The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hush-hush errand for king's aide

New Delhi, Feb. 25: An emissary of Kathmandu's King Gyanendra is currently here, working on backchannel talks with the Indian government after its strong disapproval of the monarch's coup and suspension of military aid.

Sharad Chandra Shah, an aide to King Gyanendra who played a controversial role in the 1990 movement that led to a parliamentary system in Nepal, reached New Delhi yesterday ostensibly on a low profile private visit. But he is understood to be working the Indian ministry of external affairs.

Shah's credentials are suspect in the Indian establishment that has urged the palace to reverse the coup, lift the ban on media censorship and restore the electoral system. A former Pancha, Shah has the king's ears since another adviser to the palace, Prabhakar Rana, met with royal disapproval.

Shah, a restaurateur in Singapore, has always been a hardline monarchist. Just after Nepal adopted the parliamentary system and a constitutional monarchy in 1990, his business was to be investigated by a commission. But the palace did not grant permission for investigations into alleged defalcations of public funds in the panchayat regime.

An emissary from the king is expected to try to drive home the message in New Delhi that it should be as deeply concerned by the threat of the Maoists who have organised a blockade that is crippling the economy of the Himalayan kingdom.

The blockade is taking a toll on Indian businesses and some are considering winding up their operations in Nepal. The blockade has been on since February 13.

In a meeting with newspaper editors in Kathmandu yesterday, the king had said he would explore alternative sources of replenishing the Royal Nepal Army in its war against the Maoists because India has not been supplying military hardware since February 1.

Pakistan and China are the two notable powers that have not criticised the royal coup, unlike India, the US and the UK.

In a report released yesterday, the Brussels-based conflict watchdog, International Crisis Group, said: 'Nepal's friends must act together quickly to prevent the state from collapsing and to help tackle the Maoist insurgency.'

'If the world simply rolls over and accepts this coup, the chances of greater violence and even a Maoist victory will only increase,' said its president Gareth Evans.

'This is not the time for 'wait and see'. Nepal needs immediate, co-ordinated international action,' Evans said.

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