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Prachanda asks Nepal not to buy arms from India

world Updated: Jul 22, 2009 16:35 IST

Former Nepal prime minister and current opposition leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has asked the new government of Nepal not to resume buying arms from India, warning that it would hit the ongoing peace negotiations adversely.

Prachanda, whose Maoist party fought a 10-year battle to overthrow Nepal's constitutional monarchy, has asked Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal not to seek fresh military assistance from India, Prachanda's aide Samir Dahal said.

The Maoist supremo's objection came after Nepal's Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari met her Indian counterpart A K Antony in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Bhandari, currently on a week-long visit to New Delhi, is said to have broached the subject of renewed arms and training assistance by the Indian government.

During the Maoist "People's War", India had provided Nepal with its indigenously manufactured Insas group of firearms as well as other military assistance at a 70 percent subsidy in a bid to contain the insurgency.

However, after Nepal's King Gyanendra tried to grab absolute power with the backing of the Royal Nepal Army in 2005, India suspended military assistance as a mark of its anger.

Prachanda telephoned Nepal on Tuesday night to point out that the resumption of arms sale would be a violation of the comprehensive peace agreement signed between the Maoists and Nepal's major parties in 2006, which ended the insurgency.

"The integration of the Maoist combatants with the Nepal army, as pledged in the peace pact, is yet to be done," Prachanda told the prime minister.

"To buy arms at this juncture would affect the peace process and hamper the drafting of a new constitution."

The fate of about 19,000 fighters of the Maoists' People's Liberation Army remains uncertain.

The fighters have been languishing in cantonments with their proposed merger with the army being opposed by the parties now as well as the chief of the army, Gen Rookmangud Katawal.

This month, the government said it would start the task of freeing over 4,000 disqualified PLA fighters, including nearly 3,000 child soldiers.

However, though the government said the discharged fighters' rehabilitation would be complete by November 2, the process could run into trouble with the combatants demanding to be employed in the security sector.