Prachanda to come to India next month: Nepal’s envoy (Interview, lead)

August 28th, 2008 - 6:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 28 (IANS) Nepali Prime Minister Prachanda will come to India next month and it will be his first “political visit” abroad after ascending to the post last week, Nepal’s Ambassador Durgesh Man Singh has said. “He will come here next month before he goes for the UN General Assembly’s meeting in New York (scheduled for the third week of September). We are working out mutually convenient dates,” Singh told IANS in an interview.

“It will be his first political visit to any country,” the envoy said.

Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, had visited China last week - his first overseas visit after becoming the first prime minister of republic Nepal 10 days ago - to attend the Olympic Games closing ceremony in Beijing.

“Don’t read too much into it (the China visit). Had he become prime minister at the time of the SAARC summit, he would have first gone to Sri Lanka,” Singh replied. The 15th SAARC summit in Colombo earlier this month was attended by the then prime minister of Nepal, Girija Prasad Koirala.

Singh was trying to allay concerns among some sections in India about Prachanda choosing China as his first overseas destination rather than India, which is traditionally the first port of call for any new Nepali prime minister.

“Ties with India are in a different category. It’s a pointless controversy,” he stressed. He, however, refused to be drawn into any comparison between Nepal’s ties with India and those with China.

The envoy’s remarks coincided with the four-day visit of Nepal’s newly appointed Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav to New Delhi to attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of BIMSTEC - a seven-nation grouping that includes Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Nepal and Bhutan.

Dates for Prachanda’s visit will be discussed at the meeting between Yadav and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the envoy said.

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

A day after Prachanda met 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 to India marks the first high-level contact between the two countries since Prachanda became prime minister. “All bilateral issues will be discussed,” the envoy said.

The two sides are likely to discuss the situation arising from a massive flood that has hit parts of Bihar and neighbouring Nepal, he said.

Yadav, the leader of the Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, which represents the interests of Madhesis in the Terai region bordering India, 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.

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