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Military aid to Nepal suspended
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 12
India has suspended for indefinite period its military aid to Nepal in the wake of the royal coup in the Hindu Kingdom, authoritative sources in the Ministry of External Affairs told The Tribune this evening.

External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh today summoned the Indian, Ambassador in Nepal, Mr Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, for consultations. Sources said Mr Mukherjee would arrive here tomorrow and brief Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran soon thereafter and brief Mr Natwar Singh on February 14. He would remain here for “several days”.

India has already disbursed military aid worth Rs 360 crore to Nepal since 2001 when the Nepalese Army was ordered out of its barracks to take on the Maoists. Aid worth scores of crores of rupees was in the pipeline.

As part of this aid, India has already delivered two advanced helicopters, several heavy duty vehicles and mine protecting vehicles (MPVs) for improving operational efficiency of the Royal Nepal Army.

The two decisions of the Government of India — of suspension of military aid and summoning of Indian Ambassador in Nepal for consultations — are clear indications that New Delhi is in no mood to relent on its tough stand on King Gyanendra dismissing the Deuba government and usurping all executive powers.

New Delhi has not kept it secret that it had pulled out of the scheduled February 6-7 SAARC summit in Dhaka not just because of the law and order situation in Bangladesh but the developments in Nepal were of equal concern.

King Gyanendra had shown unusual haste in confirming his participation in the Dhaka summit but India took wind out of his sails by its equally quick decision of not participating in the summit. That is because Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not want to grant legitimacy to King Gyanendra by sharing a multilateral platform with him.

Top sources in the MEA, when asked whether Bangladesh and Pakistan had suggested to India holding of SAARC summit in March, replied in the negative.

Asked whether some sort of informal pressure was being exerted on New Delhi from Dhaka and Islamabad to hold SAARC summit in March because from April to September the weather would be very hot in Bangladesh and after September it would not make much sense to hold the event because the next summit would be due then, the sources said: “No such formal proposal has come before the Government of India. So, there is no question of any pressure on us.”

It is understood that it is highly unlikely that India would agree to holding of the SAARC summit in March this year even if the law and order situation in Bangladesh were to improve because it is highly improbable that there would be any material change in the Nepal situation.

It is in this context that the February 14 briefing of Mr Mukherjee to Mr Natwar Singh would be important. Mr Mukherjee will apprise the Minister of the latest ground situation in Nepal with regard to interactions between leaders of Opposition parties and the Maoist insurgents, the press censorship and emergency in Nepal.

Mr Mukherjee’s arrival here tomorrow would coincide with the first day of the three-day bandh ordered by the Maoists in protest against the royal coup.

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