TIME: How is the military campaign going?
Thapa: It's moving on satisfactorily. Clearly we have the upper hand. We have heard through agencies that have sent out feelers that the Maoists are feeling the heat. But the ultimate aim of the army engagement is to force the Maoists to come to the negotiating table. Our priority has always been peaceful negotiation, but in the past the Maoists were not interested in that. This is intended to change their minds. And we hear they might soon be keen on talks again.
TIME: There are been several documented cases of human rights abuses by the Royal Nepalese Army. Executions even.
Thapa: There might have been cases of people being trapped in the crossfire. But the army does not kill illegally. These accusations are as a result of the Maoists feeling pressured. They approach international and human rights agencies.
TIME: How likely is it that Nepal becomes a failed state?
Thapa: Last year, the international community said there was that possibility. Now they say they are happy with our overall performance within the constraints we face. I don't say it's possible for Nepal to become a failed state. Despite the fact that there is this operation against the Maoists, other parameters on the economy, governance and law and order are improving. There is a political vacuum, yes. But except the fact that there is no parliament, all the other state affairs are being run under the constitution.
TIME: What are your impressions of the King's motives and ambitions?
Thapa: My impression is that the present situation is not something the King wanted. It was the culmination of a lot of other developments. He is quite keen to hand over government to an elected parliament. He wants it as soon as possible. When he made me Prime Minister, the key responsibility he gave to me was that elections should take place as quickly as they could.
TIME: Other parties accuse him of being an autocrat.
Thapa: Those kind of apprehensions are there, but all those will be dispelled when elections take place.
TIME: Do you have a timetable?
Thapa: We plan to hold polls for local bodies in June or July and after that parliamentary elections in November. We have to contain the Maoists in order to produce an atmosphere conducive to elections and the elections will be announced at the appropriate time. But I tell you: we're not looking for any excuses to postpone.