Nepali Times Asian Paints
How much longer?


Five months later, everything everyone wished wouldn't happen has come to pass.

Within Nepal and outside many wished the king and parties would unite but the gap widened. The parties should have reinvented themselves to prevail but were marginalised by militarised forces. On 1 February, even those skeptical of the king's move wanted to give him a chance to restore peace but the country has since been sucked ever deeper into a vortex of violence. We have even stopped counting the daily dead.

Individually, the parties, king and rebels are incapable of resolving the crisis. But neither are they able to finish each other off. This is an indecisive deadend and the people can do little else but wait hopelessly.

The parties are being pushed and pulled in a direction they don't want to go-it is against their values to partner with an armed group. In past weeks, the parties have moderated their agitation, possibly because they think it may get out of control. They still swear by a constitutional monarchy but are dragged by a radicalised cadre.

The king has emerged in the past five months as more of a ruler than a constitutional monarch. Despite saying the right things about democracy and rule of law, inside and outside Nepal there are doubts he actually means it. By repeating the rhetoric often enough, he may hope to turn it into a clich?. His choice of ultraloyal technocrats rather than meritocrats to run the country prove he's in it for the long haul.

Despite strong pressure, the king is in no mood to give the parties space and roll back. Faced with international isolation, his government is making a show of looking for alternative financial and military support. The idea is to crush the Maoists, whatever the cost to the people and the economy. And in case the Maoists do look like they may win the king is convinced that the Americans, Europeans and Indians will step in to prevent it.

This may be why he doesn't see talk of an alliance between the parties and the Maoists as a threat, and he seems in no particular hurry to find a resolution. The strategy seems to be to use the next three years to craft a polity that suits the role he sees for himself. All this is making even pro-monarchy moderates seriously worried about the future.

The Maoists are now not just playing parties against each other but playing them against the palace. The gap between them has never been wider and this gives the rebels the confidence to make grand gestures like promising not to kill unarmed civilians. The king's policy of keeping India at arm's length has also softened New Delhi's stance towards the Maoists-a very welcome development for the rebels at a time when everything else seemed to be going against them.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)