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India mulls tough steps to restrain Nepal King

New Delhi could use some of the methods it tried in 1989 to protest the Chinese supply of arms to Nepal like restricting transit points.

india Updated: Apr 13, 2006 15:08 IST

As violence in Nepal escalates and the crackdown on anti-government protesters gets harsher, New Delhi is getting ready to back up strong words with tough steps to push for the restoration of multi-party democracy in the Himalayan kingdom.

"We will have to go beyond merely tough talk. If the situation doesn't improve, we will have to take some tough action," a high-level official source told the agency.

"We have many levers to call Nepal's king to account. The only problem is that such measures might give some sections in Nepal fodder for anti-India propaganda," the source added.

It is not yet clear what these steps would be, but if the push comes to the shove, New Delhi could use some of the methods it tried in 1989 to protest the Chinese supply of arms to Nepal like restricting transit points and curtailing the supply of petroleum products.

But these methods could be used only as a last resort as they led to alienating the Nepalese people instead of hurting the monarchy in 1989, cautions Maj. Gen. (retired) Ashok Mehta, author of The Royal Nepal Army: Meeting the Maoist Challenge.

The mood in the foreign office is, however, grim. "We are running out of patience. King Gyanendra is not leaving us many options now," warned the official, speaking on the condition he was not identified.

It is a course many in India are already advocating.

"India should come out openly in support of the constituent assembly elections. We should encourage the setting up of an interim government of the Maoists and the seven democratic parties," SD Muni, a Nepal expert at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, said.

"The king is fighting a violent battle which he can't win. There is a growing feeling in India that this king can't be sustained," stressed Muni.

"India should convene an all-party meeting and issue a strong statement stating in clear terms that the only way out of the impasse is to restore parliament and hold elections to the constituent assembly," advised Mehta.

In a no-nonsense message Wednesday, New Delhi asked the king to stop using "repressive methods" and make a "genuine effort to initiate a dialogue with the political parties at the earliest."

Scores have died in renewed fighting this month between government troops and Maoist guerrillas in Nepal, where the traditional opposition has joined hands with the rebels demanding the ouster of the king who seized absolute power in February 2005.

For Gyanendra the writing on the wall is clear.

Whatever backing the Nepalese monarchy may have enjoyed in the past in India is fast dwindling.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and even the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which were known to oppose any drastic action against the king on the ground that the Nepalese King is the world's only Hindu monarch, are now having a rethink.

Writing in the latest edition of the RSS mouthpiece The Organiser, Brajesh Mishra, the former Indian national security adviser, said: "You're digging the grave of the monarchy. You need to step back for the sake of your heirs and for the sake of your country."

In a sign that across-the-party consensus is emerging in the country on taking decisive action in Nepal, Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury met Prime Minister Manhohan Singh Tuesday and urged him to use the government's "good offices to ensure the early restoration of democracy in Nepal".