Dialogue  April-June, 2005, Volume 6  No. 4

Nepal: Political developments, Maoist insurgency and the Royal coup

Dr. S. Chandrasekharan


To understand the current political developments in Nepal, one should go back to the 1990 Constitution and the circumstances that brought a clean break from the past with constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy as two pillars in place of party less rule.

This Constitution did not come up as an evolutionary one but was forced on King Birendra after a year-long struggle in which both the Nepali Congress and the Communists of all shades combined to form a people’s movement. The final march of the protestors towards the Palace gate on the Durbar marg on that fateful day in end April of that year and the killing of many protestors near the palace resulted in the King climbing down. Not many may be aware that many of those who actually led the march towards the palace are the ones who are part of the Maoist outfit that is fighting the government today!

The 1990 Constitution:

A draft constitution was prepared within a few months by a committee whose members were appointed by the King and three segments were included- the Nepali Congress , the Communists and the Royalists. The members were chosen individually and not internally selected by the parties.. On the question of monarchy and its powers, the Royalists and the Nepali Congress representatives led by K.P.Bhattarai joined hands to ensure that the monarchy continued to have a central place in the Constitution and in this the Communists were isolated. The Nepali Congress cannot complain now that the King had retained too much powers under the Constitution.

In the 1991 election that followed, the Nepali Congress won a comfortable majority, but the surprise was that the radical left which formed the United People’s Front (UPFN Samyukta Jan Morcha) became the third largest group after the elections with nine seats. It was this group which initially felt betrayed and demanded a constituent assembly and yet took part in the elections. To this day the CPN ( Maoist), the present incarnation, has continued to demand a people’s constitution that could come only through an elected constituent assembly.

Infighting within the Nepali Congress:

Though the Nepali Congress came to power under G.P.Koirala’s leadership there were open differences within the party with the opposition group casting aspersions on every issue taken up by the government. The party split vertically with Ganesh Man Singh and Bhattarai on one side and G.P.Koirala and his followers on the other. A comfortable majority was soon lost and Nepal witnessed a succession of Prime ministers and there was an interim period with the Communists coming to power in a coalition.

Corruption was rampant and it was sad to see that those political leaders who had shown high integrity in those days when they were fighting for democracy, soon became corrupt and it looked that many of them were in a hurry to collect as much as possible before they quit.

In one sense, the present situation in Nepal is not a little due to poor performance, bad governance and corruption at all levels of administration and the political parties are themselves to blame. People were disenchanted with the games the political parties played.. For this the Nepali Congress which took a leading part in bringing democracy to Nepal should be blamed and the present crisis could have been avoided if only they had stopped bickering among themselves and worked for a corruption free government and in the service of the people from the beginning.

The King and the Constitution:

The 1990 Constitution was in line with international standards for a constitutional monarchy and the hope was that the King would understand the new dynamics of political change and his role in the new dispensation. It should be said to the credit of late King Birendra that he understood his role and the international norms well and never interfered even in times of crisis. Except for Bhattarai, he had no liking for any of the top Nepali Congress leaders who were in power and yet he scrupulously avoided any confrontation.

But the situation turned dramatically on 1st June 2001 when in a macabre and bizarre incident, a drunken crown Prince Dipendra wiped out the entire royalty at the Narayanhitty Palace, in Kathmandu. The only survivor Prince Gyanendra who was out of station was crowned as King on June 4. Interestingly, the only survivors within the palace during the incident were the wife and the son of Prince Gyanendra.

The political parties including those in power did not understand the true import of the change in the Palace. They were going to have a person who had assessed that ‘destiny” had brought him to rule the Kingdom and that he has to play an active role in running the country, bring order and above all sustain the monarchy. The Maoist insurgency had grown into serious proportions then threatening the very system and yet he found the politicians more keen on fighting with each other than in making out a comprehensive plan to deal with the insurgency.

A few months after taking over, in one of his rare interviews King Gyanendra made certain points which were not properly analysed then. He said

          1.   If the present Constitution was made after a consensus of all political parties and the late King, is not the participation of the King necessary on important issues of the nation?

          2.   Neither the wishes of the King nor that of the Maoists can bring about a republican system in government. It is necessary for all to work within the system. ( This was in response to the Maoists’ demand for a constituent assembly which had a resonance in some of the political parties )

          3.   The people have a pre-emptive right to happiness under the present system. However the situation is serious given the public complaints that they are subjected to ridicule and exploitation in the name of democracy. ( His unhappiness with the political parties was very evident)

          4.   He cannot keep quiet while witnessing such a plight of the country and the people and he intends to play an optimum role for the good of the country and the people in keeping with the spirit of the Constitution.

The Nepali Congress riven by internal personality clashes and unmindful of a serious law and order situation caused by the Maoist insurgency did not understand the import of the King’s views. Here was an active King who was unhappy with the way democracy was functioning. And he refuses to be a passive onlooker! . This veiled warning went over the heads of the politicians in power then!

The Maoists throw a challenge to the King:

Soon after the King’s ascent to the throne and on the eve of his birthday on 7th July, the Maoists attacked Police posts at three different locations and a large number of police men were either killed or kidnapped. As a prelude to the nation wide strike called on the 12th, the Maoists struck at different places in Kathmandu itself. An explosive device went off in Baluwater close to PM’s residence and not far from the Palace. Explosive devices were planted and set off in the effigies and banners condemning the King, the Prime minister, India and USA throughout the valley. G.P.Koirala was the Prime minister then. In the same month, there was another more serious attack in Rolpa District and the Maoists took away over 70 Policemen as hostages. Koirala was forced to resign and Sher Bahadur Deuba from the opposite camp of the Nepali Congress took over on July 17, 2001.

From then, the law and order situation continued to deteriorate. A parallel administration was put in place by the Maoists and historical grievances over gender, social, ethnic and economic discrimination were exploited. Nine autonomous regions with a kind of federal structure( in name only) were created by the Maoists and separate regions were given to Newars, the Tamangs, Magars and Madhesis. At that point of time, they were running a parallel government in five districts, dominating influence in another twenty-five districts and strong presence in another twenty districts. ( Today they are present in seventy of the seventy-five districts.)

The period between mid July 2001 to Mid July 2002 was perhaps the period when the Maoists consolidated their position considerably and were moving towards “strategic equilibrium” with the government forces. It was during this period that the Maoists formed a South Asian Alliance with other regional Maoist parties of South Asia known by the acronym CCOMPOSA.

Peace talks I:

Soon after taking over, Deuba managed to get the Maoists for peace talks and the first meeting was held on 30th August, 2001 at Godavari in Kathmandu valley. In the second round of talks between 14 and 15th September, the Maoists made a formal written demand. Besides release of detainees, there were three core issues raised: an interim government, a constituent assembly, a new constitution and the institutionalisation of a republic. There were demands relating to India, a repetition of what they made in the forty demands before they started the people’s war. These included, abolition of unequal treaties including Indo-Nepal 1950 treaty, withdrawal of Indian troops from Kalapani and introduction of work permit system.

The talks were considered informal. The third and the last round was held on 13 November 2001. Deuba’s government did try sincerely to continue the dialogue. To show his sincerity, his government scrapped the Public Security Regulation and freed over 68 prisoners before the talks. It turned out that the Maoists were only waiting for an excuse to resume the hostilities and this they did by striking across the country unilaterally. For the first time the Army posts in Dang and Salleri in Solakhumbu district were attacked after declaring that the “justification for talks and the four months long cease fire were both over.”

Though the government was taken by surprise, the Maoists had prepared the ideological and logistical groundwork for the offensive. They gave the impression of softening towards the end of third round and gave a hint of dropping the demand for a republic but stuck to the constituent assembly to “ensure people’s rights.” Just two days before the attack, they set up a 37-member Joint revolutionary People’s Council, headed by Baburam Bhattarai. For the first time an official manifesto was issued that contained 75 points and the manifesto itself was a copy book of Chinese position of the 60's. The document called for appropriation of land and individual property, nationalisation of industries and freeing them from bureaucratic capitalists and brokers, deprivation of political rights of counter revolutionaries, all land titles to be declared null and void etc. .

Emergency Declared:

An emergency was declared by the government with effect from 26th November under Article 115 of the Constitution, suspending many of the fundamental rights except the right to file a habeas corpus. The Royal Nepalese Army was deployed and given the overall charge to fight the insurgency. India was fully aware of the steady escalation of the conflict from 1996 onwards. Though it was bound by provisions of 1950 treaty, Indian approach was one of ‘benign” neglect. Short of getting involved on the ground India should have done everything possible by way of training, providing equipment and advice. But it was never done! This attention deficit at a time when Nepal needed India’s help most would haunt Indian policy as we could see today.

After the initial success in counter insurgency operations, the Army found it tougher to deal with the Maoists. There were many incidents where Army patrols were ambushed with impunity. Use of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) increased. Many Police outposts were attacked. Incidents relating to attacks on civilians, political leadership of all hues and chairmen and members of various VDCs ( Village Development Committees) continued unabated. The Police had to close most of the remote outposts thus giving the Maoists a free run in the country side.

While the Army found the going tough, Deuba himself found his going tough within his own party. He experienced considerable difficulty in getting the emergency extended and in return had to promise other political leaders that he is amenable to a revision of the constitution. The leaders of G.P. Koirala faction made every effort to embarrass him. A frustrated Deuba remarked then “ I have been criticised at both times: They criticise me when I held talks with the Maoists and they are criticising me now for mobilising the army. It is sheer injustice meted out against me.”

Extension of Emergency and open split
within Nepali Congress:

The state of emergency due to lapse on May 25 2002 was to be extended as Deuba was under pressure both from the Security Apparatus and the King to extend the emergency. The leader of the Party was against extension and according to Deuba, Koirala did not strongly oppose the extension. Without consulting the Party leadership, Deuba recommended the dissolution of the assembly and sought fresh elections. Deuba was suspended from the party for three years and the party thereafter split almost vertically.

Here Deuba made the mistake of his life. He did not have a majority of his own within the Nepali Congress and trusting the King he defied the party leadership and thus paid heavily as we will see later.

The law and order situation deteriorated seriously. The Maoists were on a rampage. They started targeting infrastructure and even buildings within Kathmandu were not spared. In the beginning of September, the Maoists attacked simultaneously the Police and Army posts in Argakhanchi and Sindhuli causing heavy casualties to the security forces. The Maoists formed a “valley task force’ with the specific objective of causing disturbances within Kathmandu and they succeeded to a large extent. The Royal Nepal Army’s spokesman admitted that since the emergency more than a thousand security personnel had died. The casualties were thus very heavy. It was evident that elections could not have been held within the stipulated time by November 2002 as directed by the King.

The King takes charge:

Angry over the inability of Deuba government, the King issued an order under Article 127 of the Constitution relieving Prime Minister Deuba of his post on 4th October and dissolved the council of Ministers. Deuba was sacked for his incompetence in not being able to conduct the general elections on the stipulated date (November 13). The King took over executive powers until new arrangements were made.

On this day ( 4th October 2002) democracy in Nepal as is understood was snuffed out. There was no reaction from India then and those who complained about the royal coup on February 1st, 2005 should understand this.

A week later the King appointed Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a royalist as Prime minister and also nine more ministers for the cabinet. Selection was made by the King and it soon became apparent that King Gyanendra would be ruling directly by proxy through a pliant group of ministers. The political parties which were left out in the cold in the formation of a new cabinet made strenuous efforts to regain the initiative they lost in recommending postponement of elections beyond the statutory limit which was the immediate cause of Deuba being sacked. An agitation they started against the “October 4 regression” did not gather momentum and demonstrations were restricted to major towns and that too for a few hours only. There was hardly any support from the people then.

One year after the emergency, the Maoists continued to call the shots. There were two devastating and almost simultaneous attacks on November 14, the date on which elections were supposed to be commenced at Jumla and in Gorkha. In all 60 security personnel lost their lives and a large quantity of sophisticated weapons were lost.

Peace Talks II:

After the attacks, the Maoist leadership had assessed that they had reached a strategic parity with the security forces and they could negotiate with the government from a position of strength. The Chand government with the approval of the King sent feelers through intermediaries and a broad strategy for eventual talks was worked out. One of the ministers in the Chand cabinet, Narayan Singh Pun was already negotiating with the Maoists. The Maoists leadership had also formed a high-level dialogue committee to hold peace talks if need be. However they stuck to the three demands as pre condition namely- round table conference of all political parties, an interim government and elections for a Constituent assembly. ( Much later, to these, one more condition of UN intervention or facilitation was added).

It was the Maoists who took the initiative to declare a cease fire on 29 January, 2003. This was soon reciprocated by the government. The political parties who were agitating rather unsuccessfully were taken by surprise by the dramatic turn of events and the speed with which the government readily agreed to the cease fire and dialogue thereafter. The price tags on the Maoist leaders were removed, red alert notices were cancelled and the party was legitimised. ( India did not )

The position of the political parties continued to be negative and confusing. The leaders were singing different tunes. G.P.Koirala continued to demand revival of parliament, Deuba was demanding reinstatement and Madhav Nepal of UML wanted an all party government to negotiate with the Maoists while the negotiations had already begun.

The cease fire and the negotiations broke down after seven months on August 27, 2003. During this period, there was a change in the Prime minister and Surya Bahadur Thapa, a veteran politician was appointed on June 4, 2003.

Three rounds of talks took place - on April 27, May 9 and August 17-19, 2003. The Maoists displayed a new confidence after success in the field and were aggressive throughout. In the first meeting itself, they handed over a four-page document covering the three core issues- convening a round table conference, interim government and election to a constituent assembly. As Prachanda declared in his Bulletin, the whole thrust was to “liquidate the feudal autocratic monarchy backed by the arch reactionary Royal Nepal Army and complete bourgeois democratic revolution in the country.” Despite the unacceptable demands, the government negotiating team gave in too much to the Maoists by agreeing to limit the patrolling of armed forces within five kilometres from the barracks, release of Maoists in custody gradually and the formation of a thirteen-member committee to implement the code of conduct. The negotiators from the government did not consult the army when they agreed to restrict the movement of the army within 5 Km and when the Army protested and they had to quickly withdraw from their commitment of confinement of security forces within 5 KM radius of their barracks.

The third round was with new government of Surya Bahadur Thapa. The government side placed a seven-page document for the consideration of the Maoists. The document reiterated that the proposals had its basis in “ protection of sovereignty vested in the people, constitutional monarchy, multi party democracy and national integrity and unity.” Among the specifics, the government undertook to form an interim government to conduct elections with the Maoists being part of the provisional government, a national assembly with ethnic, tribal and dalit representation in proportion to their populations( one of the demands of Maoists for greater representation to the discriminated sections of the population) and a minimum of 25 percent reservation for women in all institutions through an amendment of the constitution. On two points- the government stood their ground- one no election for a constituent assembly and two- the re structuring of the army. The document simultaneously tried to accommodate to the extent possible, the 18 point demand of the five agitating political parties.

It was unfortunate that the document was rejected outright by the Maoists who said that the document made cosmetic instead of systemic changes and took care of what happened in the last 12 years and not in Nepalese history in the last 234 years. If only the Maoists had made an attempt to make the proposals a basis for further negotiations some more adjustments and compromise could have been made. More unfortunate was the refusal of the agitating political parties to accept the plea of the Prime minster Surya Bahadur Thapa to join and cooperate with the government in the ongoing talks. Events would have taken a different turn if only the parties had agreed.

The Maoists did not give the impression of breaking the talks. At the end of the third round both sides agree on a six-point agenda for future talks that included political issues, over all economic reforms, settlement of armed forces and weapons, rehabilitation of the affected people and reconstruction of the infrastructure destroyed in the conflict.

Maoists break cease- fire and go on the Offensive:

On 24th August 2003, the Maoists gave a two-day ultimatum to accept their demand for a constituent assembly which they knew will not be accepted. At the end of two days, Prachanda, the Maoist leader called off cease fire and declared that the rationale for cease-fire, code of conduct and talks for the cease fie was over “for the time being.”

A good opportunity to take the peace process forward was lost. The Maoists had decided to back out of the talks at some point of time, but what triggered the breakdown was the incident on August 17 at Doranga where 17 unarmed Maoists were gunned down by the army in broad daylight.

With a breakdown in negotiations with the Maoists and his inability to bring in the agitating parties within the government, Surya Bahadur Thapa’s days were numbered. He resigned on 7th of May 2004.

To the credit of the King it should be said that he tried once more to get the political parties to come to a consensus on seven points. Those were, consensus on national issues, peace & security, curbing of corruption, people oriented system of governance, national unity, people represented elections and an all party consensus government. The leaders were met individually as he perhaps did not want a “trade union” approach by them. Had he got them together and made them discuss freely perhaps a consensus could have been forced. It was not to be and the political leaders true to their colours could not arrive at a consensus on their own. In this G.P.Koirala and perhaps the senior most political leader should be blamed for the intransigence.

Instead of coming to a consensus, the agitating parties intensified their agitation. They brought in students, academics and labour to join the movement. The Government Employee’s organisation threatened to join the agitation.

The Maoists exploited the existing fractured polity and devastating attacks were made at Bhojpur (March 3, 2004), Beni (March 22, 2004) In the last incident the Maoists used 80 mm mortar that made a qualitative change in their weapon holdings and in their operations.

The stand off between the King and the five agitating political parties continued with no let up. No doubt, King Gyanendra did not trust the parties, but the dislike appeared to be mutual and the political parties had not behaved well either.

Deuba was reinstated but the law and
order situation deteriorated further

It was at this juncture on 2nd June 2004 that the King took the logical step of appointing the sacked Prime minister Deuba once again. If the sacking of Deuba in October 2002 had triggered a constitutional crisis, it was thought that King having realised the ground realities swallowed his pride and recalled Deuba as a first step to put the constitution back on its rails. The first thing Deuba did was to call on G.P.Koirala and invited his group and the other agitating parties to join the government.

Deuba had three tasks before him. 1. To have an all party government 2. Manage the law and order to an extent that the Maoists are brought into a dialogue and 3. To conduct elections within one year as directed by the King..

He succeeded partially in 1 by bringing the UML the biggest group in the dissoved asssembly after the split within the Nepali Congress into the government but failed in the other two points.

The Maoists did not let Deuba to settle down. Students and teachers were kidnapped whole sale for brain washing sessions systematically and regularly. Incidents against security posts increased and Kathmandu once again witnessed many serious incidents. Deuba had a loose cannon in his information Minister Dr. Mohammed Mohsin the King’s nominee who openly started criticising the Prime minister. The UML leader Madhav Nepal made Deuba’s position more uncomfortable by recommending peace talks and a constituent assembly even before the negotiations started.

The Maoists upped the ante by imposing an “indefinite blockade” of Kathmandu from 18 August, 2004. The blockade was lifted by the Maoists on their own and not due to any army action. Most people out of fear did not ply their vehicles and a mere rumour in the city of a threatened strike would result in most of the shops and establishments closing down. In keeping with Prachanda path, and the text book approach of Maoist policies of surrounding the cities from the country side, the Maoists besides intensifying their activities in the districts surrounding the capital, concentrated on the capital city itself with well- targeted bombings, kidnapping and strikes. Towards end December, blockades and bandhs in several parts of the country became a regular feature. Portions of the three major highways in the country were blocked at some point or other and the Maoists could bring life to a stand still in many parts of the country at their will. This the law and order situation in the country had reached a critical stage.

Deuba had set himself a deadline that he would go ahead with elections if the Maoists refused to agree to the talks. His own partners in the government were not in agreement with him. They considered restoring peace more important than conducting the elections. Deuba had to consider defeat and rather tamely told the BBC that he would consult the Election Commission, his own coalition partners and the parties outside the government before fixing a date for the elections. This perhaps was the last straw .

Overwhelmed by differences within his coalition government, and with an active King overseeing his actions, Deuba could not rise to the occasion and assert himself with his coalition partners, the King and also the agitating parties.

King Gyanendra Strikes: The Royal Coup:

With the political parties in disarray and Deuba unable to rein in his own ministers, it was no surprise that King Gyanendra moved in. He dismissed the Deuba’s ministry, declared an emergency and put most of the political leaders under arrest. In his proclamation, the King promised to give up direct rule in three years by which time he hoped to settle the Maoist problem, conduct the elections and bring back democracy. By all accounts it was a tall order he had set himself.

The action of the King was similar to what his late father did in the evening of December 15, 1960 when a lawfully elected government of B.P.Koiala was dismissed and all the cabinet ministers placed under detention.                                     

Soon the King formed a cabinet of ten ministers, all known royalists. Two former Prime Ministers, Tulsi Giri and K. N.Bista were appointed as Vice Chairmen of the council of ministers. Both the international community and perhaps the Indian government were taken by surprise. Any one who had been following the events in Nepal would have realised that time was running out for the political parties and that the patience of an active King was also running out.

The Indian Dilemma:

The initial Indian reaction to the royal coup was hard and uncompromising. It described the developments in Nepal as a serious set back to democracy. Arms aid was suspended. Press reports indicated that India was taken by surprise and that Nepal did not consult India. There is no doubt that the Indian government would have been sounded though not directly. It looked that the King wanted to discuss directly with the Indian leaders, but unfortunately his visit got postponed twice. For a close neighbour like Nepal where developments have an impact on the security of India, the Indian government should have found at least one day for an informal visit and this was not done.

The dilemma India faced was this. The King had taken a big gamble. India held that the best for Nepal was a constitutional monarchy and multi party democracy. If the King lost, it could be the end of monarchy. What next then? Can India afford to have a Maoist country in the neighbourhood with its own Maoists spread in many states? If on the other hand the King was able to make peace with the Maoists or manage the Maoists in three years, he would continue to rule beyond three years with the political parties permanently marginalised.

The questions that arise in India are A: Can the King be trusted? B. Can the King and the bunch of officials he had selected to meet the critical situation in Nepal be able to deliver the goods? C. Can the King known for his contempt for political parties ever hand over power back to the political parties? D. Does he really believe in multi party democracy or go back to the party less Panchayat State?

Emergency Lifted:

On 30th April 2005 before it could lapse the King lifted the emergency. He followed it up by releasing Madhav Nepal of UML from house arrest. Earlier G.P.Koirala of Nepali Congress was released from his house arrest. But political leaders at lower levels are still in custody. Press censorship has not been lifted and there is still a ban on public meetings and demonstrations in Kathmandu. Lifting of emergency has had no impact in the life of the capital. Scores of people including students are still being arrested. Meantime, the US has also announced suspension of arms aid.

Current Situation and what of the future?

Some points that come to my mind are-

         ²   The King has consolidated his position. He has surrounded himself with persons who are hardly popular with the people. He is using the commission on corruption he created after the take over as a political tool to embarrass and humiliate the political leaders. The midnight knocks and arrests of respectable leaders are indicators that reconciliation with political parties is far from his mind.

         ²   In covering the developments in Nepal one cannot forgive the political parties who have continued in a self destructive mode right from the beginning and particularly so after 1996 with the bigger danger of Maoists looming large before them. From 1990 to this day the Nepali Congress has split into two groups. Ego clashes and mutual animosities led to infighting. Corruption was pervasive No government since 1990 could be stable enough to last the full term. Years of neglect of rural areas besides other Socio- Economic factors were exploited by the Maoists. In the last few years almost all the political leaders have remained in the capital or in big towns leaving the country side free for the Maoists.

         ²   Are the Maoists in a position to over run Kathmandu? Definitely Not. They have already reached a plateau. Their earlier attempts to take over Kathmandu by dominating the surrounding villages of Kathmandu had failed and the security forces are in a dominant position around the valley. The Security forces have also been frequently raiding the supposed Maoist heartland of Rolpa, Dolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot thus denying them any safe and secure base area. Recent attacks on the security posts have resulted in greater casualties to the Maoists than to the security forces. But the tide will turn if the Nepalese Security forces do not get adequate equipment, arms, ammunition and above all cooperation and support from the people to fight the Maoists.

         ²   There is no doubt that the Maoists in Nepal pose a threat to Indian security also. Their solidarity with the Indian Maoists is well known and the grouping of CCOMPOSA and their declaration of mutual support to each other should be noted. Yet it is my view, much is being made of a “compact” of Maoists in India starting from south India and going all the way up north up to Nepal. Analysts try to think of this zone as a kind of “Ho Chi Min trail” where men and materials freely flow. It is not so. True, there has been some help from Indian Maoists by way of supply of pistols, ammunition and high quality detonators. Technical know how for making IEDs has also come from the Indian Maoists. There was a report of some South Indian Maoists working in Maoist base area in central region of Nepal in the manufacture of explosive devices and other incendiary materials. On the other hand, there has been no confirmed report of Nepalese Maoists working with PWG or MCC , now combined - to form CPI (Maoist) in Indian territory.

         ²   Despite their tall claims, the political parties are not yet in a position to mount a serious challenge to the King by way of a movement. But this could change if the Maoists join hands with the parties and a situation similar to what happened in 1990 cannot be ruled out. To begin with both the factions of the Nepali Congress should merge, at least now. Even this has not happened. One is tempted to say- “They deserved it”. But from a long term point of view they cannot remain marginalised for ever.

         ²   The King should re think on two points. One-There could be no military solution to the Maoist problem and it cannot be managed in three years as he made out. Two: There could be no permanent solution unless he takes the political parties into his confidence. Political process and reconciliation will have to start simultaneously. Ordering local elections next April is a good beginning. Will he allow the parties to participate? Will the parties who are in a confrontation mode participate? These are critical issues which will have an impact on its future.

         ²   In one sense India is faced with a critical situation in Nepal. Stability in Nepal is essential for Indian security interests. India had no role to play in framing the 1990 Constitution and the so called twin pillars - Constitutional Monarchy and multi- party democracy were decided by the Nepalese themselves. By Indo-Nepal Treaty provisions, India is bound to provide arms to Nepal and yet it is being looked “in proper perspective”. It is time that the treaty is reviewed and scrapped if necessary. No nation even if it is a small one and dependent on others, can suffer for long, some provisions of the treaty that affect its sovereignty. And India too should go by what would meet its national interests and not by what should be the system of governance in its neighbourhood.

         ²   The worst sufferers have been the people. In the conflict with the Maoists over 12500 people have lost their lives. There is no exact figure of number of people who have been internally displaced. It is because of the open border with India and many of the villages have been denuded. Figures may run into lakhs. The economy is being sustained by increased remittances from abroad by the sweat of those working outside. The economy above everything else needs immediate attention.

It is time for the King and political parties to reconcile and make a joint effort to face the bigger threat of Maoists facing the country.

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

Astha Bharati