Nepali Times Asian Paints
One on one


King Gyanendra's return on Friday from a week of intense diplomacy at the Afro-Asian Summit in Jakarta and the Boao Asian Forum in China could have been triumphant.

His numerous photo opportunities with world leaders went some way in providing his takeover a certain international legitimacy.

The most dramatic breakthrough was his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 24 April after which the king announced that India was resuming arms supplies.

Singh didn't deny it, saying the request would be considered in "proper perspective". Then came a leak from an unnamed Indian official that the prime minister had indeed agreed to "unconditionally" resume military aid to Nepal.

When this news hit headlines in New Delhi papers on Monday morning, all hell broke loose. The CPM, a key ally of Singh's Congress-led government, lashed out saying there was no question of resuming arms supplies without restoration of democracy in Nepal. The issue became a political hot potato and less about Nepal than internal tensions within India's left-centre coalition.

The episode also exposed rifts between the Indian military establishment and the Ministry of External Affairs with the generals far more keen to resume hardware supplies to the RNA to help fight the Maoists. Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who has reportedly taken charge of Nepal policy, was on a weekend trip to Bhutan and is supposed to have been miffed by Jakarta\'s fallout.

As the defence and foreign policy establishments in New Delhi locked horns there was confusion about who was really directing policy towards Nepal. King Gyanendra came out of this looking like he had run circles around the Indians and exposed their rift. In addition, the Indian about turn on arms blew a sizeable hole on the US-UK-India alliance on Nepal.

And that is how his visit would have been seen had it not been for the ham-handed arrest of Sher Bahadur Deuba early Wednesday morning and of five more prominent party leaders that afternoon. Suddenly, it looked like Kathmandu had no intention of keeping its end of the bargain to allow the political process to resume with a progressive lifting of the emergency.

Deuba's arrest was a godsend to the foreign policy wallas in India who could now say "we told you so" to the defence wallas. In a pointed statement South Bloc said Deuba's arrest was "contrary to assurances" the king gave to Singh in Jakarta and even hinted that these matters were no longer viewed as Nepal's internal affairs. For Nepal Deuba's arrest has been a case of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

All eyes are now on King Gyanendra\'s handling of the emergency which lapses on Sunday, and the "100 days" he pledged on a democracy roadmap to American ambassador James Moriarty which runs out on 11 May.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)