February 3, 2005
NEPAL: 'DEEPLY FACTIONALIZED' NATION PLUNGING INTO 'POLITICAL FREEFALL'
** King Gyanendra's "heavy-handed, unconstitutional" assumption of power is "dangerous."
** Papers agree that the "royal coup" makes an "already difficult situation worse."
** Sympathetic outlets see "some truth" in the claim that democracy "has failed."
** India must take up the "onerous" task of restoring stability and democracy in Nepal.
'Exacerbating Nepal's myriad woes'-- Most global papers blasted the "power-hungry" king's dismissal of the government. The move "lifted the veil of ambiguity that covered his authoritarian and reactionary" agenda and is a "step backwards for Nepal." Writers demanded an "immediate return to democracy" and joined Hong Kong's independent South China Morning Post in predicting that the "arbitrary" decision will "fuel opposition to the monarchy"; India's nationalist Hindustan Times labeled it "akin to pouring petrol on to a fire." The centrist Indian Express added that "without genuine democracy there can be no progress and stability."
The 'triangular political stalemate' is 'likely to worsen'-- Pessimistic observers noted that "all obstacles have now been removed for civil war" in the form of a "tripartite conflict." Split among "ruthless" Maoist rebels, "ineffective" political parties and a "ham-handed" king, the country is in "anarchy." The "unrest and violence" will only grow "more serious" after the king's move; Japan's liberal Asahi judged that the "nation is heading toward chaos." Papers expressed sympathy for the "impoverished Nepalese people" and cited their "utter poverty" to explain the strength of the Maoist insurgency, which according to Germany's left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau "controls almost all rural areas."
'Democratically elected politicians are also to blame'-- Noting "failures of governments and parties," the king's decision "can be considered sensible," judged several observers. They described Nepal's political parties as "deeply factionalized and too discredited" to make progress; India's independent Ananda Bazar Patrika stated that "internecine squabbles, unethical ego clashes and constant power struggles...rendered the elected government ineffective." State-owned Nepali media asserted that the king only aims to "bring peace, normalcy and progress" to the nation and "save people from hardship, fear and terror." Nepal's independent Rajdhani yearned for "strong, polished and competent" political parties.
'Delhi bears a large responsibility'-- Because the "fresh turmoil" could "snowball into a regional crisis," papers urged India to end its "detached political stance" and "press for an inclusive political solution." India's independent Dainik Bhaskar argued that India must "play a decisive role in restoring democracy," while Mumbai's right-of-center Gujarat Samachar contended that "not only India but all nations" must "vociferously oppose" the king's "mockery of democracy." Other dailies noted that New Delhi's "top priority" is to prevent Nepal from becoming "a staging post for subversion against India" in light of the "direct links between India's leftist rebels and Nepal's Maoist insurgents."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 38 reports from 10 countries over 1 - 3 February 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.
NEPAL: "King’s Risky Move"
Independent Nepali-language Rajdhani noted (2/2): "His Majesty King Gyanendra has taken a huge risk by taking over all the executive powers in his own hand. The face of the country would definitely change if there is no corruption in bureaucracy, if the country prospers and if there is an end to violence. But, the only question is, can it [commitments made in proclamation] be fulfilled?.... Even if the political leaders had weaknesses, the country cannot shun democracy. People still believe that political parties that are strong, polished and competent will emerge tomorrow. The political parties who went through 14 years of ups and downs would not repeat yesterday’s mistakes. Restoration of democracy is possible only through unity between the king and political parties.”
"King’s Move And People’s Expectations"
Independent Nepali-language Nepal Samacharpatra declared (2/2): "The royal proclamation would be considered successful if the country gets an outlet.... If peace and multi-party democracy are restored within the next three years and people get the rights they are entitled to, the royal move can be considered sensible.”
The state-owned English-language Rising Nepal held (2/2): "His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev in a historic proclamation to the nation Tuesday morning, declared that the Sher Bahadur Deuba led government had been dissolved with immediate effect.... His Majesty has also prudently called upon all those ‘who have gone astray, taking up arms against the nation and the people and those who are engaged in criminal activities against peace and democracy’ to return to the mainstream of national politics peacefully. This call from the Monarch should be heeded seriously by such dissenters, otherwise they may never get such an opportunity again.... The nation stands at a historical moment at present. There should be no confusion or any doubts on the measures that have been initiated to bring peace, normalcy and progress to the nation and also consolidate multi-party democracy in the long run. Everyone should be guided by their ‘collective wisdom’ and not misled by those with nefarious intentions.... The present historic decision of His Majesty the King needs total support from all, for the better future of Nepal and all Nepalese.”
"Historic Move In Nation’s Interest"
State-owned Nepali-language Gorkhapatra front-paged (2/2): "It is a well-known fact that the king had to take the all-acceptable step in order to protect the unity and sovereignty of the nation.... The proclamation reflects the king’s commitment to save people from hardship, fear and terror.... His Majesty’s pledge to restore peace within the next three years and reactivate democracy echoes his commitment to democracy.... His appeal has to be taken positively and in accordance with the people’s wishes. The country still needs patriotic, honest, self-respecting and able citizens. Everybody should make contributions to rescue the country out of its sorry state. This is the need of the hour.”
The pro-India Annapurna Post held (2/2): "Let us wait for the achievements of the royal move that would be in par with the expectations of the people and the need of the country.”
INDIA: "The King Of A Jungle"
Aravinda R Deo wrote in the centrist Indian Express (2/3): "King Gyanendra of Nepal has dismissed the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and taken power into his own hands. This was not an altogether unexpected development, however unwelcome it might be to the democratic forces in Nepal or to the well-wishers of Nepali people in the rest of the world. By whatever name one may call it, it was a royal coup.... If successive governments in Nepal have been unable to overcome the challenge thrown by the insurgents it is because the self-styled Maobadis appear to offer hope to the poor and the downtrodden Nepali hill-people, the bulk of whom have been left out of any social or political empowerment and see no prospects of even a modicum of economic progress. King Gyanendra's word is therefore likely to carry little credibility with either the Maobadis or even the politically conscious and active elite.... A system based on an individual's power is at best fragile given the nature of human existence. An individual can seldom be an effective substitute for a working political institution.... What Nepal's ruling elite does to its polity (and also economy) can no longer remain an internal matter of that country if its impact is also felt by India. We need to rethink our Nepal policy, moving away from repeating the mantra that we wish Nepal well.... No other country in the world has as much vested interest in Nepal's 'success' as India has: no other country would face an adverse impact on its overall security as much as India would have. We need to have no vested interest in an individual but an institution. But above all we must have a conviction that without genuine democracy there can be no progress and stability in Nepal, and that is what we need to strive for."
An editorial in Mumbai-based centrist Marathi-language Dainik Lokmat read (2/3): "King Gyanendra claims that he has temporarily seized power in Nepal and that he will reinstate democracy there after three years. The world, especially countries which support the cause of democracy, has no other option than believing the king's words. But India cannot opt for such a detached political stance over the happenings in neighboring Nepal. India is unfortunately surrounded by countries where democratic governments have not had long lives. While democracy was never sustained in Pakistan, the democratically elected governments in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are also oft-threatened by terrorist offensives. The mounting tension in Nepal therefore adds to India's concerns.... If the power struggle intensifies in Nepal, King Gyanendra might have to use military force to calm down the Nepal Congress agitators. And if the King then seeks India's military support, it will be doubly difficult for India to face the crisis, especially considering the anti-India sentiment of the Maoists in Nepal. India has already burnt its fingers once with Sri Lanka, when it sent its military as a peace-keeping force in the eighties to that country at the height of the Tamil rebels' violent clashes with government forces there.... The Nepal crisis is also likely to affect India's internal security. This is mainly because if the Maoists in Nepal lock horns with King Gyanendra, the former may get support from the Maoist and Naxalite organizations in India.... Even if King Gyanendra now concentrates his energies on constructive development in Nepal and seeks India's assistance, it will be another tricky situation for India. India's help to the Nepalese King will in that case be perceived as encouragement to a killer of democracy."
"Stinker For Nepal But Door Still Ajar"
Pranay Sharma noted in the centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph (2/3): "India today described King Gyanendra's coup in Nepal as a 'violation of the constitution' but refused to make restoration of democracy a precondition for resuming engagement with Katmandu.... The Indian stand shows that Delhi does not want to be caught in a position where it has no links with the palace.... The fear that the king may be forced to seek help from other international players if pushed beyond a point is perhaps the reason why India has kept a small window open for him.... Though 'political turmoil' in Nepal was one of the reasons India cited for not attending the SAARC summit in Dhaka, Saran clarified that the possibility of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sharing the dais with Gyanendra was not part of the logic.... Saran argued that the turmoil in Nepal was bound to have a negative impact on India as the two countries share an open border. Indications are that India is making additional deployments to strengthen the porous border."
"King Gyanendra's Musharraf-like Ploy To Strangle Democracy In Nepal"
Right-of-center Gujarati-language Mumbai-based Gujarat Samachar maintained (2/3): "By dismissing the democratically elected Sher Bahudur Deuba government with the help of the army, King Gyanendra has acted like a military dictator. The recent turn of events is of great concern to India, which, being the immediate neighbor of the Himalayan kingdom, has strategic importance in the region. China, which is trying to impose communist rule in Nepal with the help of Maoist insurgents active there, may have been delighted with this new development. There are three buffer zones--Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan--between India and China. Tibet, which enjoys autonomy in name only, is being controlled and dictated to by China. Now China is eyeing Nepal and Bhutan. King Gyanendra's action to disconnect all means of information and communication clearly indicate his ulterior motive of grabbing power and calling the shots there. This is a well planned strategy to banish democracy from Nepal. It is unfortunate that even the Indian intelligence agencies failed to detect the impending crisis in Nepal. Not only India, but all nations across the globe should vociferously oppose King Gynendra's move of usurping power by making a mockery of democracy. The world will suffer bitterly if it remains a mute spectator at this juncture."
"Don't Count Out The Maoists"
The pro-economic reforms Economic Times declared (2/3): "After the much-needed condemnation of King Gyanendra's coup in Nepal, India will have to come to terms with the complex reality in the mountain kingdom. The King's actions have made an already difficult situation worse. New Delhi must prepare for an eventuality in which the people realize their aspirations for democracy in the Maoists, rather than in the mainstream parties that have discredited themselves over the years. Without the attractions of a democracy, the population, particularly in the countryside, could easily decide that the Maoists present an alternative that is more sensitive to their concerns. And as the monarchists, the mainstream parties and the Maoists fight it out without the benefit of democratic processes, this conflict could spill over a across the open boundaries with India. But the solution may not lie in being identified.... In these fluid circumstances Indian interests may be better served by trying to influence the rules of the game in Nepal in favor of democracy, rather than by being preoccupied with the question of who wins or loses.... India needs to exert whatever influence it has on the mountain kingdom to protect the rights of the political parties, even if an immediate return to democracy appears unrealistic. It could also mobilize support from the major powers to shield the people of Nepal from any authoritarian tendencies its king might have. Over the medium term India must also try to do what it can to create a dialogue between the three contending parties."
"Nepal's Palace Coup"
The centrist Hindu editorialized (2/2): "By dismissing Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for the second time in a little more than two years, King Gyanendra has not only acted against the spirit of Nepal's system of constitutional monarchy. He has, with reckless deliberation, plunged his country into a political freefall of the kind he will find very hard to control or reverse.... By declaring a state of emergency now, King Gyanendra has lifted the veil of ambiguity that covered his authoritarian and reactionary political agenda.... There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the increasing determination of the Government and its Maoist adversaries to settle Nepal's fate on the battlefield is, to a significant extent, the product of King Gyanendra's putschist politics. As Nepal, India, and the rest of the world contemplate his latest coup-within-a-coup, one thing is clear: it is this palace-engineered deportation of politics that has enabled military methods and military concerns to gain ascendancy.... True, New Delhi continuously urged the Palace to compromise with the political parties ranged against him and warned that the Maoists were taking advantage of the prevailing state of confusion. At the same time, the decision to sell arms to the Royal Nepal Army was seen as tacit endorsement of the King's authoritarian ways.... In fact, there is no military solution. In addition to urging the reversal of his illegitimate, anti-constitutional adventure and an immediate return to democracy, India needs to send this message to King Gyanendra, post-haste."
"Instability In Nepal"
Bangalore-based Kannada-language left-of-center Prajavani declared (2/2): "In a dramatic development, Nepal's King Gyanendra sacked Premier Sher Bahadur Deuba's coalition government. The king assumed absolute executive powers for the next three years and declared a state of emergency, plunging the country's battle with Maoist insurgency into a crisis. All the ministers were put under house arrest. Deuba who, was nominated by the king as prime minister in June last year, termed the action as 'anti-democracy,' which will throw the country into a 'grave crisis' and said that he will oppose this step."
"Turmoil In Nepal"
Independent Hindi-language influential leading Dainik Bhaskar editorialized (2/2): "Nestled in the valleys of Himalayas, Nepal is once again in the grip of monarchy.... A new political crisis has emerged before the nation.... It is true that Deuba's coalition government had not been able to control the ever-intensifying Maoist violence but what is the guarantee that peace and order would be restored under monarchy's emergency? The house arrest of political leaders would only reduce the chances of peace and order.... In fact, for some time past, Nepal has become the battleground of a tripartite conflict. There is anarchy in the country due to the monarchy, and political parties and Maoists' rebels going in different directions.... The roots of Maoist violence can be found in the economic and social conditions of the country. There is utter poverty.... More than 20 political parties, including the Nepali Congress and the Nepali Communist Party, have not been able to give a stable government to the country.... It is possible that after the declaration of emergency, Nepali forces might succeed in controlling the Maoist violence to some extent, but permanent peace can be restored only through dialogue. The formation of a democratic government is necessary to hold meaningful dialogue with insurgents.... It is quite natural for India to be concerned about events in Nepal. There are direct links between India's Leftist rebels and Nepal's Maoist insurgents. Therefore, the Indian Government would have to play a decisive role in restoring democracy in Nepal and in dealing with the tide of insurgency."
"Nepal Teeters To Edge"
The nationalist Hindustan Times concluded (2/2): "King Gyandendra's decision to dismiss the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and declare emergency in the Himalayan Kingdom is akin to pouring petrol on to a fire. He has not only queered the pitch for any alternate administration he may wish to install in Kathmandu, but also given the lie to his own claim of ushering in democracy in Nepal 'within three years'. This is a delicate conjuncture in Nepali politics, when Kathmandu has effectively lost control of most of the country and its only hope of restoring its authority lies in conciliation and negotiation, not in ham-handed action. Deuba had made holding elections, along with restoring peace, one of the top priorities for his government. But he shot his bolt when it became clear that the Maoists would not countenance elections just when they hold the trump cards.... But dismissing his government was not the best option. After all, where the mainstream parties still see constitutional monarchy as an option for their country, it is no secret that the Maoists see the monarchy as being redundant.... Expectations that King Gyanendra would stabilize the country following the 2001 palace massacre have been belied.... Neighbors like India, or for that matter well wishers like the U.S. or China, can do little to help the Nepalis when they seem determined not to help themselves. New Delhi, and the other friends of Kathmandu, need to urgently convince King Gyanendra that only through unity and dialogue will Nepal be able to step back from the brink it is teetering on."
"Turmoil In Nepal"
Influential Hindi-language Rashtriya Sahara noted (2/2): "Nepal's King Gyanendra has...unnecessarily created a political crisis in Nepal.... The King has alleged that the Deuba government has failed to safeguard democracy. In view of the growing influence and violence by Maoists, there is some truth in his allegation, but how does it justify the propriety of running the government.... India has rightly expressed concern over this turmoil.... It is true that the Maoist rebellion that began in 1996 is at its height today. It is also true that the insurgents have refused to talk to the government and to cease hostilities, but that does not mean the Deuba government should be dismissed.... What is the guarantee that after assuming all executive powers, King Gyanendra would be able to control the Maoists? The open indications of these events are that in the coming days, the situation of unrest and violence in Nepal could become more serious. It would not come as a surprise if the democratic political forces were to run a vast public campaign against the highhandedness of King Gyanendra in coalition with the Maoists.... The overall question is: Can democracy flourish in Nepal while there is monarchy?"
"Palace Vs People"
The centrist Times Of India stated (2/2): "As New Delhi joins the world in hailing Iraq's historic rendezvous with the ballot box, democracy is being banished from India's immediate neighbourhood. Even by New Delhi's notoriously ambivalent diplomacy, its disapproval of the events in Nepal was unequivocal. India was reacting to King Gyanendra's sacking of prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba citing the latter's failure to improve security in the face of the Maoist rebellion and his inability to hold elections.... By doing all this, the king is likely to worsen an already distressing situation.... The king's precipitate action will only serve to harden the Maoists' resolve to overthrow him and install a communist republic. The only sensible way to have dealt with the situation would have been for the king to encourage elections, however flawed. The important factor would have been to restore the credibility of the democratic process.... Neither the Maoists nor the political parties have demonstrated any faith in the present king. Any arrangement that he institutes will not have popular support. It can only be hoped that he will not opt for a military solution to the problem. India must counsel caution and press for an inclusive political solution. But, for a start, it would be advisable for New Delhi not to compound the problem by extending military assistance to the Royal Nepal Army as it is doing now. Nepal is India's strategic backyard. It is in our interest to see that the current situation is resolved speedily. But New Delhi's involvement must be low-key and unobtrusive if normalcy is to return to Nepal as soon as possible."
The centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph observed (2/2): "Monarchs are not the best defenders of democracies. By dismissing the government and assuming all powers for three years, Nepal's King Gyanendra has not only dealt a deadly blow to the country's fledgling democracy but also put the monarchy itself under a cloud.... It is true that democracy was not functioning smoothly in Nepal. The political parties failed to give the country even a semblance of stability. Governments rose and fell without completing their terms and, more important, without doing anything meaningful to stem the rot. Even the government of Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, which the king had installed after dissolving the elected parliament, failed in its two primary tasks--to revive the peace talks with the Maoists and to work out a political consensus for the next elections. But the failure of the peace process was mainly because of the rebels' refusal to return to the negotiating table, and the parties refused to cooperate with an unelected government whose legitimacy they questioned. But all these failures of governments and the parties cannot justify the king's action. For while it suppresses all freedoms, the royal intervention may actually help the rebels who have thrived on the weakening of democratic politics. King Gyanendra's indiscretion will also upset countries, particularly India, which aided Nepal's battle against the Maoists."
"Return Of Monarchy"
Independent Kolkata-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika declared (2/2): "Experimentation with democracy in Nepal has now been shelved.... True, democratic politicians failed to fulfill the countrymen's aspirations. Politicians' internecine squabbles, unethical ego clashes and constant power struggles not only rendered the elected government ineffective but also left parliament extraneous.... The problem is that limitations of the germinating democracy in Nepal have indirectly been validating the Maoist insurgents' contentions and politics. As a result, Nepalese people may ultimately be goaded to incline toward the Maoist struggle for building a communist republic by uprooting the monarchy. Only two options remain open to the public if at least the struggle between the palace and the Maoists emerge as the chief conflict and intermediary democratic forces and movements become irrelevant. One is Gyanendra's monarchy and the other is the Maoists' republic. Both these systems are loaded with inherent components of despotism.... Did the King of Nepal dismiss democracy as he felt certain about the victory of the palace and romping home of monarchy in direct conflict with the Maoists?"
"Crisis In Nepal"
Influential centrist Hindi-language Navbharat Times editorialized (2/2): "A political crisis is again facing Nepal with the dismissal of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's government by King Gyanendra.... Since then, Gyanendra has sacked four governments in three years. This time also, he has assumed all executive powers for the next three years and has put several important political leaders under house arrest. Since the constitution was adopted in 1948, Nepal has been caught in the struggle between monarchy and democracy. The former King had taken some definite measures for setting up democracy in the country but he was not totally successful. It was during this period that in 1996, Maoists had launched the campaign to turn Nepal into a communist country.... This sudden move to dismiss the government, put several leaders under house arrest, and capture the media shows King Gyanendra to be vehemently against democracy. Nepal is already facing a civil war-like situation because of the continuous Maoist struggle.... Gyanendra's recent step is bound to have a strong reaction among Maoists and the political parties supporting democracy. This might badly affect Nepal's law and order system. It has, therefore, become necessary for India to study the situation closely. Until a clear picture emerges, the security arrangements in the states bordering Nepal must be strengthened. Gyanendra has accused the government of going back on its promise to hold elections and to restore peace in the country. But the sudden dismissal of the government seems to be a step taken in extreme hurry. If he has any definite plan up his sleeves, it will be known only after some time."
"India Tried To Dissuade Gyanendra A Few Weeks Ago"
C. Raja Mohan wrote in the centrist Indian Express (2/2): "Having reacted sharply against King Gyanendra's coup in Kathmandu today, the Manmohan Singh government faces a huge challenge in matching its strong words with purposeful actions to change the unfortunate political course Nepal has been pushed onto. Re-establishing India's credibility with the monarchy is the first test for New Delhi.... What disturbs New Delhi, however, is the fact that it had sought to dissuade Gyanendra from a power-grab a few weeks ago. Similar signals from Washington and London apparently reinforced this message from New Delhi to Kathmandu. Clearly, King Gyanendra has calculated that when it comes to a choice between the monarchy and the Maoists, India and the international community would have no option but to side with him. India's swift reaction suggests it will not accept the choices presented by Gyanendra's fait accompli.... To get Gyanendra accept an early democratic restoration and initiate substantive reforms, India will have to signal that all policy options are open before it. Second, India would not want to be seen as acting alone.... Britain has reacted even more sharply than India to the coup.... The EU would certainly back this position. The US reaction, too, is expected to be strong.... The international community has been pressing India to take the lead in coping with the gathering political storm in Nepal.... A military strategy alone will not be able to defeat the Maoists, who have steadily gained ground. India must encourage the Nepali establishment to take on board much of the Maoist political and social agenda and initiate significant reforms. While drawing a red line against a forcible Maoist take over of Nepal, India must also find ways to engage the Maoists and promote a political dialogue between them and Kathmandu.... Given the political stakes in Nepal, India has little choice but to take up the onerous responsibility."
"The Maoists Will Become More Powerful, Delhi Fears"
Independent Kolkata-based Bengali-language Ananda Bazar Patrika remarked (2/2): "New Delhi has decided to pressure King Gyanendra in order to 'normalize' the situation in Nepal.... The recent development has heightened India's apprehensions that the consequences of clashes between the Maoists and the palace in Nepal will badly impact situations in bordering Indian states of Bihar, West Bengal and even in Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.... It is thought that the King's move has further jeopardized the scope of negotiation with the Maoists.... It is also feared that a lot of aspects relating to combating cross border terrorism will now be derailed.... The main concern for India will be tackling the probability of increased Maoist insurgency.... India naturally does not want Nepal to seek another country's help for assistance. At the same time, Delhi feels that India does not have much to do by entering into Nepal."
"Delhi Pushed Back To Square One"
K.P. Nayar commented in the centrist Kolkata-based Telegraph (2/2): "King Gyanendra's decision to put himself in Nepal's driving seat
has brought the neighboring Hindu kingdom back to square one for the UPA government which has been treating Kathmandu as a foreign policy priority.... India's top priority would be to see that Nepal does not go back to becoming a staging post for subversion against India as in the 1990s.... India's challenge stemming from...developments in Kathmandu is that these have come just as it appeared that New Delhi's pieces in Nepal were falling into place.... India will do nothing that will upset a painstakingly created security mechanism that has taken root.... It is significant that while South Block's statement on Gyanendra's decision to assume governing powers has described it as 'a serious setback to the cause of democracy', India has only expressed 'concern' and has not condemned the royal takeover.... The strikingly mild statement underlines India's 'longstanding and unique relationship with Nepal' and makes no threats for a return to political pluralism.... For many decision-makers in the UPA government, the dilemmas posed by Gyanendra's action will be a replay of King Birendra's attempts in the 1980s to suppress democracy and the kingdom's difficult road since then on the way to a constitutional monarchy."
"A King-sized Dilemma"
The centrist Indian Express argued (2/2): "By dismissing the government of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepal's King Gyanendra has added yet another chapter in the tragically repetitive pattern of Nepali politics; a pattern where the monarch appoints a prime minister only to dismiss him within a few months. The outcome always seems foreordained, because it is impossible to succeed as prime minister of Nepal. On the one hand, the prime minister is vulnerable to being undermined by the king.... Meanwhile a strong sense of deja vu has descended on the region. Nepal's political parties are deeply factionalized and too discredited to mount an effective protest. And India, which has more stakes in Nepal than in any other country, again appears indecisive and completely out of the loop. Although there were enough hints that the king would resort to precisely such a dismissal, the Government of India allowed itself to be taken by surprise once again. India has not had the courage to lean hard enough on the monarchy in order to make Nepal genuinely more democratic; nor has it cultivated Nepal's political parties and civil society enough to inspire trust and confidence. What is more, it has displayed neither a clear strategy nor a sense of purpose in dealing with its Himalayan neighbor. It would be a mistake on the part of King Gyanendra to assume that he can control Nepal, single-handed, and ensure lasting peace. The fact that there is no meeting ground between the Maoists and the king only points to a political vacuum that can only spell more uncertainty and chaos in the days ahead.... The king has to face up to the fact that public unrest in Nepal will not subside unless there is a new constitution and genuine democracy. But this is something the king is unlikely to accede to. India, however, should actively support all efforts to achieve such an outcome. A functioning democracy offers the only way out of Nepal's current problems."
BRITAIN: "Nepal Must Not Be Allowed To Slide Into Tyranny"
The center-left Independent commented (2/3): "Far from solving Nepal's problems, the King's revocation of fundamental rights will only perpetuate the conflict and the suffering of the impoverished Nepalese people. Britain, America and India have armed the Nepalese forces in their battle with the Maoists. The onus should now be on these countries to pressure the King to restore democratic institutions and a government with the legitimacy to sue for peace."
"Failed Himalayan State"
The conservative Daily Telegraph opined (2/3): "India views both the insurgency...and the state of emergency with dismay. Yet its bitter experience in Sri Lanka in 1987 has made it chary of directly intervening in a neighbour's affairs. Britain and America realise the threat the Maoists pose, but believe that sidelining the political parties plays into rebel hands. The late crown prince horrified the world in 2001 by shooting his father and other relations before killing himself. Nearly four years on, his uncle has brought renewed odium on the family by arbitrary action that holds little chance of success. One wonders how long the monarchy can survive."
The independent Financial Times observed (2/3): "The thinking behind India's decision yesterday to snub the king by not attending a south Asian summit in Bangladesh, thus prompting its cancellation, is unclear. A useful first step would be for India to co-ordinate its diplomatic pressure on Nepal with other governments. There will not be much argument about the goal, which is to restore stability and democracy to Nepal as soon as possible."
"Crisis In Kathmandu: The King's Coup Threatens Nepalese Democracy"
The conservative Times opined (2/2): "Instability in Nepal threatens all in the region, especially India, itself struggling against rebels in the north east. Delhi bears a large responsibility, however. For too long it has bullied or ignored Nepal. It could have done much more to cut off arms to the Maoists, and must do so now. The West must urge the King to rescind a move that is a betrayal of his citizens. And Nepal's neighbours, who have been too willing to exploit the country's instability, must exercise a calming influence."
Peter Sturm said in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/2): "In Nepal, the king decided again to do everything on his own. It is unclear where the confidence comes from that he would succeed. In the small mountainous state, the monarchy is by no means as uncontroversial as it is elsewhere. Over the past years, the family of the king has not distinguished itself with a wise leadership. Of course, it is true that the government of Prime Minister Deuba, which the king has now deposed for the second time, failed to get the Maoist rebels under control. But why should the struggle against them be more effective now of all times? The democratic institutions in Nepal seem to be unable to reach a consensus. The king, who is said not to be interested in democracy, has thwarted it now completely. This is a dangerous course."
"Genie Out Of The Bottle"
Karl Grobe argued in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (2/2): "Nepal's King Gyanendra allowed the genie of civil war to get out of the bottle, but he will hardly be able to force it back. He represents one of the tree power centers in the country. The democratic parties are the second, and the farmers' revolutionaries, which are called Maoists, and their intellectual leaders are the third power center. And the king cannot even be sure that this army with of 79,000 armed forces is loyal to him.... As a matter of fact, the revolutionary movement controls almost all rural areas in the country, regions in which 42 percent of the Nepalese live below the poverty line and for whom parliamentarism, parties and democracy mean almost nothing. A parliament has not existed for over three years now anyway and now there is no political force either that could offer reforms and peace talks. This means all obstacles have now been removed for civil war where everyone fights against each other. And Gyanendra will be the first to lose, unless he will reach an agreement with the Maoists."
"King Beyond All Measure"
Bernhard Imhalsy stated in leftist die tageszeitung of Berlin (2/2): "The king has staged a coup to come to power; Nepal is currently offering a bizarre play. For the fourth time in four years, the King deposed the government.... The number of deposed and new governments shows that the King is unable to take advantage of the crises he caused.... These are unmistakable indications that the almost 15-year old democracy in Nepal is increasingly eroding. And there is no doubt that the democratically elected politicians are also to blame for this. For years, they have been more interested in privileges and intrigues than in the well-being of the state.... The most important states, the U.S. and India, again prefer stability over democracy. They like to adorn themselves with the title of the largest and oldest democracies in the world. But this seems to be true only for their own countries. Outside their own borders only those things count that stabilize their own power and international stability, be it, like in neighboring Pakistan, a dictator or, like in Nepal, a power-hungry king."
SAUDI ARABIA: "High-Risk Strategy"
The pro-government English-language Arab News stated (2/3): "There has been widespread international condemnation of the decision by Nepal’s King Gyanendra to sack his government, suspend democracy for three years and declare a state of emergency. Most significantly, India has expressed its displeasure by refusing to attend next week’s SAARC summit in Bangladesh.... It was only in 1990 that Nepal abandoned an absolutist monarchy and took some faltering steps toward democracy. Unfortunately it has not been well served by its inexperienced elected politicians, whose bickering, ineffectiveness and tendency to corruption have often paralyzed government. In short, while the Maoist rebels, with their ambition to establish a communist government grew stronger, politicians fumbled and failed.... The king’s assumption of power constitutes a high-risk strategy because it alienates all political parties and many foreign governments, in particular the key regional player, India. It also means that if the security situation does not improve, there is no one to blame but the king himself. That said, the Maoist rebels had been demanding direct talks with the monarch, seeking to bypass the now-ousted government of Prime Minister Deuba.... It is very hard to see how an absolute monarchy can find any common ground with diehard Maoist communists. Yet the king may have in mind that he possesses greater authority than a shaky and failing elected government to seek consensus.... Unfortunately unless he can win the cooperation of his big neighbors, it is hard to see how the Maoists can be cut off and overcome. Equally if the king wishes to address the rural poverty and privation on which the Maoist rebels have fed, he will need significant international financial assistance.... Much will depend on the nature of his rule. If it is unjust and cruel, it will merely drive more Nepalese into the arms and camps of the rebels, outrage international opinion and propel the country toward yet more misery and violence."
UAE: "Impolitic Action On A Sensitive Issue"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News held (2/2): "The sacking of Nepal's government by King Gyanendra has thrown the country, already wracked by a Maoist insurgency, into fresh turmoil. The king has often been accused of overstepping his powers and the latest move shows his unhappiness over the handling of the rebels and the inability of the government to move ahead with peace talks. This is the fourth time he has sacked a prime minister in less than three years in a country that has not had a parliament since 2002. The road to peace is long and hard and must be pursued with patience. Though the sacked prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, had promised to go ahead with polls despite a civil war in the country, some of his Cabinet colleagues understood the futility of doing so. The legacy King Birendra, who was gunned down in June 2001, bequeathed his Nepali subjects was a parliamentary democracy backed firmly by a constitutional monarchy. The latest move by King Gyanendra, his brother, is a setback to democracy and he will have to try all the more harder to win the confidence of the people. Placing politicians under house arrest is definitely not the first step towards achieving that."
"Farce In Nepal"
The expatriate-oriented Engish-language Khaleej Times declared (2/2): "Nepal's King Gyandendra has done what comes naturally to him: sparking yet another constitutional crisis in his troubled kingdom with an imperious wave of his hand. Of course, Nepal hadn’t been all serene and peaceful when Gyanendra arrived on the scene.... The king can’t escape the responsibility for compounding his country’s troubles by his disastrous experiments in governance. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the terrible price the kingdom’s unfortunate people have had to pay for their monarch’s expensive mistakes, Nepal farce would be a steady source of comic relief for the rest of the world.... Nepal is a constitutional monarchy. That is, the monarch...has a limited and symbolic role to play in the country’s affairs. As long as the king does not clearly understand this and remains within his constitutional limits, Nepal will continue to suffer from these periodic bouts of political sickness. By constantly interfering with the country's political process...the king is not only exacerbating Nepal’s myriad woes, but he is playing havoc with its institutions. Political leadership, as the king argues, may have failed in dealing with the many challenges the country faces. However, that’s no excuse.... Nepal faces some of the toughest challenges ever faced by any country in the region. It remains one of the poorest countries in the world.... Its tourism-based economy has been shattered by the Maoist insurgency that has plagued the country for the past many years.... Dealing with these challenges is not easy by any means for any government. They require persistent efforts and long-term solutions. And the king has never allowed political leadership enough time and space to operate. If the monarch doesn’t change his mindset and his ways any time soon, Nepal’s very existence as an independent state is at stake."
"Crisis In Himalayas"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today noted (2/2): "King Gyanendra has dismissed the government and clamped emergency rule.... Unless immediately dealt with, the situation can snowball into a regional crisis.... The deterioration of the political situation in Nepal has been steady. With the Maoist rebellion continuing to cause immense harm to the country's economy and security, the Deuba government had failed to make use of the opportunity it was given by the king. In a sense, the king was right when he accused the politicians of failing.... However, the dismissal of the political system can only worsen the situation.... An already shattered economy will not be able to take any more blows."
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "King's Coup Is A Step Backwards For Nepal"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post said (2/3): "The king of Nepal has seized power in the name of sovereignty, security and democracy. But his actions have plunged his troubled nation into a fresh crisis--and they bear all the hallmarks of a coup. King Gyanendra sacked the government on Tuesday and replaced it with a new cabinet selected and led by himself.... The seizure of power has been condemned by India and the U.S.--governments the king needs support from in his war against the rebels. His actions are a step backwards for Nepal. The king, no doubt, hopes that by taking control he will be able to restore the monarchy's authority and ensure its survival. But this is a big gamble with high stakes. There is every chance that his heavy-handed, unconstitutional assumption of power will fuel opposition to the monarchy and mark the beginning of its downfall. King Gyanendra says he will restore democracy in three years. This is not acceptable. He should do so immediately. Nepal faces huge problems as it strives for peace and stability. The king's seizure of power is likely to make them worse."
JAPAN: "Nepal Declares State Of Emergency"
An editorial in liberal Asahi read (2/2): "Nepalese King Gyanendra declared a state of emergency Tuesday and dismissed the cabinet led by Prime Minister Deuba. The King's move appears to be aimed at solidifying his grip on the parliament. The nation is heading toward chaos with Maoist communists intensifying their anti-monarch struggle throughout the mountainous country.... Party officials have said the latest political upheaval is tantamount to a 'coup' and have expressed concern about a possible clash between the military and political party supporters, as well as with the Maoist guerrillas. The triangular political stalemate will likely continue for some time as the King tries to preserve his influence while political parties scramble to restore parliamentary authority through elections. Conducting elections will be the first step in restoring order, but truce negotiations between the King and Maoist rebels must come first."
MALAYSIA: "Nepal Fails To Block Communists"
Government-influenced Malay-language Utusan Malaysia maintained (2/1): "The political power struggle in Nepal involves three parties, namely the king, the government and the rebels. The king who ought to be a symbolic figurehead often interferes in state politics.... What is feared is that if the Maoist guerrillas, who control Nepal, carry out ruthless actions similar to that in Cambodia, this will certainly become a disaster for the unfortunate people of the country."
CANADA: "The Wrong Path To Democracy In Nepal"
The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (2/3): "The king of Nepal has suspended civil liberties and assumed absolute rule, all in the name of democracy. He's not fooling anyone.... To save Nepal's constitutional monarchy from rebels seeking communism, the king has imposed a dictatorship. Many dictators have tried to argue that the path to peace and democracy goes through the dark tunnel of authoritarianism. Pakistan is still working its way out of the tunnel; many states get stuck there forever. The promise of democracy is no substitute for democracy itself. As for Nepal, it's hard to see how cut phone lines, ostentatious army patrols and a dissolved government will lead to peace and freedom. It's even unclear why the king believes his assumption of absolute power will help him defeat the rebellion. As the Jan. 30 election in Iraq showed, elections can take place even in the midst of conflict. If the king truly believes in democracy, he should show it by holding free elections and relinquishing power."
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