Thursday, February 24, 2005

NEPAL: Responding to the Royal Coup

The first steps Nepal and the international community need to take should focus on the political situation in Kathmandu rather than the conflict with the Maoists. There is no purely military solution to the insurgency, and the widespread human rights abuses associated with the coup will only feed it. The way to confront the insurgency is through combined political and security strategies that could bring the Maoists to the table and forge a lasting peace.

Responding to the Royal Coup

Kathmandu/Brussels, 24 February 2005: Nepal's friends must act together quickly to prevent the state from collapsing and to help tackle the Maoist insurgency.

Nepal: Responding to the Royal Coup,* the latest briefing paper from the International Crisis Group, moves beyond the initial reaction to King Gyanendra's seizure of power on 1 February 2005 and addresses the immediate policy steps needed to pull Nepal back from the brink. A unified international response is critical, and the best mechanism for that would be a contact group comprising key countries and organisations involved in Nepal: India, the U.S., the UK and the UN.

"If the world simply rolls over and accepts this coup, the chances of greater violence and even a Maoist victory will only increase", says Crisis Group President Gareth Evans. "This is not the time for 'wait and see'. Nepal needs immediate, co-ordinated international action".

The first steps Nepal and the international community need to take should focus on the political situation in Kathmandu rather than the conflict with the Maoists. There is no purely military solution to the insurgency, and the widespread human rights abuses associated with the coup will only feed it. The way to confront the insurgency is through combined political and security strategies that could bring the Maoists to the table and forge a lasting peace.

The policy priority should now be the re-establishment of constitutional rule, including restoration of all suspended freedoms, release of all people arrested in the royal crackdown since 1 February and revocation of the state of emergency. There must be expanded protection for human rights, the return of democratic institutions and a strengthening of the state's administrative and governance capacity across the country. There also needs to be a politically broad-based effort to address not only the insurgency but also the underlying issues that have fuelled it.

To achieve these, international donors, coordinated by the contact group, should immediately implement a range of measures to pressure the King, including suspending all military assistance not essential to holding the line against the Maoists; suspending all direct bilateral and multilateral budgetary support to the government; and initiating a review of all current development assistance programs and preparing plans for their phased suspension and withdrawal.

If the initial round of pressure does not achieve results, and the king is still unwilling to relinquish absolute power, donors should consider further measures, including complete suspension of all aid; sanctions; a ban on Nepalese troops from their lucrative involvement in UN peacekeeping operations; and encouraging the UN Security Council to investigate and prosecute both government and Maoist war crimes suspects.

"King Gyanendra has promised to bring peace to Nepal, but this is unlikely to happen unless his coup is reversed", says Evans.