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Delhi thorn for king crown

Islamabad, Feb. 15: India has decided to continue turning the screws on King Gyanendra to release political leaders, student leaders and human rights activists and restore democracy.

New Delhi believes that the Nepal king has isolated himself with his retrograde action. The so-called 'China card' that Nepal kings are prone to play on Indian sensitivities has also been rendered somewhat meaningless. The US is understood to have conveyed to India that it would persuade China not to fish in troubled waters in Nepal.

Yet another indication of India's desire not to endorse the actions of the Nepal monarch is that Amnesty International is now going to hold its media briefing on Nepal in the Indian capital on Thursday.

The very mention of Amnesty International used to be anathema to New Delhi earlier. However, now, Irene Khan, the secretary-general of Amnesty International, who was in Kathmandu assessing the human rights situation, is returning to Delhi tomorrow in preparation for a major media briefing on Nepal.

'Who are we to tell anyone whether to hold or not hold a press conference in India' an official accompanying the external affairs minister to Afghanistan and Pakistan said.

Such feigned ignorance notwithstanding, what is true, however, is that Amnesty International did not want to embarrass India in any way and had been indirectly told last week to take the press conference elsewhere. Amnesty was thinking of Bangkok as an alternative to New Delhi.

But the obduracy of the king and his inability to hear what India and the international community have been advising him of late have brought about a qualitative change in thinking in Delhi.

Indeed, according to sources, external affairs minister Natwar Singh apparently almost gave the Nepalese ambassador Karna Dhoj Adhikari a list of issues that India would like the king to consider to retrace his steps. The ministry of external affairs later released this as a summary of the conversation between Singh and Adhikari.

'The king should realise that no one in the international community is with him,' said a senior government source. He added: 'As for military aid from India, all of it has stopped, including what was in the pipeline.'

However, India is not going to take extreme steps in the hope that the king can still be persuaded to see sense and restore what he has undone.

The Indian official position seems to be that the king should initiate action to work out a common strategy with the political parties to tackle the Maoists.

While the revival of Parliament remains a way out, Indian officials believe that it may not be an immediate prospect and are willing to support a progressive movement towards that goal.

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