A good signal. But India must not allow the Maoists to get the upper hand
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, India’s ambassador to Nepal, has returned to Kathmandu bearing rather bad news for the king — military aid to the Royal Nepalese Army will be put on hold. Economic assistance, however, will not be affected. Given that the United States is looking towards India to take the lead on Nepal, King Gyanendra may be getting a similar message from Washington too.
If the intention of the Indian government was to send a strong signal to King Gyanendra, this is a good way to go. The king has been counting on the fact that given the odds, India is not likely to cut off military assistance to his army as that would only bolster the Maoists’ position. It is a good idea to pour cold water over his calculations.
But India must not allow a diplomatic tactic to become sustained policy — twisting the king’s arm(y) is quite all right, but breaking it or restraining it for too long will be counterproductive. The Maoist rebels must not be allowed to make use of the opportunity to make strategic gains. Doing nothing may be better than saving Nepal from the king’s dictatorship only for it to fall into the hands of the Maoists.
Furthermore, if China or Pakistan step in to provide military assistance to the army, not only will India’s gambit fail, it will embolden the king further, making him less amenable to Indian influence.
Unless New Delhi has a smarter plan to get rid of the Maoists without supporting the Nepalese army, military aid to Nepal must be restored soon.