Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Menon on Mission Nepal Part II

Menon on Mission Nepal Part II

15 Jun 2009, 2040 hrs IST, Sudeshna Sarkar, TNN

KATHMANDU: Just four months after he discussed the progress on the agreements made between New Delhi and Kathmandu during the India visit of
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon will be arriving in Kathmandu Saturday once again to discuss the lack of progress in the peace process – this time, with the new government of Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

The question before the two-day visit is – is Menon coming too late and with too little?

When the Prachanda government became roiled in a fight to remove the chief of the Nepal Army and alienated his coalition partners, the Maoist supremo sent a distress call to NewDelhi, asking for Menon or a top envoy to be rushed to Kathmandu to wrinkle out the difficulties. However, caught up in the election juggernaut, the Indian government ignored the request and now, Menon will be arriving at a time the turbulence has worsened with the fall of the Maoist government and the new one unable to come on its own.

Nepal’s foreign ministry said the Indian envoy has confirmed appointments with the new prime minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala. Menon is also seeking meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar, whose Madhesi Janadhikar Forum party has threatened to quit unless given the ministries it wants, Defence Minister Bidya Bhandari, and the home minister, if the cabinet gets one before his visit.

The three-week-old government of Nepal failed Sunday to pull off the much-awaited cabinet expansion after protests by the Gachhadar faction and two more regional parties from the Terai. Meanwhile, the nascent republic has been reeling under a succession of general strikes. While there were four separate strikes Sunday, on Monday, the Maoists called a bandh in Kathmandu valley in protest against the mysterious death of a cadre. They also called a regional strike in the farwest, closing down seven remote districts to demand a debate in parliament on the role of the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, for having stepped into their row with the army chief to save him.

While Menon is also expected to meet political leaders, Prachanda’s aides said they had received no official intimation about the visit.

The Maoists are blaming India for the fall of their nine-month government and there is growing allegation in Nepal about Indian encroachment of Nepali territory despite denials by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. For nearly five years, New Delhi has been saying that a new Indo-Nepal border map is ready with all but two boundary disputes resolved. However, the new map is yet to be inked.


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