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“It’s a Question of Survival”

4 minute read

In his first interview with the foreign press since he seized power on Feb. 1, King Gyanendra talked with TIME’s South Asia bureau chief Alex Perry at Narayanhity Palace in Kathmandu.

TIME: Had you been planning a takeover for a while?
Gyanendra: There really was no plan. It was just something on the cards. The Nepalis clearly [had] a one-point aspiration: peace. And Feb. 1 was a fallout of these accumulating aspirations.

TIME: Were you surprised by the strong international opposition?
Gyanendra: Disappointed. Because what was the objective of Feb. 1? To fight for democracy against terrorism. Our friends must tell us whether this is incorrect, or help us in this cause. I am saddened by our friends that curbed much-needed assistance. They feel [it] will be used against democratic forces. That lopsided opinion has not been thought through.

TIME: You talk democracy, but your methods are antidemocratic.
Gyanendra: We can go on arguing about methods [and] asking was it necessary to go so far. But less might have yielded no results. I think the Nepalis understand that it’s a question of the survival of the nation. We cannot afford this conflict anymore. Look, democracy is here to stay. [That] commitment is something a King has made to his people. But undisciplined freedom has nearly brought about the end of democracy. Why is it, when we talk of freedom, that everyone forgets their duty to the nation?

TIME: But when you shut down the political parties and lock up their leaders, don’t you damage the very thing you say you’re protecting?
Gyanendra: If it’s already broken, I don’t call that damage at all. I think any sane person would be frustrated [with the parties]. What’s peace for? Stability. And what will peace give you? An opportunity to hold elections. What are they for? So the democratic parties are in place again. I am giving you a road map.

TIME: When can we expect an offensive against the Maoists?
Gyanendra: Do you want us to be aggressive, insulting or attacking? I do not think it is wise to only attack. There are many other things that also have to be implemented, like winning the hearts and minds of the people. You have to have the population with you in this situation.

TIME: Is this war unwinnable?
Gyanendra: It’s not a question of winning or not winning. It’s a question of taming. The nation has chosen not to accept terrorism, and the [army] will do whatever is required—coerce, comprehend, coordinate, cooperate. No law-abiding citizen should feel pain. Those who do not abide by the law will feel pain.

TIME: Have the rebels lost all moral authority?
Gyanendra: Yes. Their actions speak for them. If you don’t like some idea, these things can be thrashed out peacefully. But this is a language they don’t understand. [They think] everything comes from the barrel of a gun. The people are rising up and have given a clear message to the terrorists that they are unwelcome and that they will no longer tolerate their attacks, their extortion and their kidnapping.

TIME: What about the army’s much-criticized human-rights record?
Gyanendra: I am not saying there have not been accidents. But where the guilty have been found, action has been taken.

TIME: Do you feel burdened by office?
Gyanendra: I feel it must be my destiny. So be it. Any leadership is a question of living dangerously and being at risk, but that does not mean one shies away from it. Religion gives me solace. I meditate. And my family is a fortress of strength. One does not have to go berserk or go into a state of depression.

TIME: What lies ahead for Nepal?
Gyanendra: We have chosen a path strewn with many, many thorns. These times are not going to be easy. But extreme situations require extreme measures. With determination, discipline and diligence, Nepal will move forward. Peace must be given a chance.

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