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The Delhi Darbar


PRASHANT JHA in NEW DELHI


One fallout of February First is that international policy towards Nepal is now being formulated by the powers in New Delhi.

In what has of late become a tradition for British and American officials, US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, had meetings here before flying on to Kathmandu.

In the previous week, Indian ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shanker Mukherjee, British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield and Britain's special envoy to Nepal Jeffrey James also held joint talks with senior Indian officials. Since this was immediately followed by the Indian decision to resume military assistance, the three powers seem satisfied by the king's post-Jakarta lifting of the state of emergency and release of some political detainees.

A senior official told us that India may have overestimated its own leverage. "We expected that a strong reaction would make the king back off, the other assumption was that political parties would emerge as a strong alternative," he said. A policy review became inevitable when neither happened. The possibility of the Americans stepping in with arms if India didn't may have been a worry here.

India is in a dilemma: it doesn't want the king to get away with dismantling democracy but also wishes to see the Maoists defeated. "Do we support order and stability, or fairness and justice? As a neighbour it becomes difficult to take a pure stand," says C Raja Mohan, a strategic analyst here.

This ambivalence has drawn fire from the Congress' leftist coalition partners which have also been critical of the arms decision. MP Nilotpal Basu of the CPI-M says, "We shouldn't put all our diplomatic eggs in the basket of the present regime."

The possibility of rethinking India's 'twin pillar' policy of supporting constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy seems remote. "There is no room for reviewing this policy," former Indian ambassador to Nepal, KV Rajan told us.

Some advisers have urged India to open back channel links to the Maoists but this has been opposed by others. "The terms of engagement is important," says analyst Raja Mohan, "nothing must be done to legitimise them and back their approach."

There is consensus here that a sustainable solution would have to be found within Nepal, and that will depend on the knack of Nepal's political class to work together.


LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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