gfiles magazine

May 19, 2013

Darkness at Noon

nepal krishna v. rajan
Darkness at Noon
In the late 1990s, India’s twin strategy of supporting multi-party democracy and constitutional monarchy in Nepal was working well – or so it seemed!
There was clearly some preoccupation in New Delhi to repair the relationship with the monarchy, after the tensions generated by the standoff of 1980-90. Birendra was supposed to be only a constitutional monarch, but was still a highly important element in the Nepalese polity. Prime Minister Narasimha Rao felt that the king could make a constructive contribution to a more mature relationship with India just as the king of Bhutan had, and wanted India’s links with the monarchy to be made firmer even as it sought to strengthen Nepal’s democracy: what came to be known as the ‘twin-pillar approach’.
But the role of the monarchy needed clarification. In my first audience with him, I found King Birendra to be affable, mild-mannered, soft-spoken and relaxed. An immediate outcome of this first meeting was Birendra’s decision to give a public signal of normal relations with India by agreeing to spend an evening at India House with his immediate family – after decades of a chill in such social-level contacts. The royal family, along with the entire political and civil society elite of Nepal, attended a concert on the lawns of India House by Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his sons Amaan and Ayaan. It was quite an ambience: setting sun, tall pine trees, the birds singing as if on cue with the soul-stirring strumming of the sarod.Read More

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