An opportunity

King Gyanendra, accompanied by Queen Komal, is leaving Kathmandu tomorrow on his first foreign visit after his February 1 takeover. He will participate in the Afro-Asian conference in Jakarta on April 22 and 23 where he is expected to meet several heads of states and leaders. Then he is scheduled to proceed to China’s Hainan province to attend the Boao Forum for Asia on April 24. He will leave China for Singapore on April 26 where he is to call on Singapore’s president Sellapan Ramanathan, before returning home on April 29. The King is

embarking on his foreign tour at a time when he also heads the government as the chief executive. For several months before February 1, the King’s visit to India had been postponed for various reasons, the last time because of the death of former Indian prime minister P V Narasimha Rao, just hours before the departure time.

The King may meet Chinese president Hu Jintao and Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of a conference which holds historical importance. His possible meeting with Singh is of greater interest to political observers at home, because India has not supported the Royal takeover, publicly calling for the restoration of the democratic freedoms and processes. It was also at India’s behest that the 13th SAARC summit was postponed; the sudden political change in Nepal was cited as a major reason. Some analysts have also linked the Royal audience granted to Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukharjee on Friday to, among other things, the Jakarta conference. Indeed, the conference will be an opportunity for King Gyanendra to clear away the mist of misunderstanding between him and the international

community, which has some serious misgivings about his Feb. 1 move and his motives.

The Nepalis wish the visit to be successful in generating international goodwill and assistance for Nepal as well as in strengthening multiparty parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy in the universally understood sense of the terms. The King is being accompanied also by Vice Chairman of the Council of Ministers Kirti Nidhi Bista and Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey. It would, however, require great skills in convincing the international community, particularly in today’s global context, that it was necessary to suspend the democratic rights and processes temporarily to continue the ‘fight against terror.’ The lack of support by the major political parties for the royal step has made the task more difficult. The experience of the past few years and the current signs only tend to stress the need for all the domestic political forces to seek genuine reconciliation — the constitutional ones, to begin with.