India gears up to host Pracahanda, new pacts unlikely (Lead)September 12th, 2008 - 4:43 pm ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Kathmandu, Sep 12 (IANS) India Friday announced the first official visit of Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, who comes here on Sunday on a five-day trip that has the potential to modernize ties between the two neighbours, bound by close cultural and fraternal relations. “The visit will provide the opportunity for discussing the entire gamut of issues between our two countries,” India’s external affairs ministry tersely said in New Delhi while announcing Prachanda’s maiden visit to the country after assuming office.
No new pacts are likely to be signed as it will be primarily a goodwill visit meant to reaffirm ties between the two countries, official sources said in New Delhi and Kathmandu.
In a bid to soothe frayed nerves in New Delhi following Prachanda’s visit to Beijing to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics last month, the new regime in Kathmandu has taken pains to package the Maoist leader’s India trip as his “first formal political visit” to any country.
Sections of the Indian establishment felt uneasy about Prachanda’s visit to Beijing as New Delhi has traditionally been the first port of call for a newly-elected Nepali prime minister.
India, too, has indicated it would regard the five-day visit as a “political” one that will provide New Delhi an opportunity to understand the mindset of the new dispensation in Kathmandu and enable the two countries to share their perspectives on the course of bilateral ties in the days to come.
Prachanda, who comes here after wide-ranging consultation with major political parties in Nepal on improving and consolidating ties with India, would be accompanied by four ministers: Foreign Affairs Minister Upendra Yadav, Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Commerce and Supplies Minister Rajendra Mahato and Water Resources Minister Bishnu Poudel.
Besides meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prachanda is also scheduled to hold talks with Congress leader and ruling UPA chief Sonia Gandhi and opposition Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani.
Imparting a more contemporary character to bilateral ties, which could include talks on a revision of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, is expected to top the agenda of Prachanda, a former revolutionary who Aug 18 became the first prime minister of a republican Nepal.
During his election campaign in April, the Maoist leader had promised that all treaties with India, including the friendship treaty, will be reviewed. New Delhi is positively inclined towards a revision of the treaty, but feels more substantive discussions are required.
Other issues, like a comprehensive compensation package for the victims of the floods that have devastated parts of Nepal and rendered thousands homeless will also he high on the agenda. India is likely to announce a hefty relief package for Nepal’s flood-hit during the visit. Details are still being worked out, official sources said.
Nepal’s major political parties have advised Prachanda to seek compensation for to the flooding caused by the breach of the Kosi embankment. Nepal says that as per the Kosi Treaty of 1954, India is responsible for the repair of the embankment and other structures on the river.
Nepal is looking at a compensation package that will include the rehabilitation of the over 100,000 people left homeless in Nepal by the flood, the repair of the damaged embankment spurs and the rebuilding of infrastructure destroyed by the deluge.
Increasing access of Nepali goods to India, easing of quarantine and tax procedures and improved fuel supplies will also figure prominently in talks.
The Maoist chief, who is looking for greater foreign investment, will address top business leaders in a conclave organized by top industry bodies in New Delhi. He will also go to India’s IT hub Bangalore, where he is scheduled to be taken to the Infosys office.