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All eyes on King's speech

Analysts are watching for opening of a "genuine dialogue" with the political parties.

india Updated: Apr 20, 2006 17:27 IST

As the protests continue and the crackdown on protesters gets harsher, the Indian government is waiting to see what Nepal monarch Gyanendra has to say in his address to the nation on Friday, Nepalese New Year's Day.

With the ongoing turmoil forcing tens of thousands of Nepalese to flee across the open border into India, New Delhi, which recently concluded a seven-year transit agreement with Kathmandu, could opt to "tighten the screws".

It has chosen not to apply trade and economic sanctions on Nepal, as it did in 1990, because "ordinary Nepalese citizens would further suffer".

But if the king chooses the present path of conflict and repression, India might have few options left to "persuade" Gyanendra.

While few expect the king to give up the absolute monarchy he assumed last year, analysts are watching for signs of a shift towards a more "accommodative" rule and opening of "genuine dialogue" with the political parties.

"I don’t expect him to back down," says SD Muni, a professor at JNU who’s been watching the situation closely.

"I don’t rule out softer speech and some technical concessions, like an offer for talks (but) what will those talks do (given the rising public resentment)?"

He adds: "In the last week, he has gone down as ruthless, inconsiderate and not accommodating of popular sentiment. Anything sub stantive by way of concessions would mean he is backing down, and then anyway he’s gone."

Having tried, without success, to caution the monarch that his refusal to work with political parties and restore democratic processes is leading to a path of no return for the monarchy, India has gradually shifted its attention and support to the parties.

While it has been instrumental in urging them to get Maoist insurgents to renounce violence and come together to help restore democracy, it still remains wary of the Maoists. But "our options are getting limited by events," an official source says.

Gyanendra hasn’t helped matters by consistently refusing to meet with or take advice from India, assuming the Royal Nepal Army’s support is enough to keep him in power.

Now, with the "end game in progress", India will shed few tears for the institution if it can’t restore public confidence and peace.

India has for time being chosen not to apply economic sanc tions against Nepal as 'ordinary Nepalese would suffer'.

But if present situation continues, New Delhi may have few options left. India has already shifted focus from trying to persuade king to supporting the political parties.

First Published: Apr 17, 2006 15:30 IST