West pressures Nepal PM to quit
TNN, May 10, 2010, 04.42pm IST
KATHMANDU: Usurping the Indian role of playing big brother in Nepal’s political affairs, western government, including the European Union, have begun mounting pressure on Nepal’s beleaguered Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to quit.
In a surprising role reversal, New Delhi has kept quiet about the future of the current coalition government, merely asking the opposition Maoist party to call off their general strike in view of the hardship it was causing to people. However, envoys from European Union states in Nepal, the US and other western countries are openly asking Nepal’s PM to quit to make way for a new all-party government in which the Maoists will also take part.
On Sunday, the cohort met Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, who is also the deputy prime minister and leader of the Nepali Congress, the PM’s biggest ally. The envoys, who last week gave the government a weekend deadline to sort out the mess, are now also pressuring the government to amend the constitution and extend the deadline for writing a new constitution since it is now clear that the May 28 date will not see a new statute.
The diplomatic lobbying comes close on the heels of their meeting the PM and asking him when he would quit. Though Nepal has a tradition of making enraged accusations of interference if the Indian government expresses any interest in its socio-political affairs, given the fact that it is Nepal’s next-door neighbour, the political parties however are yet to protest against the European pressure.
However, the prime minister, who has withstood Maoist pressure to quit for almost a year, is also standing firm to Europe’s push. He says he will make way for a new government only if the Maoists first agree to fulfil all the pledges they made four years ago while signing a peace agreement that helped them return to mainstream politics. These include disbanding their People’s Liberation Army fighters, who number nearly 19,600, as well as the Young Communist League wing, which is regarded as a paramilitary outfit.
But the Maoists have refused to resume negotiations till Nepal quits. It now remains to be seen if the EU will also pressure the former guerrillas to make concessions. Though the Maoists say they already have, by calling off their strike after six days, the peace process could progress if EU persuaded Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to give up his claim to the prime minister’s chair. It would be a face-saving device for the prime minister who had earlier said he would quit if Prachanda relinquished his claim as well.