No link between Nepal Maoists and India’s Lalgarh: Menon (Lead)

June 21st, 2009 - 7:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 21 (IANS) Despite the growing violence in Nepal with the Maoists beginning new protests against the government and the upsurge in Maoist activities in India’s Orissa, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal states, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon Sunday ruled out any links between the two, saying there was no evidence.
“There is nothing to suggest there is any link,” said the Indian envoy, the first high-ranking Indian official to visit Nepal after the fall of the Maoist government and the formation of a new communist-ruled alliance.

Menon, who met Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda during his two-day visit, Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and other leaders, also said that he had been “constantly assured by all legitimate political parties, including the Maoists” that they would not interfere in India’s ‘internal matters’.

The envoy’s assurance came as Lalgarh, a tribal village in India’s West Bengal state, rose in rebellion against the prevailing communist government, creating a confrontation between security forces and tribals backed by Indian Maoists.

Indian Maoists also struck in Chhattisgarh state Saturday, killing 12 security personnel in a landmine attack.

In Nepal, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) that had laid down guns after a decade-old armed struggle and headed a coalition government after winning the election last year, went on the rampage Sunday, holding sit-ins before government offices, padlocking some and going on a vandalising spree.

They ransacked the administrative offices in Dhading in central Nepal, resulting in the clamping of curfew and clashed with security forces, resulting in dozens being injured.

The protests are over the party’s old battle against the chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal, whom it tried to sack but failed and was forced to step down from power.

The Maoist anger was fed afresh when the new government officially scrapped the decision to fire the general.

Blaming India for the fall of their government, the Maoists have been raising an outcry about alleged encroachment by India on Nepali territory and atrocities by India’s Border Security Force, the Sashastra Seema Bal.

Menon said while there were bound to be ‘border management problems’ in any intimate relationships, such as the kind India enjoys with Nepal with their 1800 km shared and open border, some of the allegations were ‘unnecessary propaganda’ driven by political considerations.

While India looks into allegations of SSB misbehaviour very closely, many of the reports were untrue, the envoy said.

However, taking cognisance of the heightened propaganda, India and Nepal have decided to set up ‘local mechanisms’ to address such allegations immediately, he said. While such apparatus exists at the district level, both sides have agreed to erect micro-level mechanisms to address future grievances.

The demarcation of the India-Nepal border was 98 percent complete, he said, with detailed strip maps being prepared. Menon also rejected Maoist allegations that the current government was a puppet of India.

“We don’t intend to interfere,” he said.

India, he said, wanted to see the peace process in Nepal reach its logical conclusion with the timely drafting of a new constitution as it was in India’s interests to see a peaceful and stable Nepal with multi-party democracy.

He also emphasised that the two neighbours’ security concerns were interlinked and the spirit of cooperation was for mutual benefit.

The Indo-Nepal Security Consultative Group would be meeting soon to address cooperation issues to be followed by a visit at the home secretary-level.

Menon, who was shown black flags on his arrival Saturday and faced rescheduling of his engagements Sunday with some ministers due to the Maoist protests, took the disruption in his stride.

“Protests are normal in a democracy,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be waving a black flag. But it’s up to them.”

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