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Military aid in doldrums as Nepal arrests Deuba
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 27
By arresting former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, Nepal's King Gyanendra has put into reverse gear his nearly three-month-old demand: that India resumes its military supplies to Nepal, suspended since the February 1 royal coup.

The UPA government today reviewed the Nepal developments at the highest level.

The Government of India's considered opinion is that with Mr Deuba's re-arrest — this time on corruption charges pronounced by a Royal Commission on corruption set up after February 1 — the King has inflicted a self-goal on the issue of resumption of military supplies.

The Left parties have already stiffly opposed any possible move by the UPA government to resume military supplies to Nepal.

The Deuba arrest development has thrown up a ‘‘one step forward, two steps backward’’ kind of situation in Indo-Nepal relations. Things appeared to be fast normalising after King Gyanendra's meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh in Jakarta last week. The Prime Minister had said later that King Gyanendra had raised the issue of military supplies and he had assured the King that his government would look at the issue in proper perspective.

It is understood that if certain sections believed that an Indian military consignment was on its way to Kathmandu after the Prime Minister-King meeting, nothing of the sort was in the pipeline in the first place. Mr Deuba's arrest has put paid to Kathmandu's hopes for an early resumption of Indian military supplies to Nepal.

The fact that Mr Deuba was picked up from his residence at 2.30 a.m. this morning, his electricity and phone lines were cut and he was taken to an undisclosed destination is demonstrative of the King's decisive action, which incidentally came soon after his return from Jakarta.

This impression gained further ground with reports emanating from Kathmandu through political channels that five senior leaders of the Nepali Congress were arrested this evening from a restaurant where they were holding a meeting.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Navtej Sarna, when asked about the possibility of resumption of Indian military supplies to Nepal in the context of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remarks, said: ‘‘The Prime Minister said that we will see that issue in the proper perspective, which means that all factors and all developments will be taken into account. India would take into account all developments, all situations and balanced decisions will be taken.’’

New Delhi's reaction to Mr Deuba's arrest was strong and unequivocal. ‘‘The Government of India is deeply concerned at the re-arrest of the former Prime Minister and Leader of Nepali Congress (Democratic), Mr. Sher Bahadur Deuba, early this morning. We are also concerned that the arrest and detention of political leaders, student leaders and workers of political parties continue, as do the restrictions on travel and movement of some academicians, human rights activists and students, contrary to assurances conveyed to us,’’ the MEA spokesman said.

‘‘We believe that these developments would further complicate efforts for a reconciliation between political parties and the constitutional monarchy in Nepal. It has always been India’s conviction that the problems confronting Nepal today can be addressed effectively only on the basis of national consensus between the two constitutional forces.’’

The developments in Nepal also came up for discussion between the Indian leadership and the visiting Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr Kofi Annan.

Shirish B. Pradhan adds from Kathmandu: Armed policemen arrived at Deuba’s residence in Budhanilkantha, 10 km from here, shortly after 2 am, cut off telephone and electricity lines and forcefully took him into custody, Nepali Congress spokesperson Minendra Rijal said.

After his arrest, Deuba, president of the Nepali Congress (NC) — Democratic, was grilled by the royal commission in its office in Nayabaneshwor, but the former Prime Minister declined to say anything.

The royal commission, which has sweeping powers of detention and punishment, had earlier grilled six ministers of Deuba’s Cabinet. Deuba is the first former Prime Minister to be summoned by the commission. — PTI


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