External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid returned to New Delhi on Monday evening after spending a day in Kathmandu, where he met the President, his Nepali counterpart, top leaders of the four parties behind the government, and the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. Mr. Khurshid’s trip, the first high-level Indian visit in two years, also yielded a memorandum of understanding which commits 764 vehicles to support Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections, more than 700 of which will go to the security agencies and the rest to the Election Commission.

Chinese visit

Mr. Khurshid’s visit also follows a two-day visit to Kathmandu in late June by Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi, who had also welcomed the announcement of election date and promised support for elections.

“Mr. Khurshid came here to show India’s government support to November 19 elections. Besides the vehicles, he expressed willingness to further support the elections in whatever way Nepal desires,” said Nepal’s former Foreign Minister Narayan Kaji Shrestha who was with Mr. Khurshid in a meeting with UCPN (Maoist) leaders. Mr. Khursid continued his meetings at Kathmandu’s Dwarika hotel with senior leaders from the Nepali Congress, CPN(UML), and Madhesi parties.

Splinter group

Mr. Khursid expressed hope that the splinter Maoist party, CPN-Maoist, would join the elections but there were no meetings with the politicians from that party. Chairman of CPN-Maoist Mohan Baidya ‘Kiran’ flew to Beijing last night, after announcing the formation of a five-member team to hold ‘unconditional’ talks with the government. Though a party spokesperson told the news site onlinekhabar.com that his trip was planned earlier and had nothing to do with Mr. Khurshid’s arrival in Kathmandu, local media widely interpreted the trip by Mr. Baidya, who calls the current government “a puppet”, as anything but coincidence.

It was also noted with interest that Chairman of the UCPN (Maoist) Pushpa Kama Dahal ‘Prachanda’ cut short a trip to Singapore for his wife’s treatment for a meeting with Mr. Khurshid.