New UN office in Nepal fresh headache for India

August 8th, 2008 - 1:22 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 8 (IANS) After failing to block the UN from staying on in Nepal to assist in the peace process, India now has a fresh headache with the world body due to open a new peace and disarmament centre in the Himalayan republic. The UN Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament (RCPD) will be inaugurated in Kathmandu Aug 18, the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs said in a press statement issued Friday.

The centre, to be headed by a senior representative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will be holding regional meetings, conferences and workshops on security concerns and disarmament issues.

To serve 43 countries in the Asia-Pacific, it is the third of its kind. The other two centres are in Togo, Africa and Peru, South America.

The Kathmandu centre will have the capability to assist in Nepal’s ongoing arms monitoring and proposed merger of the Maoist guerrilla army with the state army, if the government of Nepal seeks such assistance.

For now, a political wing of the UN, the UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), is monitoring the arms of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and Nepal Army (NA). However, its desire to help in the integration of the two armies was rejected by the Nepal government.

India has been actively lobbying in the UN Security Council against any greater role for UNMIN. It also tried to prevent UNMIN from getting an extension.

However, to India’s chagrin, the agency was given a six-month extension though it was asked to downsize.

Now the RCPD can push for a greater UN role in Nepal’s security sector. It can also host meetings on Kashmir, the long-term bone of contention between India and Pakistan.

Furthermore, it will allow the UN deeper acquaintance with the key players in the region, including underground outfits, which India is anxious to prevent.

The new UN centre could be a cause of concern for China as well, especially with mounting demands for a free Tibet by Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

Though China, India, Japan and South Korea agreed to have a RCPD in the region, the original pact was signed in 1987 and modified two years later.

Since then, there has been a sea change in South Asia.

There have been substantive changes even after January 2008, when the UN General Assembly gave its thumbs-up.

Since then, India has been repeatedly taking UNMIN to task, asking it not to lobby for a greater role in Nepal.

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