UML, Maoists lock horns over Prime Minister’s visit to India

KATHMANDU: Speculations are rife with guesses and suppositions at the political and diplomatic circles as to the outcomes of the just concluded five-day goodwill tour of PM Nepal to India. For some, the visit was seen as further cementing Nepal-India relations often fraught with difficulties. While others, especially

the Maoists, lending a

less keen ear, it had simply added one dark chapter in Nepal’s history.

PM Nepal’s India visit comes at a time when there is a widespread fear and scepticisms at national and international level that the nascent republic could be in peril. PM Nepal, however, claimed that his visit had helped delete that fear now.

India, whose role in Nepal’s peace process is crucial, also has a huge stake in Nepal’s endeavour to achieving competitiveness and spurring economic growth.

Upon his arrival in Nepal on Saturday, PM Nepal sounded cheerful and said he was ‘highly satisfied’ with his goodwill tour in India. He claimed that the visit added a new brick to cementing the historic Nepal- India relationship and said New Delhi was a willing collaborator in Nepal’s bid to achieve economic growth and peace, including the drafting of the new constitution.

However, main opposition UCPN-Maoist has challenged this claim and alleged that the visit was ‘unsuccessful’ and ‘futile’.

“Wasn’t the last-minute decision by Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala not to accompany the PM to India a clear proof that the visit was unsuccessful? Lambasted Prachanda. He described the just concluded India visit by PM Nepal as adding one of the most ‘shameful’ chapters in the history of Nepal-India relations.

The two communist leaders are at loggerheads following the withdrawal of support by UML to the Prachanda-led coalition government that came down last year to which analysts feared could drag down the already fragile peace process. Indeed, worsening law and order and a mounting public anger against the government’s inability to provide them safety and security has reached a tipping point.

PM Nepal, however, claimed that his government is now in the right track to alter that gloomy scene. He said that he was diplomatically successful in persuading India towards singing what he described as a ‘landmark agreement’ what Prachanda had failed to do during his nine-month tenure as PM.

“Where Prachanda had failed in his diplomacy, I have been highly successful,” he added.

Buoyant and visibly elated, the PM said the India trip was “initially intended to be a goodwill visit and one could have expected not much from it, but at the end of the day we went a step further to bring about visible achievements.”

One of the tangible outcomes of the visit, he said, was the renewal of the much-awaited Trade and Transit Treaty of 1996, with some new clauses being added at the last hour. “Renewal of the treaty was a

key to decreasing Nepal’s ballooning trade deficit

with India.”

The talk of the day in recent days at different political circles was that Nepal had failed to gain from the old treaty ever since the treaty came into force some 15 years ago.

Amongst the major achievement, New Delhi made a commitment of more than IRs 2,000 crore to fund various infrastructure projects in Nepal.

Pranab Mukherjee, the Finance Minister of India, said the sum was allocated to complete the infrastructure development in Nepal in a time-bound manner.

However, due to lack of adequate homework, the revised treaty could not get the final seal of approval as both the sides wanted to buy more time to give final shape to the document. Those left out for want of further discussions included double taxation, investment promotion and protection.

Amongst other agreements, the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship surfaced high on the agenda. Also on the agenda was one of the most contentious issues — Pancheswhor — put off for further bilateral level discussions.

Nevertheless, India has been considerate enough in backing Nepal’s peace process and expressed it fullest commitment to support writing a new constitution on the stipulated timeframe.

PM Nepal acknowledged that the road to peace

is bumpy and the government has a Herculean task ahead, nevertheless peace process was moving on the right track.

Speculations were rife as to the fruitfulness of the visit after Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala dramatically refused to accompany PM Nepal at the eleventh hour.

As tradition goes, it was

essential that foreign minister joined the delegation

led by the PM.

Minister Sujata seemed to be unhappy about PM Nepal’s refusal to give her the post of the Deputy Prime Minister that apparently left her unwilling to accompany PM-led delegation to India.

Later, it turned out that even the Nepali Congress had expressed its displeasure over her decision to cancel the India visit. NC has said her decision has undermined the diplomatic decorum of Nepal and a conduct unbecoming of her person and stature.