Squeezing the king

King Gyanendra must not be forced to negotiate with the Maoists, but he must be squeezed on democracy

Swapan Dasgupta argues that India must shore up King Gyanendra and the Royal Nepalese Army as they are the only two institutions capable of fighting the Maoists’ onslaught.

Indian diplomacy has proceeded on the assumption that Nepal’s monarchy is an anachronism and that the democratic future belongs to the political class. Unfortunately, these noble ideals fit awkwardly into today’s Nepal. Confronted with a Pol Pot-type movement, on the one hand, and a corrupt and squabbling political class on the other, India should not think twice about reposing its faith on the two institutions that can serve as a bulwark against Nepal’s slide to barbarism. For the moment, the interests of a democratic Nepal can be best served by bolstering the monarchy and the military in their fight against Maoism. [Calcutta Telegraph]

But King Gyanendra is more a problem than a solution. From the manner in which he ascended the throne to the manner in which he continues to treat parliament leaves no illusions to his orientation as far as political power play is concerned. King Gyanendra’s handling of the political crisis is as much to blame for Nepal’s current woes as the Maoists’ bloody campaign.

It is in India’s interests to ensure that the Maoist rebels do not end up creating a Himalayan Cuba. In this regard, it makes sense to help the Nepalese army fight the Maoists. But it is also important for India to launch a major effort in destroying what support structures the Maoist rebels enjoy in the states bordering Nepal. Much has been made of the link between Nepal’s Maoists and India’s Naxalites — very little has been done to tackle the threat. The onus here lies on India and King Gyanendra would be within his rights if he were to raise the issue of ‘terrorist training camps’ within India’s borders. He would also be the last one to complain if Indian forces were to conduct ‘hot pursuit’ missions into Nepalese territory.

There is no need for all this to be mutually exclusive of pressing the king on democracy. India must compel King Gyanendra to get started with the political reconciliation process — either by restoring parliament or by announcing the formation of a new constituent assembly.

Related Link: Worry in India about Nepal’s crisis