Asian Centre for Human Rights

Dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia

[The weekly commentary and analysis of the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR) on human rights and governance issues]

Embargoed for: 14 December 2005
Review: 103/05

Nepal: End of the anachronistic monarchy?

It its Briefing Paper “The Chinese Chequer: Split Wide Open in Nepal” of 1 November 2005, we observed that “The Chinese military aid may indeed expedite the processes unless key actors drastically reverse their policy with regard to restoration of democracy in Nepal”.

The processes have indeed been expedited faster than expected. 

At the sidelines of the 13th Summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, according to Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna, at the SAARC Summit "The Prime Minister (of India) underlined to his majesty (Gyandendra) the importance of restoring multiparty democracy in Nepal as early as possible and the need to take concrete steps in this regard. He also said this would not be possible without the involvement of political parties." The King reportedly assured Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he was prepared to take steps towards restoring democracy.

On 17 November 2005, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) and seven-party alliance signed historic 12-point agreement. The agreement called for end of absolute monarchy, followed by the establishment of a full-fledged democracy and the restructuring of state apparatus to address political, social, economic, cultural as well as class, ethnic and gender issues. The Maoists also agreed to participate in multi-party democracy and lay down arms under the UN or any credible international supervision. The two sides also declared that they would boycott and oppose the municipal elections, scheduled for 8 February 2006 and the parliamentary elections slated for mid-April 2007 as these are “intended to give legitimacy to the king”. They called for elections for the Constituent Assembly.

Since then China has also delivered the first lot of military hardware to the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA). On 22 and 22 November 2005, the arms and weapons were brought into Nepal in 18 trucks via the Kodari Highway. [1] It is clear that King Gyanendra has put all his eggs in the China basket. At the SAARC summit, Nepal became the most vocal supporter of China’s immediate affiliation with SAARC.

The issue is whether restoring peace, democracy and stability in Nepal will become a victim of China’s attempts at growing influence in the Indian sub-continent. There are many who wrongly urge that Sino-India economic ties are unlikely to make Nepal a geo-political playground. Not that King Gyanendra can sustain in Nepal with Chinese arms given that the kingdom’s almost entire economic geography being inextricably intertwined with that of India and its complete dependency on India for its hydrocarbon supplies. However, the accusation of Bhutan lawmakers in later November 2005 that China has been encroaching upon its territory to gather crops of a prized fungus is likely to add spice to the geo-political games in the Himalayas.

King Gyanendra has responded to India’s demand for democracy by reshuffling the cabinet on 8 December 2005 and brought more royalists. It is clear that he does not pay a hoot to the Indians.

Facilitating a Memorandum of Understanding between the Maoists and seven-party alliance is easier than adopting a credible strategy to squeeze the King to restore peace, democracy and stability. India’s Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran visited Nepal from 11-13 December 2005 to convey New Delhi’s message. Both the Narayanhiti Palace and Foreign Secretary Saran maintained silence though Saran stated “restoration of peace and stability and economic recovery in Nepal is not only in the interest of Nepal, but also India’s interest.”

The onus lies on all key actors to fasten the process of bringing an end to the anachronistic monarchy.

First, the onus lies on the Maoists to reassure international community, not only the United States, that they are committed to multi-party democracy and respect for human rights and humanitarian laws. The extension of cease-fire by one month is welcome but not adequate. The Maoists must ensure that no harm will be done to the civilians in conformity with the Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The Maoists must not violate the cease-fire and should not be provoked by the RNA.

Second, New Delhi is not short of options in getting King Gyanendra to meet the demand for an early end to his unconstitutional personal rule over Nepal. China is simply not going to transport food and fire for 25 million populace of Nepal. New Delhi requires concurrence of the United States, United Kingdom and other European countries to discard accusation of bullying or interference in internal affairs if it were to adopt coercive diplomacy with regard to the King. In this regard, New Delhi must unequivocally invite the role of the UN or any other third party for disarming of the Maoists to implement the 12-point agreement between the Maoists and the seven-party alliance.

Third, the United States, United Kingdom and other EU countries which have largely deferred to Indian leadership on Nepal, must realize that for the sake of democracy, peace and stability in Nepal, the 12-point agreement signed by the Maoists and the seven-party alliance is the solution and not King Gyanendra, who does not keep his words and has turned Nepal into his personal property and RNA as his private army.

[1] . China arms RNA, Kantipur Online, 25 November 2005             

© Copy right 2003, Asian Centre for Human Rights, C-3/441-C, Janakpuri, New Delhi-110058, India