Prachanda’s visit to redefine India-Nepal ties: envoy (Interview)

September 13th, 2008 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 13 (IANS) Prime Minister Prachanda’s maiden visit to India, starting Sunday, will provide “broad political direction to forge a 21st century relationship” and set at rest speculation about Nepal’s pro-China tilt, says Kathmandu’s India envoy Durgesh Man Singh.“It is basically a political visit. It will give broad political direction to strengthen India-Nepal relationship in days to come,” Singh told IANS in an interview here a day before the Maoist prime minister, a former revolutionary, begins his five-day trip.

“The leaders will have wide-ranging discussion on all issues, including trade, transport, water resources, infrastructure. We are not looking at signing of any new agreements,” the envoy said.

Singh was, however, cautious when asked whether Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known as Prachanda, will insist on a review of the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship which has been characterized by Kathmandu as an “unequal” document that does not reflect the changing nature of the relationship.

“Like all other issues, it will be discussed. The two leaders will reflect on it and will be guided by realities on the ground,” the envoy underlined.

“The aim of the visit will be to give a 21st century complexion to our relationship. The focus will be on activating bilateral mechanisms that have not been adequately tapped,” Singh added.

“There are so many bilateral mechanisms between the two countries in areas like trade, transit, security, border issues, infrastructure development. We want to make these mechanisms more active,” he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks with his Nepali counterpart Monday and convey New Delhi’s keenness to spur Nepal’s economic and democratic transformation.

India is likely to announce a hefty relief package for Nepal’s flood-hit during the visit. “Floods are a common problem. We don’t believe in blame game,” the envoy said when asked whether Nepal will seek compensation for the floods on its territory which Kathmandu feels were caused by lack of timely repair, which India was supposed to undertake, in the Kosi river embankments.

The two sides may also review the 1954 Kosi river treaty to make it more effective, he said.

The envoy underlined that this will be Prachanda’s “first official visit abroad” and rejected reports about Kathmandu’s perceived shift towards Beijing after the Maoist leader’s visit to China to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics last month.
“There is no tilt. We believe in a policy of equidistance towards our neighbours,” Singh said.

Sections of the Indian establishment were upset over Prachanda’s Beijing visit as India has traditionally been the first port of call for Nepal’s leaders.

Taking trade and economic ties to a new level will be another highlight of the visit, the envoy said. Prachanda will make a pitch for attracting Indian investment in key areas like hydropower, agriculture, tourism and infrastructure when he speaks to top Indian industrialists at a business luncheon in New Delhi Monday.

“We have been through a spell of political instability. But we now have a more positive environment. The time is just right for stepping up trade and investment,” he said.

Hydropower cooperation is also poised for a major expansion in days ahead, the envoy said.

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