Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Portentous Pieces Of The Peace Puzzle

Struggling to regain the initiative on Nepal, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has appointed Dr. Karan Singh as his special envoy to the kingdom.
With the situation in the Himalayan kingdom threatening to spiral out of control, New Delhi seems to be more worried than the palace is.
A former federal minister and a senior member of the Congress party, Dr. Karan Singh is the son of Hari Singh, the last maharajah of Kashmir. Hari Singh, one may recall, supposedly signed the controversial instrument of accession that merged the Muslim-majority state into Hindustan – something that has kept India and Pakistan at each other’s throats ever since.
As someone personally familiar with the gravity of seemingly benign twists and turns that go on to determine a nation’s future for generations, Dr. Karan Singh is perhaps the perfect man for Nepal. The Indian media are going ga-ga over Prime Minister Singh’s exercise of “Rajput diplomacy.”
What must not be forgotten here is that Kunwar Natwar Singh, who was forced to resign as foreign minister amid allegations of shadiness relating to Saddam Hussein’s oil-for-food scandal, was also a scion of a princely family – that of Bharatpur, to be precise. He proved to be an implacable opponent of King Gyanendra’s takeover of full political control 14 months ago.
Dr. Karan Singh’s family ties to Nepalese royalty are widely expected to bolster his ability to persuade King Gyanendra of the need for reconciliation. Not that the monarch really needs it, considering that the Seven-Party Alliance (SPA) is the side rebuffing repeated royal overtures.
More importantly, Dr. Karan Singh might be more receptive to the concerns of the king, something that has been lacking in New Delhi from the outset of the crisis. A sympathetic understanding of King Gyanendra’s views could do much to moderate the extremism being peddled as informed advice to the Indian government.
Amid the latest flurry of initiatives, restoring the parliament dissolved prematurely in 2002 by then-Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has gained ground as an option. Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, the man who led Nepal’s transition from a partyless system to multiparty democracy in 1990, is rumored to be the next premier.
Both factions of the Nepali Congress revere Bhattarai. Whether they would accept him as premier after the anti-monarchy momentum of the last fortnight remains unclear.
That, moreover, is less important than whether the leaders of both factions would be able to persuade younger Congress activists of the need to retain the monarchy as a bulwark of stability.
The communist factions in the SPA can either go along with the Congress or join hands with the Maoists. The Maoists, for their part, have made the former likelier by their headlong rush to claim credit for the unexpectedly large public participation in mass demonstrations and, worse, by questioning the SPA’s leadership abilities.
Indeed, the mode and mechanism for creating a constituent assembly that would draft a new constitution – clearly the last remaining principal demand of the Maoists – would have to win the confidence of the rebels.

Alarming Accuracy
Buried in media reports on New Delhi’s fresh activism is a more ominous development. The Indian Army seems to have succeeded in conveying to Prime Minister Singh the urgency of restoring links with the Royal Nepalese Army.
Those alarmed by the possibility of the Chinese and Pakistanis stepping into the void created by the military embargoes imposed by India, United States and Britain may have finally prevailed.
Coupled with recent American moves to impress upon the RNA generals and mid-level commanders the risk of sticking their necks out for the monarch, however, the whole ambience acquires a sinister touch.
In its latest analysis on Nepal, Stratfor suggests the latest initiatives might just be laying the ground for an eventual military coup against the monarchy.
And, lest we forget, Stratfor’s accuracy in predicting coups is largely behind the reputation it has built today.