India has no favourites in Nepal: outgoing envoy

April 24th, 2008 - 12:42 pm ICT by admin  

(Interview)
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 24 (IANS) India’s outgoing ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee has said that New Delhi has “no favourites” among political players in Nepal and that it played an “impartial” role in the recent elections. He also said that he had no contact with King Gyanendra after April 2006 and India had no role to play in his future or that of the monarchy. It was something for the representatives of the people of Nepal to decide, he said.

Mukherjee was witness to momentous changes, including a coup by King Gyanendra in 2005, the laying down of arms by the Maoists and, finally, the holding of the historic Constituent Assembly election that is expected to end Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy.

A new chapter in India-Nepal relations will begin with the formation of a new government headed by the former Maoist guerrillas. A new Indian ambassador, Rakesh Sood, is also taking up his post.

Before he left for New Delhi Wednesday, Mukherjee spoke to IANS.

Excerpts:

Q: You were the first foreign ambassador to meet Maoist chief Prachanda after he announced he would lead the new government. What were your concerns and what was his answer?

A: The meeting was at the request of the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) and we discussed the way ahead. The CPN-M has emerged as the single largest party in the elections for the Constituent Assembly held recently. India respects the mandate of the people of Nepal expressed through the by and large free and fair elections. The results reflect the voice of the people of Nepal and India has no hesitation in accepting them. The chairman of the CPN-M expressed his and his party’s desire to work with India on development and other issues and stressed that cooperation with India was very important for Nepal as well as his party.

Q. Is India seeking any safe landing for the king if the institution of monarchy is abolished? Have you advised the Maoist leadership about the do’s and don’ts?

A: There is no role for India in this matter, which is to be decided solely by the representatives of the people of Nepal.

Q. Was there any communication between you and the palace after the election results started coming out?

A: No.

Q. The Indian national security adviser had indicated last month that India favoured a Nepali Congress victory. Now that the public verdict has gone both against the party and Koirala, what will be India’s policy?

A: It is not for me to comment on what the national security advisor said. His remarks have to be to seen in the context of that interview. I would only emphasise that the government of India has officially welcomed the elections and we also respect the verdict of the people of Nepal. India’s role has been to support the peace process in Nepal and as far as the elections are concerned, we rendered all possible assistance to the electoral process and the Election Commission. We have no favourites among the political players in Nepal and we have been completely impartial.

Q. Are the Maoists going to ask for a review of any specific treaty or hydropower project?

A: There has been no such indication to us in the contacts that we have had after the elections. But as far as the general issue of reviewing a particular treaty or agreement is concerned, India has said earlier also that it is perfectly willing to discuss any matter the government of Nepal would raise with it.

Q. When is Prachanda going to visit India?

A: This has been discussed in general and there are no specific dates as yet.

Q. The Indian intelligence agency failed to provide warnings about the king’s coup in 2005, the Terai massacres last year and the election results this year. Will there be a review of the agency’s activities in Nepal?

A: As a matter of policy, we do not comment on intelligence matters.

Q. Is India going to resume arms assistance to Nepal or has it already done that?

A: We had provided supplies in the past in response to the request by the government of Nepal. There are bilateral mechanisms such as the Bilateral Consultative Group on Security which discuss such matters and can make necessary recommendations for the governments of India and Nepal to take a view, if necessary.

Q. Will the UN Mission in Nepal (that is managing the arms and combatants of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army) remain in Nepal beyond July? Is there any possibility of Indian assistance in the reintegration of the PLA and Nepal Army?

A: As is known, the current extension of UNMIN’s mandate ends in July 2008. It will be totally up to the government of Nepal to take a view in this regard. As far as Indian assistance in the integration of PLA and Nepal Army is concerned, we would respond to any request by the government of Nepal. We do have experience in such matters, but it all depends on the priorities and modalities accepted by the Nepal government.

Q. Did the King in the past express any desire to visit India?

A: I have had no contact with the King after April 2006.

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