Nepal Maoists favour regulated border, visa for IndiansJanuary 13th, 2011 - 2:18 pm ICT by IANS
By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Jan 13 (IANS) Staking claim to the new government, the Maoists, the largest party in Nepal’s parliament, have indicated they favour regulating the open border between India and Nepal and visa for Indians in Nepal as part of their demand to scrap a six-decade-old bilateral pact.Baburam Bhattarai, the deputy chief of the Maoists and the man whose name is doing the rounds as a potential prime ministerial candidate, also said his party did not consider India as its arch enemy and had realised it needed to work with the southern neighbour for peace and progress in Nepal.
“There is a thaw in our relationship with India,” said the scholar from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University who met Indian politicians last week, when he visited New Delhi to participate in a seminar.
“I have clarified to (Indian external affairs minister) S.M. Krishna that the Maoists never branded India as their principal enemy.”
Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda triggered a controversy last year when he reportedly urged a “people’s revolt” and readiness against military intervention by India, describing it as the principal enemy.
“India was described as the principal obstruction and contradiction in the path of social progress in Nepal, not principal enemy,” Bhattarai said. “Also, by India, we mean a small part of the ruling class that exploits people in India and Nepal. They exist in China, the US, everywhere. We don’t have any enmity with the people of India.”
Bhattarai said the Maoists agreed that India had a genuine security concern about the misuse of the over 1,800 km open border between the two countries, which is increasingly being used by terrorists and smugglers of drugs and fake Indian currency.
“We need to regulate the border,” he said. “So we are demanding scrapping the 1950 India-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty.”
Currently, Indians don’t need a passport to visit Nepal or visa and vice versa, thanks to the treaty. If it is scrapped, a visa regime would come into existence.
“Why not?” the Maoist leader said. “Nepal is a sovereign country. If Indians need visa in Bangladesh, Pakistan, why not in Nepal?”
But though the former armed party has been demanding the abolition of the treaty since 1996, when it started a 10-year insurrection within Nepal, India says the Maoists never broached the subject seriously as it would cause more disadvantages for Nepalis.
The treaty allows Nepalis to buy land in India and own property whereas Indians in Nepal cannot.
Asked why the Maoists opposed the Nepal government’s decision to award an Indian company the contract to print Nepali passports, since it would have allayed India’s fears of the documents being misused by criminals, Bhattarai said as passports were a sensitive issue, such contracts were not awarded to one’s neighbouring countries.
He also ruled out the possibility of a new armed revolt by his party, saying it would consider that only if the peace process broke down irretrievably.
With the UN poised to exit from Nepal’s peace process from Friday midnight, the Maoist leader said its presence was still needed and there could be an eleventh-hour agreement among the parties to ask the UN Security Council to allow its political mission in Nepal to continue.
With fresh elections to start in parliament to choose a new prime minister after 16 rounds of vote failed, Bhattarai said there was no alternative to a consensus government in which the Maoists and the Nepali Congress should come together.
While the natural thing would be for the Maoists to head the new government, since they were the largest party, Bhattarai said they were ready to look beyond the major parties and agree to have a prominent individual as the new prime minister.
However, Bhattarai ruled out the possibility of the return of monarchy.
“They are free to dream,” he said, referring to royalists who are seeking a referendum on whether monarchy should be reinstated.
“But it will never happen. The (2008) election proved that. Only one percent people voted for the royalist party while 99 percent voted for republican parties.”
Bhattarai is leaving for India’s Mumbai city Thursday on a three-day visit to attend an academic seminar.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
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