India and the United States have reiterated their stand on the current political situation in Nepal by calling for the constitutional forces to join hands and for the democratic freedoms to be restored. Both countries stress constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy as the two main pillars of political stability in Nepal. At the conclusion of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit to India, Rice and Indian external affairs minister K Natwar Singh held a joint press conference in New Delhi on Wednesday at which they described the recent events in Nepal as a “setback” to both countries’ “regional responsibilities” as well as to their “increasingly global responsibilities.” Rice stressed that the return to multiparty democracy “must happen and we are in complete agreement that it needs to happen very, very soon.”

The political position taken by the international community will largely determine whether or not or how much economic aid Nepal will get. Foreign assistance is crucial to Nepal as foreign sources account for more than four-fifths of its development budget. The World Bank has already announced suspension of some five billion rupees in budgetary support pledged for the current fiscal year. Multilateral and bilateral donors are reviewing their aid programmes to Nepal. They are in a wait-and-see mood, as British ambassador to Nepal Keith G. Bloomfield has said, also indicating that British aid cuts in other areas, apart from the earlier military aid suspension, may follow soon. Several important donor countries are reported to be coordinating their approaches to the situation in Nepal at the current 61st session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. The outcome of this session is highly important to Nepal.

Any major aid cuts would seriously hamper development. These, combined with the difficulties created by the internal conflict, would make the overall situation in the country far worse. Whoever may be in power at any time, Nepal needs two things most to restore peace, democracy and promote prosperity of its people. First, the domestic political forces have no alternative to joining hands. Second, they cannot afford to lose the goodwill of the international community if they are to achieve these goals. The three-sided internal conflict is at the root of the country’s present crisis. To achieve the first, the constitutional forces should capture the spirit of the 1990 Constitution. From there they should move on to seek a broader political settlement within a fully democratic framework. No political force in the country can expect to win the support of either the Nepali people or the international community if it tries to push its own agenda.