India privy to no pact to save Nepal king: envoy

May 15th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 15 (IANS) India’s newly appointed envoy to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, Thursday categorically denied reports of a secret pact forged two years ago between his government, the major political parties and embattled King Gyanendra, and said India respected the Nepali people’s verdict for a republic and was ready to work with whichever government that came to power with the people’s mandate. Appearing at his maiden press conference in the capital, Sood was asked if it was true that in 2006, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh had sent former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir - and King Gyanendra’s relative by marriage - Dr Karan Singh to broker a clandestine agreement.

There has been a strong belief in Nepal that King Gyanendra returned absolute power to parliament April 2006 only after India mediated with the opposition parties and the Maoists to broker a pact that guaranteed the continuation of monarchy in exchange.

It is believed that the pact stipulated that though he would be stripped of all previous power and privileges, the king would nevertheless be retained as a ceremonial monarch.

The belief gained ground after the king, in a rare interview to a local daily, hinted at a secret understanding and said he would speak out when the time was ripe.

Sood Thursday rejected the reports as well as fresh ones that India was also trying to save beleaguered Nepali Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who faces ouster as head of government once a new one headed by the former Maoist guerrillas comes to power.

The Indian envoy said it was absolutely incorrect to say that he had proposed to the Maoist leadership to retain Koirala as a ceremonial president once the post of prime minister went to Maoist chief Prachanda.

Asked if the transition from a constitutional monarchy to a republic would be smooth after May 28, the fateful day when Nepal’s newly elected constituent assembly will formally proclaim Nepal a republic, ending its 239-year-old monarchy, Sood said some of the transition had already started taking place.

He pointed out that the constitution was amended some months ago, making the prime minister the head of state instead of the king.

“I presented my credentials to the prime minister,” he said, alluding to the earlier practice of envoys presenting their credentials to the king at the Narayanhity royal palace.

The practice was scrapped by the new government of opposition parties that came to power in 2006 after the fall of the royal regime following a national uprising.

Sood added that the new government must be a national one that should include the Maoists, the party that emerged as the largest one after the April 10 election, and other large parties, and work on the basis of consensus.

Its main focus should be drafting within two years a new constitution that should maintain the territorial integrity of Nepal, reflect the political, social and economic aspirations of the people and provide justice and equality.

Regarding the call by the Maoists to scrap the Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950, Sood said that it was not a new demand.

After similar calls in 2001, India and Nepal had begun talks at the foreign secretary level to address the issues involved in the treaty, he said.

However, following the massacre of the royal family in 2001 which triggered mounting political turmoil added to an ongoing Maoist insurgency, the discussions were shelved.

When a new government comes to power, Sood said India was ready to resume talks for a mutually acceptable agreement.

Asked if India wanted the UN to continue assisting in the management of the Maoist arms and combatants, he said the agency had come at the invitation of the government of Nepal and would go when Nepal deemed it necessary.

The issue of integrating the Maoist army with the national army was a very complex and sensitive one, he said, and could be implemented only on the basis of basic principles agreed upon by the political parties.

India had a lot of experience in the area and would be happy to respond positively to any request from Nepal for help on this issue, he said.

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