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Step back, India tells Nepal King

Gyanendra has been asked to hand over power to the 7-party alliance, reports Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Apr 17, 2006 02:45 IST

When Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Mukherjee, met King Gyanendra on Sunday, he conveyed a strong message from New Delhi: If the King wanted to salvage what he could of the monarchy, he needed to step back and hand over power to the seven-party alliance of political parties in Kathmandu.

That was the only way he would be able to stem the rising tide of popular unrest sweeping across the Himalayan kingdom, the Indian envoy told him during the meeting, their first in almost seven months. Mere talk of elections would serve little purpose, given the popular outcry against the monarchy itself, he was told.

Only by handing over actual power to the political parties and stepping into the background would the monarchy be able to salvage a role for itself in the future. The advice was to hand over power and let the political parties sort out the issue, taking the wish of the people into account.

Though Gyanendra's response was much the same as it has been in the past, with him saying he was always keen to engage with the political parties and encourage democracy, it was unclear if the message had got through.

Though nobody quite knows how the situation will play itself out, the future of the monarchy and what little, if anything, it can salvage for itself depends entirely on how the king plays his cards.

The endgame could play out as early as tomorrow, next week or over several months, analysts said.

After the meeting at Narayanhity Palace in Kathmandu, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran met the Prime Minister and discussed the crisis in Nepal, its effect on this country and rapidly unfolding scenarios. It is believed they spoke of contingency plans in the event that Gyanendra decides to or is forced to abdicate at short notice.

It is unlikely he would seek asylum in this country, but that is one of a wide variety of options being factored into New Delhi's calculations.

India has been largely instrumental in bringing the political parties and the Maoist insurgents together to restore multi-party democracy. Though wary of the Maoists, India has noted that they have desisted from violence since the crisis in Nepal snowballed from April 6.

First Published: Apr 17, 2006 02:15 IST