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Delhi missed chance to resolve Nepal crisis

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Prachanda
Prachanda

Siddharth Varadarajan

Maoists will not block new government

Kathmandu: As the Maoist-led government in Nepal moved towards dismissing Army chief Rookmangad Katawal in the beginning of May, Prime Minister Prachanda sent an urgent message to India seeking the presence here of a high-level envoy to help forge an eleventh hour political consensus affirming civilian supremacy over the military.

Revealing this in an interview to The Hindu at his official Baluwatar residence on Sunday, Mr. Prachanda said he asked Ambassador Rakesh Sood to request New Delhi to send Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon or some other senior official for talks on the increasingly tense standoff over the Army chief. With quiet encouragement from India, parties like the United Marxist-Leninist were changing their stand and siding with the general. “We knew some confusion is there between the Maoist-led government and India on this question,” said the Prime Minister.

“I wanted to settle this issue through interaction and discussion with high-level officials from Delhi. But unfortunately, the ambassador informed me that this cannot happen now because the election campaign is going on, that nobody is there, that it is very difficult.”

Mr. Prachanda also said he believed the long election season in India meant the country’s security and bureaucratic establishment were now calling the shots on Nepal policy and that a “mechanical and subjective analysis” of the situation “especially on the question of Nepal’s so-called tilt to China” had coloured South Block’s perception of the civil-military issue.

The Nepalese Prime Minister acknowledged that several Chinese officials had visited Nepal in recent months but said “not a single delegation” had come on his invitation. “The initiative for these visits came solely from the Chinese side,” mainly because of the Tibet crisis.

He said his government had no intention of concluding a new friendship treaty with China without discussions among all Nepali political parties as well as with New Delhi.

Giving a glimpse of the strategy the Maoists will adopt in the face of the attempts by other parties to form a new government, Mr. Prachanda said his party would sit in opposition if President Ram Baran Yadav’s “extraconstitutional instruction” reinstating Gen. Katawal was not withdrawn.

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