September 18, 2008

NEPAL: Prachanda’s Visit- A Good Beginning?

By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan

Prime Minister Prachanda while talking to a gathering of Nepal Bharath Jana Manch, a left oriented grouping in Delhi, described his visit as a success in dispelling the confusion and suspicions surfacing in both the countries. This is a modest but a very objective assessment of his visit as he was also restrained back at home not to enter into any new agreement.

Prachanda in his speeches made the right noise and at no time referred to India as an “expansionist country” (a favourite epithet used by the Chinese) and in his meeting with the Indian Prime minister he is said to have remarked that Nepal’s ties with India cannot be compared to with any other country including China! The Indian media was only too eager to lap it up!

Despite the New Delhi bombings and busy schedule, the Prime Minister of India took time to have a formal meeting followed by delegation level talks led by the two Prime ministers on issues of mutual interest. A dinner was hosted by the Prime Minister for the visiting dignitary.

Prachanda had also an interaction with the members of the business community, jointly hosted by the ASSOCHAM, CII and FICC. He sought Indian investment public and private investments and promised to have proper environment. He said that the Investment Security Board under his chairmanship will be formed to attract investment and security for investors. (At the time when he was making this statement, six major companies including the Indian one Dabur have been shut down in Bara District due to labour disputes, industrial insecurity and lack of government support!)

Before leaving for Bangalore, a joint Press statement on PM Prachanda’s visit was made by the MEA. The highlights of the statement were- (full text given as an appendix)


The GOI expressed full support to the peaceful, political democratic transformation of the country.

The two sides felt the need to inject new dynamism into the relations between the two countries with a forward-looking change in tune with the realities of the time.

Both sides agreed to review, adjust and update the Indo- Nepal treaty of 1950 and other agreements and a high level committee at the level of Foreign Secretaries will be set up for the purpose. (It is only hoped that this time both governments would work seriously and quickly to change the treaty and it should be left to Nepal to decide what type of relation it wants with India.)

GOI will continue to assist Nepal in its peaceful democratic transition, its economic development and reconstruction and the area of assistance would include infrastructure, human resource development, health and education.

While expressing concern over the large scale damage caused by Kosi, both sides decided to take preventive measure to avoid the recurrence of such events. The GOI will provide Rs 20 crores IC as immediate relief to Nepal and will also rebuild segments of the East-West Highway damaged in the floods.

A three-tier mechanism at the level of Ministerial, Secretary and technical levels will be established to rationalise and raise the efficacy of existing bilateral mechanisms to push forward on development of water resources in a comprehensive manner.

The two PMs directed the Inter Governmental Committee (IGC) at the level of commerce secretaries to meet in one month to initiate a comprehensive review of the existing trade and transit arrangements with a view to promoting industrialization in Nepal.

The GOI will also provide a credit up to 150 crores for the next three months to ensure uninterrupted POL supplies to Nepal.

GOI also agreed to implement the Naumure Hydro Electric Project on Rapti River. (It is understood that both sides discussed the construction of the Kosi High Dam and the Saptha Kosi Dam as a long term solution to control Kosi river and for sharing of power. Judging by the history of the Kosi and Gandak agreements, it is very unlikely that any major cooperative project for power sharing with India will come up. Rather a new approach could be made to tame the Kosi and such other rivers and leave it entirely to the Nepalese side to decide on what they want to do regarding power and water for irrigation if generated)
In the meeting with the gathering of Nepal Bharath Janamanch, Prachanda while referring to continuation of his party’s ideological conflict with bourgeois, followers of status quo and feudalism said that his party “will ultimately go for a People’s Republic.” This is in line with what his organisational chief Mohan Baidya said on 13th September in a Reporter’s Club meeting. Mohan Baidya said that they are in favour of communist rule with room for competition among political parties as the traditional multi party system has failed to deliver. He added that they would go for a “non parliamentary multiparty system” in drafting the new constitution. (There appears to be two streams of thought- While Mohan Baidya (Kiran) and some senior leaders of CPN (M) feel that the revolution is incomplete and that the Maoists should use their new found State Power towards achievement of a communist people’s republic, leaders like Baburam Bhattarai are of the view that the current multi party framework could be used to achieve their socio-economic agenda. These differences are likely to come up again and again and the coalition partners in the government would also be placed in a difficult situation when the new constitution is being written.)

It is said that the Defence Minister Badal is expected to visit China next week to discuss about training the PLA to make them professional soldiers and fit enough to be part of the Nepalese Army. If this comes through, it would amount to the current leadership while depending on India for economic development, would look up to China for political and strategic support!

Appendix:

Joint Press Statement on PM Prachanda's India Visit

1. The Rt. Hon’ble Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, Prime Minister of Nepal, is on an official visit to India from September 14-18, 2008 at the invitation of H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India. The Prime Minister of Nepal is accompanied by Hon’ble Mr. Upendra Yadav, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon’ble Mr. Krishna Bahadur Mahara, Minister for Information and Communication, Hon’ble Mr. Bishnu Prasad Poudel, Minister for Water Resources and Hon’ble Mr. Rajendra Mahato, Minister for Commerce and Supplies. The delegation includes four members of the Constituent Assembly, senior officials of the Government of Nepal, a business delegation and a delegation of media representatives.

2. During his visit, the Prime Minister of Nepal called on H.E. Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, the President of India, and on H.E. Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the Vice President of India. The Prime Minister of Nepal had a meeting with the Prime Minister of India, which was followed by delegation level talks, led by the two Prime Ministers, on issues of mutual interest and concern. The Prime Minister of India hosted a banquet in honour of the Prime Minister of Nepal. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Minister of External Affairs, Prof. Saif-u-Din-Soz, Minister of Water Resources and Shri L.K. Advani , Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha called on the Prime Minister of Nepal. The Prime Minister of Nepal had a meeting with Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the President of Indian National Congress. The Prime Minister of Nepal also visited Rajghat and paid homage to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi. An interaction with the Indian business community was jointly hosted by ASSOCHAM, CII and FICCI in honour of the visiting dignitary. During his stay in India, the Prime Minister is visiting Bangalore from September 17-18, 2008.

3. The Prime Minister of India extended a warm welcome to the Prime Minister of Nepal as the first Prime Minister of Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the age-old close, cordial and extensive relationships existing between Nepal and India. Both Prime Ministers expressed their support and cooperation to further consolidate the relationship in the days ahead.

4. The talks were held in an atmosphere of utmost cordiality and warmth. They shared their views and assessment of the situation. The two Prime Ministers acclaimed the importance of peaceful, political, democratic transformation of historic significance in Nepal.

5. The Prime Minister of Nepal appreciated the positive support extended by the people and Government of India throughout the peaceful political democratic transformation in the country.

6. The Government of India expressed full support to the peaceful, political, democratic transition in Nepal.

7. Both leaders recognized the historic changes that have taken place in Nepal with the elections to the Constituent Assembly and the declaration of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal according to the wishes of the people of Nepal.

8. The Prime Minister of Nepal stressed that following the Constituent Assembly elections, bringing the peace process to a logical conclusion, writing a new Constitution and accelerating the pace of economic development are the main priorities of the Government of Nepal in the days ahead.

9. The two sides felt the need to inject new dynamism into the relations between the two countries for a forward looking change in tune with the realities of the time as well as the wishes and aspirations of the people of both the countries.

10. Both sides agreed to reactivate the existing bilateral mechanisms in the evolving context.

11. Both sides noted that the multi-faceted and deep-rooted relationships between the two countries needed further consolidation and expansion in a forward-looking manner to better reflect the current realities. It was in this broader context that the two Prime Ministers agreed to review, adjust and update the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship and other agreements, while giving due recognition to the special features of the bilateral relationship. A High-Level Committee at the level of Foreign Secretaries will be set up for this purpose.

12. The Nepalese side informed that Government of Nepal will take further necessary measures for the promotion of investor friendly, enabling business environment to encourage Indian public and private sector investments in Nepal.

13. Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in handling cross-border crime and security concerns. Home Secretaries will meet soon to implement this decision.

14. Government of India will continue to assist the Government and people of Nepal in its peaceful, democratic transition; its economic development and reconstruction. The areas of assistance would include infrastructure, human resource development, health and education.

15. Both sides expressed concern over the large-scale damage caused by the breach of embankment by the river in the Kosi barrage area and decided to launch relief and rehabilitation measures for the victims and the reconstruction of the damaged infrastructure, and other measures as per the agreements, immediately, and take up preventive measures to avoid the recurrence of such events in the long term. They decided to take up preventive measures for the Gandak and other barrages under existing bilateral arrangements. Likewise, the two sides also discussed the problem of inundation in the border areas between Nepal and India and agreed to take up necessary work for its effective prevention on the basis of bilateral consultation.

16. Government of India will provide Rs. 20 crores as immediate flood relief to the people in Nepal. Government of India will also rebuild the segments of the East-West Highway, damaged in the recent Kosi floods.

17. Both sides agreed that Government of India will set up a camp office in Biratnagar for facilitating movement of Nepali vehicular traffic through Bihar for improved access to other parts of Nepal till the Highway is repaired.

18. A three-tier mechanism at the level of Ministerial, Secretary and technical levels will be established to rationalize and raise the efficacy of the existing bilateral mechanisms in order to push forward discussions on the development of water resources in a comprehensive manner, including hydro-power generation, irrigation, flood control and other water related cooperation. The Secretaries will meet in two weeks.

19. The two Prime Ministers directed the Inter-Governmental Committee (IGC) at the level of Commerce Secretaries to meet in one month to initiate a comprehensive review of the existing trade and transit arrangements with a view to promoting industrialization in Nepal, expanding complementarities of bilateral trade on a sustainable basis and removing the barriers to trade.

20. Both sides agreed to further enhance the pace of economic development between the two countries by extending support for the preparation and execution of mega projects, including infrastructure development such as road, rail and hydel-power projects. As a gesture of goodwill of the Government and people of India, Government of India agreed to implement the Naumure Hydro-electric Project on Rapti river.

21. In view of the shortages felt in Nepal for the essential commodities, Government of India will remove bans on the export of rice, wheat, maize, sugar and sucrose for quantities agreed with Nepal. Government of India will also provide a credit of up to Rs. 150 crores to Government of Nepal for the next three months to ensure uninterrupted POL supplies to Nepal.

22. The Prime Minister of Nepal extended an invitation to the Prime Minister of India to pay an official visit to Nepal at an early date. The Prime Minister of India accepted it with pleasure. The date of the visit will be decided through the diplomatic channel.