Pranab brings Prachanda luck

November 25th, 2008 - 2:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Nov 25 (IANS) When Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda met Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Tuesday at his residence here, the former revolutionary had a genuine smile and an extra warm handshake for the visitor.Mukherjee described the nearly 30-minute talks as being “extremely fruitful”, but that was not the main reason for the cordiality.

It was because Prachanda has just survived a persistent challenge from hardliner comrade Mohan Vaidya ‘Kiran’ - who advocates a revolt to establish a single party ruled people’s republic like China - with over 600 representatives at the national convention of the party supporting his plan to strengthen a democratic republic in Nepal, the state-run media said.

The prevention of a division in the ruling party at a critical stage in the peace process comes as a relief for both Nepal and India.

Faced with the spectre of a Maoist army led by hawks who are closer to China and regard India as a foe, Mukherjee’s visit is also trying to reconcile Prachanda with opposition Nepali Congress chief and former premier Girija Prasad Koirala.

Hira Bahadur Thapa, Prachanda’s foreign affairs advisor who along with Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai was present at the meeting between the prime minister and the 11-member Indian delegation headed by Mukherjee, said the Indian minister had urged for the merger of the Nepal Army with the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army on the basis of consensus.

The merger, a critical part in the peace negotiations, has been blocked after Koirala and his party refused to join the special committee formed by the Prachanda government to oversee the contentious issue.

Moreover, Koirala and his party, which suffered a stunning defeat in the April election, are now trying to stage a comeback by opposing the merger though they had agreed to it two years ago while signing a pact with the Maoists.

Thapa said Mukherjee had also asked Prachanda to create a conducive environment for Indian investors in Nepal.

Mukherjee, who is scheduled to fly to southern Nepal’s Sunsari district to inspect the Kosi river, which caused havoc in Nepal and Bihar in monsoon by breaching its embankment, has also reportedly renewed India’s commitment to rebuild the damaged embankment by March 2009.

The Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (UML), the second-largest party in the Prachanda government, has sought India’s help to curb the growing violence in the Terai plains along the India-Nepal border.

UML chief Jhalanath Khanal was the first to meet Mukherjee after the Indian minister’s arrival in Kathmandu Monday.

Interestingly, Mukherjee also met another former prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, Monday.

Though Deuba, once a Koirala protégé, fell out with his mentor, the April election showed he had a better hold on the public. Deuba won from two constituencies at a time most Koirala nominees, including his own daughter, nephew and cousin, were defeated.

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