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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 December, 2004, 13:04 GMT
Rumours fly on Nepal king's Delhi trip
By Rabindra Mishra
BBC Nepali service

King Gyanendra
King Gyanendra says he will "speak his mind" in India
Nepalese King Gyanendra's third visit to India in as many years - now postponed due to the death of former Indian PM Narasimha Rao - has become a hot topic of discussion in Nepal.

Many believe the king is seeking to strengthen his role in Nepalese politics and that his 11-day visit is primarily aimed at seeking support from Delhi for an absolute monarchy.

He dismissed the elected government in October 2002 and has since appointed a series of prime ministers.

But he denies that he is exercising executive power himself.

Nepal is surrounded by its giant southern neighbour on three sides and is heavily dependant on India for its international trade, commerce and military assistance.

So Delhi is considered the first destination of political pilgrimage for those who aspire to lead Nepal.

The king's frequent trips there have come despite a lack of reciprocal visits from either the Indian president or prime minister.

Rebel power

Nepal is undergoing its most serious political crisis since becoming a nation state in the mid-18th Century.

The Maoist insurgency that started in 1996 has taken the lives of more than 10,000 people and the countryside is virtually under rebel control.

Maoist rebels in western Nepal
Growing Maoist influence concerns the international community

Earlier this month, the Economist wrote in its editorial that there was a small but growing possibility of rebels defeating the government.

That is why the supporters of an absolute monarchy in Nepal think the king should formally take over the reins of power and deal directly with the crisis.

However, the king's desire, if it exists, for direct rule would require the support of the international community, especially India, whose non-cooperation could create tremendous difficulties for Nepal.

India's public stand so far has been to support multi-party democracy and the constitutional monarchy in the Himalayan kingdom.

The United States and the European Union, other major supporters of the Nepal government's war against the Maoists, have taken similar stands.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf
Will India back Gyanendra as the US backs Gen Musharraf?

The response of all three towards the king's dismissal of the elected government in 2002 was quite muted.

Many inside and outside Nepal blamed failures of government more on the elected politicians, many of whom were seen as corrupt and inefficient.

Since 2002, concerns about failures of government and the increasing influence of the Maoists have grown.

India has recently declared the Nepalese Maoists a common threat to both countries.

Supporters of an absolute monarchy in Nepal argue that if the United States can back Gen Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan in its war on terror, why should India not support King Gyanendra in the war against the Maoists?

Ahead of his visit, in an interview with the Times of India, King Gyanendra made it clear he would "speak his mind when in India and get to know India's perspectives on the insurgency in Nepal".

It is unlikely the discussions will be made public.

However, as the king himself puts it, he is more a man of action than words. So if he receives any positive signal from India, it might spur him into action in the not too distant future.


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