| Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa. (AFP)
Kathmandu, July 14: After six rounds of informal meetings with Maoist leaders, the government has invited the rebels for a third round of talks.
If the Maoists agree to the meeting, it will be their first formal contact with the government of Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa.
The government has remained in touch with the Maosist negotiating team, which was formed after the ceasefire announced in January, in order to sort out differences arising from the second round of talks held in May with the earlier government led by former Premier Lokendra Bahadur Chand.
There has been some misunderstanding on two issues between the two sides. One was the question of releasing three senior Maoist leaders from government custody, and the second was limiting the army’s movements to within 5 km of the barracks all over the country.
The Maoists said that was part of the agreement at the second round of talks and have threatened to walk out of any future negotiations if their demands are not met. The government has not made any commitment on the Maoist demands and the army has said it opposes the rebel condition for talks.
The government’s move comes a day after the five-party Opposition alliance declared a fresh round of protests against King Gyanendra’s removal of an elected Prime Minister in October last year. The two Prime Ministers appointed since then, Chand in October 2002 and Thapa in June 2003, are both known royalists.
The political parties, which have been agitating since May, have not endorsed the new government either, arguing that there is no difference between this and the previous one.
The parties want the parliament — dissolved a-year-and-a- half ago — restored and an all-party government formed under a consensus candidate of their choice.
Despite the backing from intellectual circles, the level of support on the streets has been minimal and the protests, which included a “special session” of the dissolved lower house of parliament and the existing upper house, have taken more of a ritualistic turn.
However, this time, there seems to be more of a concerted approach to taking on the king and the government appointed by him with the parties agreeing on an 18-point agenda, some of which will stand as a direct challenge to the king.