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Nepal arms on hold after Left volley

New Delhi, April 25: After giving a clear indication about resuming arms supplies to Nepal, the Manmohan Singh government today took a step back after some strong condemnation from its key ally, the CPM.

It said arms supply would not be revived unless King Gyanendra took serious steps to restore democracy. Supplies were cut off after the king declared emergency, assuming charge himself.

The hint that resumption was on the cards came in Jakarta after a meeting between Singh and the king.

Yesterday, the CPM was the first to oppose the move. 'There should be no question of resuming arms supplies to a despotic king who suppresses the elementary democratic rights of the people. The UPA government must realise that the appreciation and goodwill it earned with its firm stand in defence of democracy and popular government in Nepal will disappear,' the politburo had said.

The statement was Prakash Karat's first strike on behalf of the CPM against the government since taking over as general secretary.

Today's linking of arms supply revival to restoration of democracy is the result of the realisation that more forces could join the Left and turn the move into a major controversy, souring the success of talks with China and Pakistan.

After his meeting with Singh on the sidelines of the Asian African Conference in Jakarta on Saturday, the king had claimed that India had given a commitment to resume arms supply. The Prime Minister had left the issue open when later he said India would look at Nepal's request for arms 'in the proper perspective'.

This was interpreted in most quarters as an attempt to resume supply. Till last evening, government sources had given clear indications that a consignment of ammunition that was in the pipeline would be supplied soon.

The Indian leadership has said that during the talks, the king had unveiled a roadmap for restoring democracy. Although details of what the monarch said were not shared, it was suggested that Gyanendra would take urgent steps to restore the situation that prevailed before February 1 when he clamped emergency.

On April 30, the ordinance the king issued to impose emergency expires. Opinion in Delhi as well Kathmandu suggests he might not extend the ordinance. Though it is not clear if such a step would mean the king's willingness to shed powers, it would certainly a step towards restoration of democracy.

Earlier, Indian officials had been suggesting that despite differences with the king, the threat posed by the Maoists in Nepal was a much more serious concern for Delhi. Plans to resume arms supplies flow from this assessment.

The king had told Indian leaders he would like to hold municipal polls in areas where the Maoists were not strong and gradually complete the process in the entire country.

Notwithstanding the assurance given by the king, considering resumption of supply was an admission by India that its policy of boycotting the king had not worked.

It may now have to go back to the drawing board again.

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