At times diplomacy at local level does work. King Gyanendra of Nepal seems to be finally bowing to international/domestic pressure to restore democracy in his picturesque mountain country, home to the legendary Mt Everest, and trekkers’ paradise, now stricken with Maoist rebellion and pro-democracy bloody agitations.

Indeed, prior to the king’s television appearance, US Ambassador to Nepal James Moriarty warned that Gyanendra could be forced to abdicate in the next few days were he to refuse to step down.

“His time is running out,” Moriarty told reporters. “Ultimately the king will have to leave if he doesn’t compromise. And by ‘ultimately’ I mean sooner rather than later.”

The Friday compromise offered by the Nepali king may end up being enough. “With the help of elections,” Gyanendra said, “we want to revitalize the electoral bodies according to the 1990 constitution of the kingdom of Nepal. We invite the political parties to forward the name of a prime ministry candidate as soon as they can.”

Meanwhile The Independent of the UK reports…Britain, the US and India used to back King Gyanendra against the Maoists, fearing a communist state in Nepal. But as he has dismantled democracy in Nepal and taken the absolute powers of a medieval king, they have distanced themselves from him.

“If the King doesn’t act immediately … the constitutional monarchy may no longer be on the table,” the British ambassador to Nepal, Keith Bloomfield, said yesterday.

India dispatched a special envoy for urgent talks with the King yesterday, at which he was believed to have delivered a stark message from Delhi…

Interesting that monarchy is under attack in Nepal at a time when Britain celebrates 80th birth anniversary of her Queen.

Nepal’s constitution was promulgated on November 9, 1990, and is technically Nepal’s fundamental law. The constitution guarantees certain rights to all citizens, protects individual liberties, and establishes Nepal as a “multiethnic, multilingual, democratic, independent, indivisible, sovereign, Hindu and Constitutional Monarchical Kingdom� with a parliamentary government and an independent judiciary.

However King Gyanendra (r. 2001– ) dissolved both houses of parliament in May 2002 as well as three subsequent interim governments composed of a prime minister and a Council of Ministers. The last interim government was suspended on February 1, 2005, and King Gyanendra has since ruled with full executive powers assisted by an appointed 10-person crisis cabinet.

SWARAAJ CHAUHAN, International Columnist
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