India asks Nepal not to meddle with army

April 26th, 2009 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 26 (IANS) India’s ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood Sunday conveyed his government’s suggestion to Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda not to meddle with the army’s chain of command even as the Maoist government sought to dismiss army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal just four months before he is due to retire.

The Indian envoy, who was summoned by the United Progressive Alliance government of India Thursday for an emergency consultation, had returned to Kathmandu Saturday with New Delhi standing firm by its decision that the beleaguered army chief should not be removed for political reasons.

On Sunday, Sood held a meeting with Prachanda that was also attended by three Maoist ministers and a senior leader.

Besides Maoist Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai, Peace and Reconstruction Minister Janardan Sharma Prabhakar and Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal, senior leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha was also present.

Though none of them spoke to the media, the four leaders, however, have been supporting the removal of Katawal, regarding him as being hostile to the government’s efforts to merge over 19,000 Maoist combatants with the state forces.

Other Maoist leaders are even threatening to quit the coalition government if Katawal is not sacked.

Prachanda Sunday met the constitutional head of state as well as army, President Ram Baran Yadav, indicating that his government wanted to remove the army chief despite opposition from the international community as well as the main opposition party.

The biggest opposition party, the Nepali Congress (NC), has said it would not allow parliament to sit till the Maoists halt their attack on the army chief. For the fourth day Sunday, the second biggest party in the house obstructed proceedings, vowing to keep it up.

Meanwhile, the Maoists got a jolt when their allies, the communists, shied away from joining the war on Katawal.

After prolonged discussions among its top leaders, the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), Sunday said since the issue was of national importance, the major parties, including the opposition, should be asked to thrash out a consensus decision.

While the sword continues to hang over Katawal for a week now, uncertainty and restlessness prevail among the army whose rift with the government has been growing by the day.

If the Nepal government still goes ahead with the general’s dismissal, it will also fuel army fears that the position of other senior officers could be adversely affected as the Maoists try to push their People’s Liberation Army commanders to the fore.

Though the army rules out a coup and says it will stand by any legitimate decision, the continuing standoff will also take its toll on the peace process that has to be wrapped up by next year.

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