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Nepal names ace economist new envoy to India

world Updated: Dec 30, 2007 21:04 IST
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More than a year after Nepal's government recalled its ambassador to India, the council of ministers on Sunday approved a top economist for the job, regarded as one of the most crucial diplomatic assignments in the Himalayan nation.

Durgesh Man Singh, 60, who had returned to Kathmandu only three months ago after serving as an Asian Development Bank consultant to the Vietnamese government, was named for the key job after the name of the previous nominee, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's niece Shailaja Acharya, was withdrawn due to reasons of her health.

Though Koirala had locked horns with the Maoists to push through the name of Acharya, a former deputy prime minister, despite reports that she had supported King Gyanendra's power grab and opposed the opposition parties' alliance with the guerrillas, Kathmandu asked New Delhi to put the appointment on hold after it was found that Acharya was suffering from depression and mental illness.

Singh, a postgraduate of the Delhi School of Economics, has been a student of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as well as of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen.

Though not a member of Koirala's ruling Nepali Congress party, he took part in the 1990 pro-democracy movement that ended the ban on political parties and the absolute reign of Nepal's Shah kings.

Singh is the nephew of late Ganesh Man Singh, one of Nepal's most loved leaders, who was at the forefront of the 1990 movement.

Singh, who began his career as a teacher at Tribhuvan University's Centre for Economic Development, also served as Nepal's resident ambassador and head of mission to the European Union.

"It's a tough job," Singh told IANS.

"My priority would be to create better rapport between Nepal and India, to present Nepal's perspective and to seek to move ahead for our mutual interests," he said.

The key post has been lying vacant since early 2006, but it would be about two months more before the new ambassador is appointed formally.

First, Singh would have to appear before a parliamentary committee and get its approval. The recommendation would then be sent to New Delhi for the southern neighbour's concurrence.

In 2006, after King Gyanendra's 14-month government collapsed, the new government that came to power recalled more than 10 envoys appointed by the royal regime.

Though Karna Dhoj Adhikari, the previous Nepali ambassador to India, was appointed earlier, he was still regarded with mistrust as his appointment came during a government nominated by the king.