Ambassadors out, old politicians in

King Gyanendra appoints his father’s henchmen

India, the United States and the European Union have recalled their ambassadors from Nepal for consultations; in the nuanced world of international diplomacy, this counts as a stern, if ineffective, rebuke. Natwar Singh, India’s foreign minister, has declared that military assistance to the Nepalese army will remain under ‘constant review’.

Meanwhile, King Gyanendra has rounded up two old politicians and appointed them as vice-chairmen of his cabinet; Dr Tulsi Giri and Kirtinidhi Bista have both been prime minister’s under Nepal’s previous monarchic dispensations. For Dr Giri at least, it is a case of history repeating itself, for he was appointed as first minister by Gyanendra’s father, King Mahendra in 1960 after he, in his turn, dismissed an elected government. Interestingly, Dr Giri participated in India’s freedom struggle, and was a chief instructor with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Darbhanga and Calcutta between 1942 and 1947.

Once it has contented itself that the desired diplomatic signals have been sent, India must reinforce its official presence in Kathmandu. Compelling King Gyanendra to restore democracy need not mean a schoolyard ‘I wont talk to you because you are a bad boy’ routine. It is necessary for an assertive diplomat sitting in Kathmandu engaging the King — the primary goal remains to re-negotiate the terms of India’s military assistance to Nepal aimed at defeating, not just tackling, the Maoists.

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