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King shown ?candid? picture

THE PM'S special envoy to Nepal, Karan Singh, returned to India on Thursday after making a strong pitch for the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal. He was optimistic that King Gyanendra would heed India's advice. The letter from the Indian PM that Singh handed over to Gyanendra, expressing India's deep concern over the situation in Nepal, broadly contained the same message: that the king should act fast and hand over power to the seven-party alliance .

india Updated: Apr 21, 2006 01:26 IST

Karan returns hopeful of an early solution

THE PM'S special envoy to Nepal, Karan Singh, returned to India on Thursday after making a strong pitch for the restoration of multi-party democracy in Nepal. He was optimistic that King Gyanendra would heed India's advice.

The letter from the Indian PM that Singh handed over to Gyanendra, expressing India's deep concern over the situation in Nepal, broadly contained the same message: that the king should act fast and hand over power to the seven-party alliance (SPA).

The king was told the institution of monarchy would be "completely isolated" and in jeopardy unless a "genuine dialogue between the constitutional forces in Nepal" took place.

Singh told the Hindustan Times that he made a "very candid presentation" on the situation and India's concerns for Nepal's future. He advised Gyanendra to act at the earliest as the situation was worsening and "time was running out".

Singh came out of the meeting with the impression that the king was receptive to his suggestions. After the 90-minute meeting, Singh said the "ball is entirely in the king's court. I'm optimistic. I'm hopeful that the king will make an announcement shortly, possibly within the next 24 hours." The absence of Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and India's ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, from the meeting was attributed to Singh's preference for a one-on-one interaction to put Gyanendra at ease for a "frank exchange of views".

Saran had, however, met Royal Nepal Army chief Pyar Jung Thapa on Wednesday and joined Singh in his meetings with SPA leaders -- including former premiers Girija Prasad Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhav Nepal. They also met Surya Bahadur Thapa, who was called for consultations by the king earlier this week.

The Communist Party's Madhav Nepal is learnt to have sought the formation of a constituent assembly but other SPA leaders did not favour this view.

Singh told HT that popular opinion in favour of a republic was on the rise, hence the need for the king to act swiftly.

In a brief statement after the talks, the Indian embassy said, "A lasting solution to the problems of Nepal has to be found by the people of Nepal through a peaceful political process."