By Ram Khatry
11 February 2020
A recent report by BBC Nepali makes a strong indication that India played a critical role in the fall of Nepal’s constitutional monarchy because the last king of the Himalayan nation, Gyanendra Shah, refused to entertain India’s wish to turn Nepal into an Indian protectorate – just “like Bhutan”.
The report makes the claim on the back of statements made by two veteran names in the Nepalese media industry – journalist P. Kharel and former editor-in-chief of The Rising Nepal Mana Ranjan Josse.
The journalist duo have quoted the former king in making the tantalising revelation based on their conversation aboard a Royal Nepal Airlines flight en route to Tunisia. As they were flying to Doha following the SAARC Summit in Dhaka on 12-13 November 2005, Mr Kharel and Mr Josse were reportedly summoned by the former king’s military aide for a mid-air audience.
The claims are based on what the former king shared with them about his one-on-one meeting with Man Mohan Singh which took place after the conclusion of the SAARC Summit. In their interview with BBC Nepali, the journalists recalled that the former king had urged them to keep the details of his conversation with the then Indian Prime Minister confidential – with Mr Shah repeating the “between us” request at the beginning and end of the conversation.
According to Mr Kharel, PM Singh proposed “to make Nepal a protectorate like Bhutan” which, the king told the two media persons, he refused to accept. The veteran journalist further added, citing King Gyanendra, that the Indian Prime Minister turned “red-faced” after the offer was declined.
Mr Singh then pparently asked the king to at least give him something “to appease the (Nepalese) political parties”.
Mr Josse on his part told BBC Nepali that, although he did not recollect the conversation in details, Man Mohan Singh quizzed the former king on “Who was responsible?” for Nepal getting closer to China.
Although there was some contradiction between Mr Josse and Mr Kharel’s recollection about what Gyanendra Shah had said during that mid-air meeting over 14 years ago, both appeared to agree that India worked hand in glove with Nepalese political parties after that uncomfortable meeting in Dhaka.
Mr Josse remarked that India was extremely displeased with Gyanendra Shah also because he played a role in making China an observer member of SAARC.
BBC Nepali maintains that it could not independently verify the claims made by the two stalwarts of the Nepalese media.
However, the then ADC of King Gyanendra, Binoj Basnyat, did substantiate that they were indeed called by the former king for a tête-à-tête on board the then Royal Nepal Airlines flight.
Gyanendra Shah’s junket had moved on to South Africa following a brief stay in Tunisia where he attended the World Summit on the Information Society.
The report suggests that India’s punitive role in ending Nepal’s monarchy was so swift, after Gyanendra Shah declined the Indian offer of making Nepal its protectorate, that it was not long before the 12-point understanding between the Nepalese political parties and the Maoists was signed in Delhi.
The king was still touring Africa when the document was signed in India.