UN mission’s term extended in Nepal against India’s wishes

June 25th, 2008 - 1:30 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 25 (IANS) Against India’s wishes, Nepal’s seven ruling parties have agreed to extend the term of the UN agency assisting in the rocky peace negotiations. The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), which is currently supervising the arms and combatants of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army (PLA), will have its term extended by six months when the present one ends July 23.

This was among the several decisions taken late Tuesday night by the seven-party alliance as it tried to resolve the prolonged deadlock gripping the nation over the formation of a new government since the election in April.

According to the parties’ new decision, UNMIN will be asked to stay on and continue its supervisory role. However, it will be asked to reduce its strength.

The swing in the government decision comes after repeated statements by the Maoists that UNMIN would be asked to pack and leave after its term expired in July.

India, initially against the entry of the UN in Nepal’s peace negotiations, had also seemed confident that the world body would not get an additional term in Nepal.

About two months ago, Sitaram Yechury, an influential politburo member of India’s Communist party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), had categorically said at a press meet in Kathmandu that UNMIN would have no further role after July 23. Yechury had played a major role in bringing the Maoists and the opposition parties of Nepal together to end the 10-year armed insurgency in the country.

Nepal’s feuding ruling parties Tuesday agreed that a commission would be formed to oversee the tricky integration of the PLA with the state army and other state security agencies in compliance with international norms.

The agreement is a major climbdown by the Maoists, who had earlier been insisting that the entire PLA be merged with the Nepal Army, a demand that was staunchly resisted by the army.

The extension of UNMIN’s term is a major diplomatic victory for the US and Britain.

A junior British minister, Shahid Malik, had visited Nepal this month and asked Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala about UNMIN. Malik’s visit ended with a bounty for Nepal in the form of $55 million for improving road connectivity.

A senior Maoist leader this month had indicated that UNMIN would be asked to stay on.

Baburam Bhattarai, deputy chief of the Maoists, had said that UNMIN would remain in Nepal as long as there were two armies, though its size would be reduced.

India’s diplomatic defeat comes after two of the largest parties in Nepal turned against it.

Koirala’s Nepali Congress is irked by India’s reiteration that Koirala should pave the way for a Maoist-led government. A senior Nepali Congress leader, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat, called it an interference in Nepal’s internal matters.

On the other hand, the Maoists, who had accepted India’s mediatory role in the past, are also upset with the bigger neighbour who, they feel, has not done enough to persuade Koirala to resign.

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