India treads gingerly in Nepal

August 31st, 2011 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Kathmandu, Aug 31 (IANS) Amidst speculation in Nepal that New Delhi was far more enthused over the election of Baburam Bhattarai as Nepal’s new prime minister than over the formation of the first Maoist government three years ago, India is treading gingerly in the Himalayan republic this time.

The new Indian ambassador to Nepal, Jayant Prasad, sought to keep feathers unruffled in the Maoist party by opting to meet party chief and former premier Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda first before Bhattarai.

Prasad, who assumed office Friday, met Prachanda at the latter’s residence in Kathmandu’s Nayabazar Wednesday to convey the Indian government’s pledge to offer the utmost support it could provide in concluding the flagging peace process and drafting the new constitution.

It was the envoy’s first meeting with the Maoist leadership. He has already met the leaders of the other two major parties, the Nepali Congress and communists, both now sitting in opposition.

With Bhattarai becoming the 35th prime minister of Nepal after Prachanda failed to be re-elected despite taking part in the vote six times, the new premier will have to walk on the razor’s edge lest he upsets the party chief, who sees his control oozing away.

Educated in Chandigarh and Delhi and enjoying good rapport with India’s leftist intellectuals and politicians, Bhattarai is regarded as being positive towards India, at a time the hawks in his party wanted an armed war against the neighbouring country.

Budhbar, the communist weekly, has already commented Wednesday that there was additional warmth in Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s greetings to Bhattarai after the latter won the PM vote Sunday.

It underscored Singh saying that India attached “the highest priority to its relations with Nepal” and said this time, the Chinese government had been slow to congratulate the new Nepali PM.

Bhattarai will also have to choose his first foreign visit carefully, an issue that is accorded great diplomatic significance traditionally.

Most Nepali PMs chose to visit New Delhi first while Prachanda went to Beijing. Subsequently, he has held that as the reason of his fall from Indian grace and the collapse of his government in 2009.

Already issued an invitation by Singh to visit India, it now remains to be seen if Bhattarai will embark on any foreign visit soon or will opt to stay at home for the first one and a half months at least. This is the period within which he has pledged to regroup and rehabilitate the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army with its nearly 20,000 combatants.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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