Interview with Karan Singh
The PMO called up when I was in Jammu on April 17 and about to board the plane. Soon the PM was on the line, wanting to know whether I?d go to Nepal where the situation was deteriorating rapidly.india Updated: Apr 23, 2006 01:15 IST
How were you picked for the delicate job?
The PMO called up when I was in Jammu on April 17 and about to board the plane. Soon the PM was on the line, wanting to know whether I’d go to Nepal where the situation was deteriorating rapidly. I agreed. He then said the Foreign Secretary would brief me. It was decided that I’d leave for Nepal on April 19 and the FS, who was to go to Bhutan, would join me in Kathmandu.
How did you go about the whole thing?
I first called on former PMs G P Koirala, Sher Bahadur Deuba and Madhav Nepal. Other leaders met me at a dinner hosted by our Ambassador, Shiv Mukherjee. The next morning, I met Surya Bahadur Thapa. Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, Mukherjee and the MEA’s Pankaj Saran were all present at these meetings.
But I decided against their presence at my meeting with the King. I went to the Palace at 11 a.m. and was with him for 90 minutes, during which we had lunch. Our discussions were frank. I gave him the PM’s letter and my opinion and advice. I found him receptive. I have known the family for three generations, especially his father.
Did the King have apprehensions?
He apprehended a Maoist takeover and wasn’t sure whether the SPA would accept his offer. I emphasised the element of urgency and advised him to act fast. While I was leaving, he assured that he’d do something. And he did.
Can the 1990 Constitution be the solution when it gives the King powers to dismiss governments?
It isn’t a satisfactory solution for them. But the SPA can explore options like reviving the old Parliament or amending the Constitution. There has to be a starting point (provided by the King’s offer) and a timeframe to resolve the logjam. The movement was for restoring democracy and handing over power to the SPA, not the Maoists.
The King made no mention of Maoists …
What could he have said? It’s for the SPA to deal with them.
Can there be common ground between the SPA and the Maoists?
It’s too early to say. They have talked about laying down arms. Frankly, all that will have to be negotiated.
Why hasn’t the SPA grabbed the King’s offer?
They are diffident because the people have become more radical. But the SPA must take over or else there will be chaos.
Will the King make things easier by accepting a ceremonial status?
He may have no choice. Some leaders don’t even want that. As the Constitutional head, he could have been a unifying force. Instead, he has become a divisive force. He has now to step back. The UML wants a Constituent Assembly. There’s also some talk about reviving the old Parliament. Fresh elections cannot be held until the Maoists or a section of them are on board.
What’s your roadmap for restoring peace in Nepal?
There has to be ceasefire, restoration of law and order and a package to revive the economy in which India can help. The SPA has to do a lot of work as the movement was in their name. They have to engage with the Maoists who control most of Nepal through gun power and popular support.