Maoists call for reviewing pacts with India

April 24th, 2008 - 5:52 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 24 (IANS) Officially declared the largest party in Nepal after the crucial constituent assembly elections and poised to head the new government, Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas will press for the scrapping of a nearly 60-year-old treaty with India and a review of other pacts. The supreme commander of the Maoist army and chairman of the once banned party, Prachanda, who is likely to be the new prime minister of Nepal, said Thursday that while his government will aim for a new high in Indo-Nepal relations, the Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 has to be jettisoned for a new treaty and other pacts with India need to be reviewed.

Nepal’s communist parties have repeatedly asked for a review of the controversial 1950 treaty, calling it an unequal one which allows India a foothold in Nepal’s security matters.

India, on the other hand, has been trying to control Nepal’s arms purchases through a mix of threat and cajolement in the form of selling indigenously manufactured weapons and aircraft to Nepal at highly subsidised rates.

Tension flared up between New Delhi and Kathmandu in 1975, during the reign of King Birendra, when the latter proposed that Nepal be declared internationally a zone of peace.

Though it has won the support of over 100 countries, including China, India is not among them.

Besides the 1950 treaty, the two neighbours also have bilateral trade, transit and extradition treaties.

While all three have generated some friction from time to time, the 1996 Mahakali Treaty is one of the most contentious.

The pact that seeks to develop the waters of the Mahakali river, known as Sarada in India, for irrigation and generating hydropower, is regarded as a sell-out by the Maoists and was one of the major campaign planks against the ruling parties in the April 10 constituent assembly election.

Last year, the then ambassador to Nepal Shiv Shankar Mukherjee had said that India was ready to review the 1950 treaty. However, the then Girija Prasad Koirala government of Nepal, preoccupied with holding the election and keeping the Maoists in line, did not initiate any diplomatic manoeuvre for revising the pact.

Prachanda also said that his party, that had fought a 10-year civil war before signing a peace pact in 2006, would not renounce all kinds of violence “right now”.

“We want to create a model of peace,” the Maoist chief said. “We will renounce reactionary violence.”

It seems to indicate that the party, which has merely laid down its arms under UN supervision but not surrendered them, would not disband its militant youth wing, the Young Communist League (YCL), that has come under criticism for taking the law into its own hands.

The former ruling parties which lost the election allege that the fear of YCL was a major factor in getting votes for the former guerrillas.

However, the Maoists say that the YCL is a political body that would not be disbanded.

With the Maoists striving to cobble a coalition government, the two other major parties, Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist, have warned that they would not join the ruling coalition if the YCL did not behave.

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