Will he or won’t he flee Nepal? Widespread speculation that Nepal’s largely marginalised king is ready to transfer his assets and flee after the Maoists and seven-party alliance (SPA) signed the comprehensive peace agreement appear, for the moment, to have been belied. It appears unlikely he will leave just yet.
Instead, having welcomed the peace agreement as a historic opportunity to revive democracy, Gyanendra appears to have positioned himself as a democrat. He will, analysts said, make every attempt possible to ensure an honourable survival for himself and the heirs of the Shah dynasty within Narayanhity Palace, despite Maoist opposition and the Rayamajhi Commission investigating excesses committed by the palace.
India, which has gained enormous goodwill by pitching its support for the will of the Nepalese people, is caught in a bind over the future of the monarchy, with the Maoists and the SPA government paving the way for what increasingly appears likely to be a Republican government.
There have been suggestions that Gyanendra, an astute businessman before he became king, has made alternate arrangements to leave Kathmandu at short notice, choosing destinations in Europe to travel to. However, Professor SD Muni, a long-time Nepal watcher and analyst, is among the majority that does not agree. “For as long as he can, he will try to stay and cut a deal. Various political parties are still speaking of a referendum (on the future of the monarchy) and he will stay to ensure it is held,” Muni said. Also, “leaving would mean giving up the considerable immoveable assets his ancestors have built up in Nepal”.
Placing another spanner against his immediate removal is a survey which states that around 52 per cent of Nepal's population is in favour of a ceremonial role for the monarchy. Prachanda has said he will abide by the people’s verdict.
A cross-section of diplomats in New Delhi concurs that should Gyanendra seek asylum in India, he will get it. According to a former Indian envoy to Nepal, “India has a history, over 200 years old, of granting asylum to political refugees from Nepal. Why should India now shut its doors?”
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