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Koirala's India mission

Koirala's visit to India is closely-watched and comes at a time when Nepal's politics is at its transitional phase, writes Meenakshi Iyer.

india Updated: Jun 13, 2006 15:16 IST

Years of anti-monarchy protests, massive killings, insurgent violence and a Nero-like monarch has left little hope for the cash-strapped Nepal.

But now, with change of guard at the centre, things are finally looking up for the Himalayan Kingdom.

With a country that cannot boast of a proper irrigation system, infrastructure and roads, it is going to be a hard task for the newly-crowned Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to set things right.

But if the frail octogenarian's recent initiatives are anything to go by, the man is already at it.

The most recent one being his high-profile visit to India, which began on Tuesday.

Key Facts on Koirala

• Koirala, 84, rose to prominence in the late 1940s as a trade union leader.



• Spent seven years in jail and later went into exile in India for opposing monarchy in 1960.



•In 1991, he became Nepal's first elected PM in 30 years after protests against King Birendra led to restoration of multi-party democracy.



• Quit as premier in 1994 after losing elections, the beginning of a long period of instability in Nepal.



• Rode to power for a 4th time in 2000 on anti-corruption ticket. 



• Promised to stamp out Maoist rebellion which aimed to topple constitutional monarchy.



• Resigned a year later as the insurgency spread rapidly, and the rebels said they would hold talks if he stepped down.



• Elected Nepali Congress chief for a third term last year.



• Vowed to step up protests against Gyanendra.



• Koirala was arrested several times over the past 14 months of royal absolute rule.

The four-day visit is closely-watched by the international community and comes at a time when Nepal's politics is at its transitional phase.

In Koirala's one-to-one meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on Wednesday, bilateral relations focussing on reconstruction and stabilisation of Nepal came up for discussion.

India is likely to announce a grant of Rs 100 crore to Nepal, which according to sources signifies the importance New Delhi accords to that country, sources said.

Similar views are echoed by the The Rising Nepal daily, which says: "The official visit that is taking place only several weeks after Nepal's transition into a new political era clearly reveals the high degree of importance India attaches to bilateral relations with Nepal".

India's reconstruction package will also involve funding of various infrastructural and developmental projects in sectors like roads and power.

Nepal's "tasks could be accomplished with greater ease if a friendly nation like India extends its support and guidance," The Rising Nepal says.

India, on its part, feels that it needs to help Nepal as it takes shape of a modern democracy and sheds the cloak of monarchy.

"India's good wishes for the progress and prosperity of Nepal can never be downplayed…Nepal is in urgent need of support both of India and international community…" the paper says.

According to reports, almost two-thirds of Nepal's development budget comes from foreign aid, and India is among the biggest donors, with a 14 billion-rupee aid programme.

The economy is also in dire straits, as according to a White Paper presented by the House of Representatives, the Royal Palace has arbitrarily spent more than US$10.4 million in the first 9 months of the current fiscal year.

The Royal government spent more than $140,000 to suppress the pro-democracy people's movement and $3.9 million to hold controversial municipal elections.

Koirala is expected to wrap-up his visit by Thursday and before that it remains to be seen how the two countries progress on a host of issues that have affected the friendly ties.

This includes the issue of open border. Because of this, the citizen travel from one country to another without visa, and without any record and this has given further impetus to criminal activities and Maoist infiltration.