Monday, April 24, 2006 - Nepal's Crisis - Nepal's Crisis: "

Nepal's Crisis
April 24, 2006

Once upon a time, a little Buddhist kingdom's political unrest wouldn't mean much to the rest of the world. No more. Authoritarian King Gyanendra's offer to return 'power to the people' on Friday did little to quell violent pro-democracy protests and chat of a 'failed state' in South Asia. The clash is worrying to Washington, which doesn't want a terrorist haven, but downright scary for neighboring India and China, who don't want the mess spilling over their borders. Given Beijing's lackluster diplomacy, it's up to New Delhi to try to broker a peace.
[King Gyanendra]

To India's credit, that process has begun -- if belatedly. After all, it's been well over a year since the King seized authoritarian power, claiming that only he could suppress Nepal's Maoist rebel uprisings. India, like the U.S. and the U.K., decried the move. Yet in the months that followed, little concerted, concentrated diplomatic pressure was exerted on the king to restore parliamentary democracy. New Delhi seemed more focused on domestic economic problems and negotiations with Pakistan than with little Nepal.

What a miscalculation. While Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's Congress Party dawdled, Nepal's seven opposition political parties formed a loose alliance with the Maoists -- in New Delhi, no less -- and embarked on a general stike that's morphed into a grassroots push for a return to democracy. The King dug in. After two straight weeks of violent protests and police crackdowns this month, India's foreign minister and a "special envoy" finally shuttled up to Kathmandu last week to chat with the beleaguered king and the opposition political parties"...

The Maoists have cannily slowed their attacks over the last few weeks to win international support. But that's the exception, not the rule. Until the rebels renounce their armed struggle -- through which they have killed over 12,500 innocents -- including them in peace talks only rewards terrorism. King Gyanendra's Friday offer might not have been the right one, but at least it's a start toward compromise. Now it's up to India, one of the world's most vibrant democracies, to cajole both the palace and the parties toward peace.

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