KATHMANDU: When Nepal's controversial king Gyanendra handed over power to a resurrected parliament on April 24, 2006 and faced the abolition of his throne, he might not have been entirely the thought of his subjects' well being that prompted the move.
Royalists say Gyanendra, who had seized power through a bloodless coup, stepped down because he wanted to avert bloodshed that would have occurred had the army been asked to take on the crowds demanding the restoration of democracy. The real reason could be that the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) was running out of ammunition.
In February and March 2006, days before the 19-days peaceful protests that paralyzed the royal regime started, the RNA's arsenal had started dwindling alarmingly after its main arms suppliers, India, USA and UK, stopped providing arms the previous year to show their disapproval of the royal coup, according to the latest WikiLeaks revelations.
In February, then RNA master of ordnance Major General Prakash Bahadur Basnyat had informed the US embassy in Kathmandu, once the army's staunch supporter in its anti-Maoist terror campaign in Nepal, that the RNA had only 16,800 rounds of ammunition for its 16,000 M-16 guns. Also, for the 25,000 Insas firearms given by India at a 70% subsidy, it had only 130,000 rounds of ammunition left.
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