| King Gyanendra at an Army Day parade. (AFP)
New Delhi, May 10: King Gyanendra has forced India to blink.
After weeks of ambiguity, Delhi finally announced today it would resume arms supply to Nepal, ignoring opposition from Nepalese democratic forces as well as its Left allies.
Arms supply has been on hold since February 1, the day the king sacked the Sher Bahadur Deuba government and imposed emergency in Nepal, keeping most powers in his own hands.
India backed its decision this evening with the hope that the king would soon take urgent steps towards 'restoration of multiparty democracy and constitutional monarchy' ' the two pillars on which Nepal’s stability and progress depend. This would also equip Nepal to take on the Maoist challenge better, it said.
Delhi’s move to resume arms supplies comes at the end of 100 days of Gyanendra’s rule. The king had earlier assured world leaders he would restore democracy in 100 days.
The move also comes at a time when the Asian Centre for Human Rights has published its report detailing incidents of rights violations since the king took charge.
The Indian flip-flop over the arms supplies began when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the king in Jakarta last month. This afternoon, foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna cleared the air, all the while downplaying the decision.
'With the lifting of the emergency in Nepal on April 29, 2005, and the release of several political party leaders and activists, the government of India has decided to release some of the supplies currently in the pipeline, including vehicles,' he said.
Delhi appeared keen to indicate that the supplies in the pipeline were not arms but 'trucks, night vision equipment, boots etc'. Sceptics feel this is just the beginning before big-ticket defence hardware items find their way into Nepal.
Delhi’s decision was conveyed to the king by the Indian ambassador in Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, when the two met in Kathmandu yesterday. South Block stressed that Mukherjee had conveyed to the king India’s firm stand on restoring democracy in Nepal.
The Left parties said they did not agree with the government’s assessment. 'The conditions of emergency remain and it has been lifted only on paper,' the CPI said. Several political leaders were still behind bars and the media was totally under the king’s control, it said in a statement.