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Association of Retired Senior IPS Officers (ARSIPSO)

This is with reference to my letter No. ARSIPSO/GS-BSD-4/2023 dated. 10/08/2023 on the 4th B.S. Das Memorial Lecture, which had to be rescheduled for unavoidable reasons.

The 4th B.S.Das Memorial Lecture to be delivered by Shri Anil Kumar Sinha, IAS (Retd.), on the subject Disaster Management: Creating Safer Communities, has now been rescheduled for October 14, 2023 as per the following:

Conference Room No. 2, India International Centre, Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi, October 14, 2023 (Saturday)

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Although Indian political parties have been supporting the democratic movement in Nepal right from the 1960s, the 1990 constitution was virtually imposed on King Birendra as a result of a struggle in which the Nepali Congress and the Communists forced King to accept constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy. However, the constitution was prepared by a committee appointed by the King and not by elected constituent assembly. On the vital question of the institution of monarchy, the Royalists and the Nepali Congress joined hands to ensure that the King retained a central place in the constitution and exercised lot of powers. The Communists were isolated and felt betrayed. In the 1991 election, the radical left (United People’s Front) won 9 seats and emerged as the third largest group. The CPN (Maoist), the present day incarnation, has continued to demand till this day a people’s constitution through an elected constituent assembly. Infighting and corruption within the Nepali Congress, poor performance and misgovernance at all levels of administration resulted in popular disenchantment with the political process and emergence of Maoist extremism in Nepal. King Gyanendra who came to the throne following the bizarre events of June, 1, 2001, is facing the growing challenge of the Maoist insurgents who run parallel administration in many districts. They are present in 70 (out of 75) districts with strong presence in nearly 50 of them. After initial success in counter insurgency operations the Army and the Police seem no longer able to deal with the insurgents. Gyandendra began to rule by proxy through pliant Prime Minster since October 2002 and made efforts for peace talks. But these talks failed to produce any lasting solution. After the recent Royal take over on 1st February, 2005, the number of attacks by the Maoists went up. The main demands of the Maoists are all party conference, interim government and elections for a Constituent Assembly.

Later, they added UN intervention and facilitation by great powers. Their main objective is liquidation of autocratic monarchy supported by the Royal Nepal Army. The political parties in Nepal are thoroughly discredited and remain in disarray. Of the three power centers – The King, the political parties and the Maoists – the political parties have the least credibility and lack popular support. In his proclamation King Gyanendra has promised to give up direct rule in three years by which time he hoped to be able to settle the Maoist problem, conduct elections and restore democracy. Though he lifted the emergency on 30th April, 2004, press censorship continues and public meetings and demonstrations are still banned. Many political leaders continue to remain in prison.

Indian has a dilemma. It has always stood for constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy in Nepal. India is vitally interested in ensuring peace
and stability in Nepal without which its strategic and economic interests will be jeopardized. If the King loses out to the Maoists, India would have to live with a Maoist radical regime next door while its own Maoist extremists outfits are spreading terror in several states within India. On the other hand, if the King eventually succeeds in dealing with the rebels with military help from India and/or other countries, the democratic political process would be arginalized and the monarchy would be sustained forever. It would be unwise to strengthen King Gyanendra’s hands in the hope that he would handover power and restore democratic process once he is able to deal with the Maoist challenge. Historically, the Nepalese monarchy has worked against Indian interests. The political parties in Nepal are not in a position to mount serious challenge to the King through any movement for restoration of democracy. The King, meanwhile, is busy strengthening his position. The Maoists, though well entrenched in other parts of the country are not in a position to overrun Kathmandu. Both sides have reached a strategic parity of sorts. The tide, however, will turn against the King if the Nepalese security forces do not receive adequate equipment, arms & ammunitions and fail to secure support from the people. The steadily growing links of the Nepalese Maoists with their counterparts in India pose serious long-term threat to India’s security. India, therefore, clan not be an idle watcher and cannot afford to let the pot boil. It should play a proactive role and try to bring the King, the political parties and the Maoists to a position where a constitutional monarchy could be stablished and the parliament restored. The task is difficult because the Maoists neither trust the King nor the political parties enjoy very little popular support and are mainly busy fighting amongst themselves. The King wants to sustain the monarchy and he does not trust India. India, for that matter, has no reason to trust the King either.

Yet, however difficult the task appears to be, India has to work towards the goal of bringing the three power centers of Nepal together and setting up a
constitutional democracy by defining the role of the monarchy. India needs to play its cards carefully and ensure that the crisis does not deepen further. In the ltimate analysis, constitutional democracy along can fulfill popular aspirations and promote economic and social development of Nepal and thereby effectively meet the challenge of Maoist extremism. There are signs that the Maoist rebels and the seven political parties are making efforts to make common cause and sink their differences with the aim of abolishing the nstitution of monarchy. In the past, all previous talks had collapsed on the issue of the demand for a Republican state by the Maoists. Meanwhile, King Gyanendra has recently revived Indian hopes for a transit corridor between India and China with a view to obtaining Indian assistance in fighting the Maoist insurgents and buying time for consolidating his own position. India will need all its diplomatic and negotiating skills to constructively engage the King and make his look up to India for limited economic and military assistance. Limited supply of arms to the King will also provide India with a leverage vis-à-vis the Maoists because they fear Indian military intervention and most and may therefore agree to come to the negotiating table at India’s bidding.

In the foreseeable future, the biggest danger in Nepal is the grim possibility of the Maoist insurgents wresting control of the government and establishing a radical regime. India has to remain alert to this turn of events and ensure that this scenario does not become a reality.

The views and facts stated above are entirely the responsibility of the author and do not reflect the views of this Association in any manner.

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