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Nepal's FM to visit India on Thursday

world Updated: Aug 24, 2008 15:58 IST
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Even as Nepal's first Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" sparked a controversy by making China his first international destination, a fresh ripple is expected with Foreign Affairs Minister Upendra Yadav heading for India on Thursday.

Yadav, chief of the debutant Terai party Madhesi Janadhikar Forum, will go to New Delhi on a four-day visit.

However, his trip is not at the invitation of the Indian government. Yadav will attend the gathering of peers from regional bloc BIMSTEC to be held in New Delhi.

The foreign ministers of the seven-member BIMSTEC are meeting in New Delhi Aug 29 when they are likely to finalise an anti-terror agreement.

The foreign minister's office told IANS that while the meeting is for two days, Yadav will stay on for an additional two days on a personal visit.

With the decision taken only late Saturday, the minister's itinerary is yet to be chalked out fully. But he is expected to meet Indian political leaders and officials, especially his counterpart Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Yadav's India visit could pour oil over the diplomatic waters ruffled by Prachanda's four-day visit to China on Saturday.

Ostensibly to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing, Prachanda also held bilateral talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Sunday.

Nepal's ambassador to China Tanka Karki said the Chinese premier had pledged a state assistance of $300,000 for the victims of the devastating flood in south Nepal that left over 75,000 people homeless.

Nepal's state radio quoted Karki as saying that during his nearly hour-long meeting with President Hu, the Maoist revolutionary briefed him about the state of the ongoing peace process, the mandate of drafting a new pro-people constitution in two years and development plans.

The Nepali envoy said Hu had pledged greater Chinese assistance and better ties between the two neighbours.

In the past, while the Maoists waged a 10-year war to abolish Nepal's constitutional monarchy, China branded the guerrillas as "anti-government forces" who tarnished Chinese leader Mao Zedong's image.

In 2005, when Nepal's king Gyanendra seized absolute power with the backing of the army, while India suspended its arms assistance to the then Royal Nepal Army to pressure the king into restoring democracy, China went against the international community to arm the army against the Maoists.

Prachanda's China trip, which the Maoists claim is not an attempt to play the China card against India, has triggered anti-Indian sentiments in Nepal.

On Saturday, when the Maoist chief left for Beijing at the head of an 11-member delegation that also included his wife Sita Poudel, the Indian ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood came under fire for not being present at the airport along with other diplomats to see him off.

Though Sood has been out of the capital since Friday to inaugurate a development project in remote northern Jomsom and the Indian embassy sent the deputy chef de mission Aloke Sinha, it was construed by Nepal's media and the Maoist-run organs as a deliberate snub to Prachanda for choosing to visit China first instead of India.