reinstated House of Representatives (HoR) and the 12-point agreement between the Seven-party Alliance (SPA) and the Maoists, sources said.

The code of conduct to be followed throughout the talks is also expected to be finalised by both sides today. According to the source, a common code of conduct is already prepared with the consent of both parties.

The government on Thursday had given full shape to its team headed by Home minister Krishna Prasad Sitaula and formally called the Maoists for negotiations while the Maoist preparatory talks team headed by the party spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara had arrived in Kathmandu last week; another member Dev Gurung arrived on Thursday.

Dina Nath Sharma is the third member of the Maoist team while the government's team includes Ramesh Lekhak and Pradip Gyawali bedsides Home Minister Sitaula.

All members of the Maoist team have participated in talks with previous governments while the government team has all new faces.

This is the third time in the course of ten years of armed insurgency that the Maoists have come for talks with the government. Both previous talks had ended deadlocked after no agreement could be reached over the Maoists' demand for elections to the constituent assembly.

The first round of talks with the Maoists was held six years after the start of the insurgency, in Godavari resort in Kathmandu on 30th August, 2001. The second round was held in Thakurdwara of Bardiya after 12 days on September 11th and the third round was again held at the Godavari resort, two months later on 13th November. The talks ended after the Maoists presented elections to the constituent assembly as their bottom line.

Maoists then responded by immediately breaking the ceasefire on 21st November. Two days later they attacked an army barracks for the first time in Dang and Syangja simultaneously.

After the king's move of 4th October 2002, the second set of negotiations with the Maoists was held by Lokendra Bahadur Chand's government in Hotel Shankar in Kathmandu on 27th April 2003. The final round was held with Surya Bahadur Thapa's government in Hapure, Dang after the resignation of Chand. The talks ended after Thapa's government could not agree with the Maoist demand of elections to the constituent assembly. Eventually on 27th August, the Maoists announced the end of the ceasefire.

The Maoists announced another ceasefire after the reinstatement of the HoR on 24th April 2006 after the success of the People's Movement. The government too reciprocated the ceasefire to make talks possible.