Nepali Times
"There was another road map"

Nepali Times: It has been reported in the Indian media that you returned from Delhi this week carrying a message for His Majesty the King from Indian leaders. What is the gist of it?
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee:
I'm not physically carrying a message. In New Delhi, I met the prime minister, external affairs minister, foreign secretary. I was basically told to reinforce the message that was already given in our very first statement, which is that we continue to see this as a setback to democracy, we continue to ask for the release of the leaders of the political parties, resumption of the democratic process, removal of the curbs on civil liberties including the freedom of the press, and to build a broad national consensus to get back to the major challenges facing Nepal which is the insurgency and development. That continues to be our position.

His Majesty said in his royal proclamation he was forced to act because of the inability of the political parties to unite among themselves and against the Maoists.
Our government has very carefully considered the situation here, including the royal proclamation of 1 February. My government disagrees with the position that by taking the stand that we have, we are strengthening the insurgency. Quite the contrary. The takeover on 1 February was in fact the act that removed the political parties which were the buffer between the constitutional forces and the Maoists. It has in fact emboldened the Maoists. The situation can be remedied even at this stage by a return to what we think is the correct condition for ending the insurgency with the help of the people: constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy.

Our prime minister has expressed in parliament more than once the concern of the spillover of the insurgency into India, and the nexus that has formed between the insurgency here and the leftwing extremists in India. So the developments here are a matter of direct concern to the people and government of India. Our reaction is based on that reality as well as on principles.

But His Majesty said on February First that constitutional monarchy and multiparty democracy are also what he wants.
We think there was another road map available which was to continue to work with the political parties, prepare a unified stance and a unified agenda for dealing with the insurgency for beginning a peace process with the constitutional monarchy and the political parties helping each other and supporting each other. We think that is the way it should have gone.

Have you decided to suspend military assistance to the Royal Nepali Army?
The issue of military supplies is under constant review by the Government of India, taking into account the evolving situation in Nepal. In view of the current disturbed situation in Nepal it is a fact that no military supplies have been delivered since 1 February, 2005.

But wouldn't that undermine your own stated objective to strengthen the RNA's capacity to fight the Maoists and bring them to the negotiating table?
It is a choice we have to make. As one of Nepal's friends, as one whose interests are involved here, as a democracy, it's a choice we have to make. It's not something permanent. Our credentials as far as desiring to assist Nepal in these difficult times is total. What has happened has made it difficult for us to continue with that assistance for now.

What kind of pressure can you bring to bear to get the parties on board?
I feel very uncomfortable with the word pressure. We express our opinion, we express it as clearly and as unambiguously as we can, we make it abundantly clear that India's assistance will be available in full measure, as will be that from the other players in the international community here, provided the democratic process is brought back on track. We have no favourites in terms of methodology, we note the objectives we want and it is up to the Nepali constitutional forces and civil society to decide exactly how to go about it. All I can say is that If the political parties get together on a unified agenda, which will presuppose the release of their top leaders who are under house arrest or imprisonment, and if that process gets back on track I think the entire international community will welcome it.

Are you still opposed to UN mediation in resolving the insurgency?
A third party brings in more complications, my government does not see at the moment the need to muddy the water further. Certainly, an insurgency should be talked to, they have grievances that should be addressed, but the methods they use must be resisted and they must be encouraged to come to the table.

How much coordination is there between you and Nepal's other neighbours?
I think the international community, certainly those that are seen as being involved in Nepal's development, have shown an impressive unity in their response to developments here, and there has certainly been frequent coordination. We've had consultations with China also on this situation.

Is there agreement with China?
There is an agreement certainly to coordinate and share information.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)