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India sees opportunity in Nepal

India views the emergence of a Maoist-led government in Nepal as an opportunity to improve relations with Kathmandu, reports Amit Baruah.
Hindustan Times | By Amit Baruah, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 16, 2008 01:14 AM IST

India views the emergence of a Maoist-led government in Nepal as an opportunity to improve relations with Kathmandu, official sources said on Tuesday. “We will work with the results.”

These comments came even as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee described the April 10 Constituent Assembly elections in Nepal as a positive development.

After all the twists and turns in India’s policy towards Nepal, including a brief period of support for King Gyanendra, New Delhi’s policy of reaching out to the Maoists had held it in good stead.

New Delhi appreciated the comments made by Maoist chief Prachanda that the new government would have to work with India.

“There is enough basis for us to work together,” sources said about India’s past interaction with the Maoists.

India was also ready to engage the Maoists and talk about reworking some elements of the bilateral relationship between the two countries on which they had expressed concern. “We are quite happy to sit with them and see where this goes.”

Pointing out that India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, had already met Prachanda, the sources said that finally India could deal with a “legitimate structure” of authority in Nepal. The envoy was also in touch with other political parties.

“We’ve been in touch with them (the Maoists) for a long time, we are not coming in at this late stage,” they said, adding that Prachanda and his associates were aware of the role played by India in bringing Nepalese political parties together.

New Delhi’s assessment was that the results of the election showed that it was a “vote for change”.

According to the sources, India’s 60-year-long relationship with Nepal hardly had a “brilliant record” and a new opportunity had now presented itself.

India favoured a consensus-style government in Nepal, with the participation of the Maoists, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (UML).

It was also aware that the process of transition in Nepal would not be an easy one. While King Gyanendra would have to learn to live like a commoner, the Nepali Congress and CPN (UML) had to adjust to the ascendancy of the Maoists.

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