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Crisis in Nepal has India worried
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

Pro-Maoists’ supporters during an agitation in Kathmandu.
Fiery protest: Pro-Maoists’ supporters during an agitation in Kathmandu. — Reuters

New Delhi, May 4
The Taliban surge in Pakistan, the military offensive against the LTTE in Sri Lanka and now the political crisis in Nepal. India’s neighbourhood is on the boil once again and New Delhi’s has reasons to be worried over the evolving situation in Kathmandu.

Resignation by Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” has raised serious questions about peace and stability in the Himalayan republic as also about the fate of the nascent peace process.

For record, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the developments in Nepal were an internal matter of the neighbouring nation. “We wish Nepal well in its transition to a full democratic polity and would hope that the present crisis is resolved in a manner which contributes to the early conclusion of the peace process.”

Mukherjee hoped that the broadest possible consensus would make it possible for Nepal to concentrate on the agreed tasks of constitution making and of democratic transition.

New Delhi’s brief reaction came after the main Opposition party BJP charged the UPA government with acting like a mute spectator when political uncertainty was engulfing Nepal, one of its closest neighbours.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is understood to have discussed the crisis in Nepal with key officials. Indian ambassador in Nepal Rakesh Sood is learnt to be in constant touch with senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry. Of concern to India is that the political instability in Nepal should not spill over, the peace process should stay on course, ‘Maoists’ should not take to arms again and the constitution-making process should continue uninterrupted.

India has stepped up security along its 1751-KM border with Nepal to check any possible infiltration attempt from across the border. India is looking quite positively at Prachanda’s statement that he would seek to strengthen the infant democracy. In any case, now that they have tasted power, it is difficult to visualise a scenario in which the ‘Maoists’ return to jungles.

New Delhi was apparently was caught by surprise when ‘Prachanda’ decided to bow out since his government had been reduced to a minority after two major allies of his coalition government pulled out. The speculation here was that the former revolutionary leader might put up a resistance in his stand-off with President Ram Baran Yadav, who had reinstated army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal, dismissed by the Prachanda government. “It is hard to say at this stage whether ‘Prachanda’ has made a tactical retreat, a strategic withdrawal…he may have chosen to stoop to conquer,” an official remarked. The overwhelming opinion in the corridors of power here is that it would take quite some time for the crisis in Nepal to settle, adding to New Delhi’s problems at a time when the political establishment is busy with the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

On Prachanda accusing India, without naming this country, of interfering in Nepal’s internal matters, the sources said New Delhi had been extremely careful while watching the developments in Nepal in the last one month, lest it was seen to be playing the ‘big brother’s’ role.

They explained that every time the Indian envoy met ‘Prachanda’ in recent days, it was emphasised that all decisions should be taken on the basis of the political consensus in the larger interest of the peace process, which after all had fructified due to India’s efforts.

On Prachanda’s perceived closeness with the Chinese leadership, the sources wondered how Beijing could gain any space in the minds of the Nepalese people by pitting the Maoists against the army.

The simple reason for the crisis was that the hardliners among Maoists wanted 19,000 of their cadre to be inducted into the army to which the army chief was obviously opposed. The army chief’ s argument was that it would be difficult to integrate such a large force of Maoist cadre with the army’s rank and file, particularly since the two had been fighting each other not long back.

As efforts to form an alternative government gain momentum in Kathmandu, the politicians to watch out in the coming days will be the old warhorse G P Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal.



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