Integration & Rehab of Combatants-2: World ups ante on PLA integration

PHANINDRA DAHAL, KATHMANDU, MAY 17 - The international community continues to show keen interest to support the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants while Nepali political actors are struggling to find a meeting point on this issue —  clearly the defining factor in the peace process.

 The willingness to support the action plan for integration and rehabilitation of the combatants has been conveyed to the Nepali side by the US, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), among others. Almost four years after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants remains a bone of contention among the parties as events unfolding over the last few days have demonstrated.

The fresh commitment to support the rehabilitation process of the former combatants came from the EU envoys during the joint meeting with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala on May 10. US ambassador Scott H. DeLisi sounded a similar note during his first press briefing on April 21.

“We are interested in working with the government and the Maoists to determine what type of assistance would be appropriate and useful,” said Nicole Chulick, the Spokesperson for the US Embassy in Kathmandu. “We have begun discussing this assistance with both sides as well as the international community and will continue to do so.”

The US seems to have softened its position on the Maoist party which has been in its terror list since 2003. To get US military aid the Nepal Army should facilitate the integration of Maoist combatants into security forces consistent with the goals of reconciliation, peace and stability, the Obama administration announced this year.  

“The political parties all agreed, in multiple peace agreements, that some Maoist combatants will be integrated into the security forces.  It is up to the different parties to define the terms of how this will happen and we have expressed our hope that the Nepal Army will work effectively to help implement the arrangements to which the parties agree,” added Chulick, elaborating the US position.

Britain has also stressed the need for cross-party consensus over integration and rehabilitation. “The Comprehensive Peace Accord and subsequent agreements looked forward to the integration of the former combatants into security forces or their rehabilitation into civilian life.

There has been little progress, despite domestic and international pressure,” said Ajay Das, Political and Press Officer of the British Embassy here. “We believe there should be no further delays in setting up a soundly based plan that provides for the integration and rehabilitation of the Maoist combatants.”

The UNDP, which is supporting the rehabilitation package for the 4,008 disqualified combatants, is also interested in supporting this process. “The UN would consider a request if one was made, and will in any case place at the government’s disposal its experience from similar processes around the world,” said Robert Piper, UNDP Resident Representative for Nepal.

The rehabilitation package prepared for the disqualified combatants cost more than $10 million (Rs. 680 million), according to a source with a donor agency. The government has estimated that over Rs. 5 billion will be needed if the Maoists accept the rehabilitation package worth Rs. 250,000 per combatant proposed by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal last month.

“Donors have shown readiness to fund the rehabilitation process, but they are against providing direct cash support to combatants,” said retired Lt. Gen. Balananda Sharma, a member of the Technical Committee for the Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants.

Political Influence

Though the Western governments have shown deep interest in engagement for the rehabilitation of the combatants, those engaged in cross-party negotiations say India will have a larger degree of influence over the final shape.

“They have had traditional ties with the Nepal Army and now they are supporting the non-Maoist alliance. India currently stands for integrating as few combatants as possible,” said a non-Maoist member of the Special Committee for the Supervision, Integration and Rehabilitation of Maoist combatants.

Earlier, the Maoist party voiced its opposition to remarks made by then Indian Amy Chief Gen. Deepak Kapoor in December against the bulk integration of Maoist combatants. Later, the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu issued a statement claiming that remarks attributed to Gen. Kapoor were “highly distorted and they don’t reflect the position of Indian government.”

“India respects the decision made by the Special Committee and urges the parties to resolve the issue through consensus,” said Apoorva Srivastav, Spokesperson for the Embassy told the Post last week. China maintains it adopts a policy of non-interference on the integration and rehabilitation issue.

It has all along supported efforts made by the Nepal government to safeguard its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and maintain national stability and economic development, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jiang Yu said on April 29, 2009 in Beijing in response to a query over the Nepal government’s decision to integrate Maoist forces into the national Army.

Chinese Defence Ministry during the visit of then-Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa to Beijing in September 2008 announced military aid worth Rs. 100 million for the Nepal Army. After the visit, there was wide ranging speculations on the Maoist plan to send their PLA commander Nanda Kishore Pun for National Defence Course in China.

The Nepal Army says training for Pun in China was nothing but “a propaganda ploy” by the Maoists.

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