Indo-Nepal treaty Maoists’ new poll target

April 2nd, 2008 - 1:04 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 2 (IANS) A controversial water treaty between India and Nepal has become a new weapon in the hands of Nepal’s Maoists who laid down their guns to fight a historic election that is only eight days away. The treaty on integrated development of the Mahakali river, also known as the Mahakali treaty, was signed in 1996 by the then Nepal prime minister Sher Bhadur Deuba and his Indian counterpart P.V. Narasimha Rao in New Delhi.

The treaty envisioned sharing the waters of the Mahakali river, known as the Sarada in India, through two barrages and its centrepiece, the Pancheswor Multipurpose Project (PMP).

The PMP will build the world’s highest rock dam and two power stations with an overall installed peaking capacity of 5,500-6,480 MW.

However, more than 10 years after the signing of the treaty, the ambitious PMP is yet to see any actual construction due to mounting opposition in Nepal.

The treaty is regarded as a sell-out by a large number of stakeholders, including community organisations and political parties, who have been demanding that the “unequal” pact be scrapped.

Though the agreement says the treaty would be reviewed every 10 years and is valid for 75 years, there was no reassessment in 2006 due to the political instability gripping Nepal with King Gyanendra’s government tottering and a new coalition of opposition parties poised to take over.

Now the Maoists have raked up the treaty again as they build up their poll campaign and try to score over their major rivals, the Nepali Congress and Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML).

“At midnight Friday, this is how they sold the Mahakali,” Maoist daily Janadisha said Tuesday in a front-page report.

The report alleged that though the CPN-UML could have stopped the treaty, it did not after coming under pressure from the Indian authorities.

It also hinted that many lawmakers were bribed so that the treaty could be passed in parliament with the required two-thirds majority.

To get the magic number, an ailing MP was brought out of hospital where he was undergoing treatment to take part in the parliament vote which took place at midnight, the report said.

With the April 10 election drawing closer, the Maoist campaign is highlighting the graft charges dogging several Nepali Congress bigwigs, who were however given a clean chit by the court probing the charges.

However, while the former guerrillas are training their guns on opponents, they themselves are under a volley of criticism from several quarters.

Independent observers monitoring the pre-election scenario say the Maoists’ guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army, have left their barracks in violation of the peace agreement they signed two years ago and have been actively taking part in poll campaigns.

There are also growing allegations of the former rebels attacking other parties’ contestants, intimidating voters and trying to post their cadres in the polling booths.

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