Don’t read too much into Prachanda’s China visit: Nepal’s envoy

August 28th, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) Nepal’s Ambassador Durgesh Man Singh has sought to allay anxieties in India about Prachanda’s visit to China - his first overseas visit after becoming prime minister - saying Kathmandu’s ties with New Delhi are in a “different category”. “Don’t read too much into it. Had he (Prachanda) become prime minister at the time of the SAARC summit, he would have first gone to Sri Lanka,” Singh told IANS.

The 15th SAARC summit in Colombo early this month was attended by the then prime minister of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala.

“Ties with India are in a different category. It’s a pointless controversy,” Singh said when asked about anxieties among some sections in India about Prachanda last week choosing China as his first overseas destination rather than India, which is traditionally the first port of call for a new Nepali prime minister.

He, however, refused to be drawn into any comparison between Nepal’s ties with India and those with China.

The envoy’s remarks come hours before Nepal’s newly appointed foreign minister Upendra Yadav arrives here to attend the New Delhi meeting of the foreign ministers of BIMSTEC - a seven-nation grouping that includes Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

When Yadav meets External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee later in the evening, it will mark the first high-level contact between the two countries since Prachanda was sworn in as the first Communist prime minister of Nepal last week.

“All bilateral issues will be discussed,” the envoy said.

Prachanda swore in his new government Friday and went to Beijing the next day with an 11-member delegation for the closing ceremony of the Olympics. This was interpreted in diplomatic circles and in the media here as a sign of Nepal’s pro-China tilt under the new dispensation that may challenge New Delhi’s pre-eminence in the Himalayan country.

The powers-that-be in Kathmandu, however, promptly went on a damage control exercise.

A day after Prachanda met Chinese President Hu Jintao and other Chinese leaders in Beijing, Yadav clarified that Nepal’s new government will maintain “equidistance” or balanced relations with both India and China.

Yadav’s visit, therefore, comes at an opportune time for New Delhi to get a sense of Kathmandu’s foreign policy and its attitude towards India under the new dispensation.

Yadav is the leader the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, which is part of Prachanda’s coalition government and represents the interests of Madhesis in the Terai region bordering India. Yadav is known to have a wide network of contacts cutting across political parties in India.

New Delhi has, therefore, some comfort factor with the new foreign minister of Nepal and feels it can trust him not to upset its interests in that country, an official source told IANS.

The issue of the revision of the 1950 India-Nepal friendship treaty, which Prachanda has characterised as “unequal”, will figure in discussions, but any serious move on that front may have to wait for Prachanda’s visit to India.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Prachanda for a visit, but there are no indications as to when the first Communist prime minister of Nepal will come to New Delhi.

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