Spool of thread

Shailendra Kumar Upadhyay, a former foreign minister, has said that the King has lost the support of traditional allies like India and the European Union. According to him, “they no longer agree with the monarch that what Nepal has is a functioning democracy”. Speaking at a programme in the capital on Monday, Upadhyay appreciated the lead taken by the political parties in holding talks with the Maoists as part of their efforts to resolve the national crisis, but he also stressed the need for the King to be a party to any such dialogue before one could expect a breakthrough. Though Upadhyay said what is obvious to many, his remarks appear to carry added meaning as he, besides holding high posts under the active royal leadership during the now discredited Panchayat system, is still widely thought to be, rightly or wrongly, a pro-palace man. Some pro-establishment people may claim that Nepal still has a functioning democracy, but the wide perception at home and abroad is just the opposite. So democracy should be seen to be in practice too, which is by no means the case in today’s Nepal.

Whether or not the monarch is facing greater international isolation is not the main issue. What is really important to the people of Nepal is the need for a comprehensive solution to the crisis facing the nation, thereby ensuring a lasting peace and democracy, within a broader

framework, if need be. Nor may the call for the Maoists to surrender arms, though important, be a virtue in itself without simultaneous guarantees for peace and democracy. As even Nepal’s traditional but powerful friends are ruling out the possibility of a military victory for either of the warring sides, one finds it extremely difficult to argue for the case of those who refuse to pursue peace dialogue just because they want the fulfilment of their pre-condition for surrender of arms by the rebels beforehand.

This refusal to talk will only prolong the war, causing further suffering to the Nepalis and spelling untold consequences for the nation as a whole. Of course, no political compromise can be acceptable to the sovereign people of Nepal before they endorse it through democratic

means. And, needless to say, any such deal between the political powers cannot be outside a democratic framework. Any political settlement would therefore imply the laying down of arms by the rebels, probably to a credible international agency such as the United Nations. But the nation must not be held hostage to the ‘strategic interests’ of any foreign power, or to the narrow calculations of domestic political players.