28 December 2009

Nepal army still stalling integration after 3 years

Prachanda (front) and Baburam Bhattarai

Nepal Maoists ask India to clarify army chief’s remark

Sudeshna Sarkar, Thaindian News, Bangkok, 28 December 2009

Kathmandu, Dec 28 (IANS) Terming a recent remark by the Indian Army chief as “naked intervention in Nepal’s internal affairs”, this country’s former Maoist guerrillas, who are seeking to get back to power, have asked the Indian government to clarify its position.

During a visit to India earlier this month by Nepal’s army chief Chhatraman Singh Gurung, Indian Army chief Deepak Kapoor was reported as saying that the Maoists’ guerrilla force should not be merged with the Nepal Army as it would lead to the politicisation of the national army.

Maoist chief and former prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has asked the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, to convey to the Manmohan Singh government that his party wants to know if New Delhi supports the Indian Army chief’s statement.

Prachanda held a meeting with Sood Sunday, five days after he accused Nepal’s ruling parties of being “wooden puppets dancing to India’s tune” at a public rally in the capital attended by hundreds of people.

Sood has left for New Delhi to brief South Block on the political developments in Nepal.

Kapoor’s remark was flayed by the Maoists, who signed a peace pact three years ago to end their 10-year war after a pledge by the ruling parties that their People’s Liberation Army would be inducted into the Nepal Army.

The proposed integration, yet to take off three years later, is a sore point with the Maoists, whose eight-month government fell as they tried to sack the previous Nepal Army chief, Rookmangud Katawal, for opposing the merger. However, they failed due to intervention by President Ram Baran Yadav.

“The statement by the Indian Army chief violates the peace pact,” Maoist spokesman Dinanath Sharma quoted Prachanda as telling the Indian envoy. “It could affect Nepal’s sovereignty. If it is true, we will be forced to start a movement against India.”

Sharma said Prachanda had asked Sood to convey to the Indian government his party’s objections to the Indian general’s comment and its suggestion that India should not interfere in Nepal’s internal matters.

Sood reportedly told the former revolutionary that India wanted to mend relations with the Maoists.

The Indian envoy also reportedly expressed concern at the renewed protests by the Maoists, which would culminate in an indefinite general strike from Jan 24.

The Maoists have also called for the scrapping of the Peace and Friendship Treaty signed with India in 1950 and other “unequal” agreements, an end to border disputes with India and the withdrawal of Indian troops from Nepal’s Kalapani area on the India-Nepal-China border.

However, analysts say the demand is mere rhetoric since India has shown its readiness to renegotiate the 1950 treaty and diplomatic parleys are already on.

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