The 13th SAARC Summit and the World Summit on Information Society had just completed in Dhaka and Tunis respectively. King Gyanendra led the Nepalese delegation to both summits. His participation was criticized by several political leaders and also by a segment of Nepalese society stating that the he does not represent the country and the people of Nepal and his participation on these summits were meaningless. Several arguments were put against the King’s participation.
Foreign Minister Mr. Ramesh Nath Pandey in a weekly magazine “Nepali Times” (8-14 July 2005) characterized the king as experienced, matured, a man of decision, assertive, having clarity of vision, well read, well versed, hard working, a true believer in the democratic norms and principle, and so on.
His remarks about the king perplexed me. I thought that Minister Pandey was psychopath. I found nothing and not a single example that supports his eulogy about the king. I was stunned going through his interview that a man like Mr Pandey who worked under three kings and is serving his sixth tenure as Minister could deceive the people by giving such a statement about the king at a time when the king has recently grabbed power from the elected representatives of the people. I consoled myself keeping in mind that this is natural and understandable that a politician could appease his master in a country like Nepal to maintain special relations with him. My observation was that the king ascended to the throne just a few years back and was a novice king lacking knowledge to rule the country as an active monarch.
Moreover, the king was still to be tested as a man of vision, dynamic, well versed, and so on as stated by Pandey.
However, while I was enthusiastically following the summit meetings in Dhaka and Tunis and observing the way the King was addressing both the summits and also the way he chaired the summit meeting in Tunis, I found Minister Pandey as true and honest in his words about the king.
King Gyanedra’s addresses to both summits were exemplary both in substance and delivery. I never thought that the king would present himself in those summits with such a high degree of efficiency and tactfulness.
The messages delivered by him while addressing the 13th SAARC summit in Dhaka were of a very high importance especially with regard to the issues like terrorism and security of smaller states. The king said that security and stability of small and vulnerable countries and their protection are vital in ensuring global peace and stability.
His remark on protection of small states is also worth mentioning here. He said that the protection of small states depends on the adherence to the UN Charter, rule of law and respect for the principles of sovereign rights and territorial integrity of other states. Indeed, the king had added a new dimension in shaping foreign policy for smaller states.
Similarly, his view on contending terrorism was highly impressive. He urged not to employ the policy of double standard and selective approach on the matter of terrorism without specifying any one. This was highly acclaimed by the participants and observers of the SAARC summit in Dhaka. The issue of terrorism raised by the king was consistent with paragraph 81 of the UN outcome document on terrorism, which says that terrorism is strongly condemned in all its forms and manifestations no matter whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes it is committed.
However, the Nepalese government failed to give a desired level of publicity at home to such an important issue raised by the king in the summit. Nepal’s demand for a permanent response mechanism dedicated to disaster preparedness, emergency relief and rehabilitation was endorsed in the 13th SAARC summit declaration. The king’s opinion received regional support, which is a good recognition of Nepal. The issues of granting observer status to China and membership to Afghanistan were tactfully dealt with at the highest-level meeting of SAARC, which was later endorsed in the declaration.
Some criticised that Nepal played a China card by proposing observer status to China. However, supporting Nepal’s argument, The Asian Age, in its issue of November 17, 2005 wrote that New Delhi should not have opposed China’s observer status so vehemently. After all, China had not objected to the granting of observer status to India in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Perhaps Minister Pandey was right to say that Nepal played a national interest card, not the China card in Dhaka.
In Tunisia, the king was requested to chair the summit meeting by the various heads of states and governments who were impressed by his participation as well as the addresses given by him at various regional and international forums. After addressing the World Summit on Information Society, he chaired the summit meeting on behalf of the Asian countries. This was indeed an honour bestowed by the international community not only to the king but also to all the Nepalese people. The king’s role was accepted as a leader on behalf of the Asian countries, which I believe is a big diplomatic victory for Nepal. The king conducted the business of the meeting in a very professional manner while he was chairing. The king was the first ever dignitary to chair the meeting as a head of state from Nepal.
It is a failure of Foreign Minister Pandey not to make necessary arrangements to give enough publicity for such a significant international meeting chaired by the king, which has dramatically enhanced Nepal’s image in such a big forum where leaders of all over the world were present.
What was more surprising to me was that while the king was pleading to curb terrorism and to avoid double standards abroad, the Nepalese government could do nothing to stop the signing of an agreement by the political party leaders and the Maoists at the behest of the Indian government. While the king was appealing in Dhaka before the South Asian leaders not to nurture double standards on matters of terrorism, the Indian government was facilitating a meeting between terrorist-declared Maoists and the leaders of the various political parties.
It was observed that perhaps Nepal wouldn’t have been able to achieve those benefits and acclamation in Dhaka and Tunis summits had the king not participated in it. But the Nepalese people are not informed well by the government about these important achievements. One must admit here that Nepal has been able to show her diplomatic tactfulness in those summits and the credits should go to nobody but solely the King.
On the domestic front, the time has already matured to embrace a pragmatic approach to resolve the current state of stalemate. There should be no delay in joining hands together by all the forces for creating a new democratic kingdom of Nepal free from conflicts, violence and terror where all Nepalese could live peacefully and translate their dreams into reality for a better future.
– Dr. Susmita Gurung is at Columbia University, New York.
By Susmita Gurung