The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nepal peace talks in tatters

Kathmandu, Aug. 26: The peace process that began with the January 2003 ceasefire between the government and the rebel Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) today lies in tatters.

The attack yesterday on the convoy carrying former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, in an area considered to be a Maoist stronghold in western Nepal, is the latest in a series of incidents that point to the possibility of a breakdown of the fragile truce.

During the tenure of the Deuba government, the two sides had observed a four-month truce in 2001.

The failed attack on Deuba also lends some credence to the assessment by the royal Nepal army that the Maoist leadership is losing its hold over its local units spread all over the country.

The attack comes just a week after the third round of talks between the government and the Maoists which ended in failure.

Despite hopes that the talks would lead to a peaceful resolution of the Maoist crisis, the rigid stances adopted by the two sides on the constituent assembly issue meant the negotiations were doomed to fail.

The Maoists refused to budge from their demand that, above all else, the government agree to a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution.

The government, on the other hand, insisted that the changes sought by the Maoists in the country’s political structure can be achieved by reforming the present constitution itself.

The government has said it will not back out of the ceasefire. The CPN (Maoist) chairman, Prachanda, too has assured party leaders that the ceasefire will remain.

However, with another meeting between the two sides not taking place in the near future, chances of a truce holding remains dim.

Besides, the present government led by Surya Bahadur Thapa is hamstrung by the fact that it was appointed by royal decree in June and with King Gyanendra having gone to Britain for medical treatment, there is little likelihood that it will be able to take any major decisions on its own.

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