Maoist make new threats as foreign secretary begins Nepal visitBy Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
KATHMANDU - As Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the first high-ranking official sent by New Delhi since Nepal entered a new stage in its peace process, begins her three-day visit Tuesday, the prospect of striking a rapport with the opposition Maoist party seems remote with the former guerrillas threatening a fresh storm.
Ahead of Rao’s arrival in Kathmandu, the Maoists began training their cadre in a nationwide programme scheduled to continue till Jan 31.
The Maoists are once more raising the spectre of a people’s revolt instead of seeking an agreement with the other parties with less than four months left for the promulgation of a new constitution and the failure to form a new government even six months after Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal resigned.
Last week, Nepal’s President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav gave the warring parties till Friday to come up with an all-party government. If they fail, the president will be compelled to call for a prime ministerial election.
Since June 2010, Nepal’s parliament held 16 rounds of election to pick a new premier but failed due to persisting disagreements among political parties over power-sharing.
Now, despite the fear of history repeating itself, the Maoists remain intent on their own goals.
An all-party meeting scheduled Tuesday to discuss a consensus government and the critical issue of the Maoists’ guerrilla army was put off as the Maoists called a meeting of their own to thrash out an intra-party crisis.
At the cadre training started in Kathmandu Monday, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda urged nearly 5,000 participants to ready for a people’s revolt from Feb 13, the same day they had begun their “People’s War” in 1996.
In a rabble-rousing speech, Prachanda also promised his party would revive its parallel governments and courts, recruit and train 500,000 young men for the revolt, and combat Indian intervention.
Despite an apparent thaw in relations between the Maoists and Indian government during a seminar in New Delhi earlier this month, Prachanda and his followers have again accused India of trying to keep the Maoists out of the government.
Monday’s training programme degenerated into an open feud when Prachanda’s deputy Dr. Baburam Bhattarai boycotted the training programme along with his supporters. His wife and Maoist MP Hisila Yami’s speech was cut off mid-way when she tried to raise her husband’s viewpoint that differs from Prachanda’s.
With Bhattarai claiming his New Delhi visit bolstered Maoist ties with India, he is being regarded as pro-India by the Prachanda faction and Rao will have to tread a cautious path when she meets the Maoist leadership.
The Indian foreign secretary, who will be meeting the president, the prime minister, Parliament Chairman Subash Nembang, and leaders of the major parties, will also assess the progress in bilateral agreements.
Rao would be on a firmer wicket while talking to government officials.
On the agenda are water resources, especially the Kosi embankment that remains a constant thorn between Nepal and neighbouring Indian state of Bihar, establishing a Pancheswor Development Authority for the 5600 MW hydel power project on the Mahakali river, and building an over 800-foot high dam for the 3000 MW Sapta Koshi multi-purpose project.
Rao will also discuss the four integrated check posts India is upgrading on the India-Nepal border to facilitate travel and commerce and boost security.
The key ones - Birgunj in Nepal’s Parsa district and Raxaul in India’s Bihar state through which nearly two-thirds of Indo-Nepal trade takes place - were to have been revamped by February 2011.
The revised Extradition Treaty which India has been asking Nepal to sign for over six years finally shows signs of progress with the council of ministers this month finalising the Extradition Act.
However, India’s new concern as a member of the UN Security Council, about the fate of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is also not likely to yield any result.
The Maoists have refused to disband the PLA even five years after signing a peace agreement and the exit of the UN Mission in Nepal, which had been monitoring the PLA and their arms, has paved the way for more rows between the caretaker government and the former guerrillas.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at email@example.com)