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Economic aid tops Nepal PM's Indian agenda

Koirala is likely to thank Manmohan Singh for India's role in the restoration of democracy in his country.

india Updated: Jun 02, 2006 20:04 IST

India is set to announce a massive economic aid package for the reconstruction of Nepal when Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala comes here on a four-day official visit next week.

Koirala -- this will be his first visit to India after becoming the Prime Minister of Nepal over a month ago -- will brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the evolving situation in Nepal after weeks of protests forced King Gyanendra ceding power to the pro-democracy seven-party alliance.

Koirala will arrive on the evening of June 6 and depart for Bangkok June 9. The ailing octogenarian Prime Minister will proceed to Bangkok for medical treatment.

"The visit will provide an opportunity for discussing the entire gamut of issues between our two countries," a statement from the External Affairs Ministry said in New Delhi on Friday.

Koirala, the 84-year-old patriarch of Nepali politics, will be accompanied by his senior ministers, including Home Minister Krishna Sitaula, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat and Foreign Minister KP Oli, and a group of top Nepalese businessmen.

Koirala is likely to thank Manmohan Singh for India's role in the restoration of democracy in his country, sources said in New Delhi.

Though suffering from respiratory problems, Koirala put the India visit before the medical trip so that New Delhi's new economic assistance package for Nepal, dubbed the 'Himalayan Marshall Plan' by the press, can be unveiled.

Just as the American Marshall Plan assisted the economic recovery of 17 European nations following World War II, the Himalayan Marshall Plan is a massive assistance project combining loans, concessions and infrastructure development.

It would be an important factor for Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat to keep under consideration as he begins drawing up the budget, which will be tabled in parliament this month. So, while until Monday, Koirala was to visit Bangkok first, the plan was revised within 24 hours.

Besides stabilising Nepal's economy that was battered during the 15 months of King Gyanendra's direct rule and weeks of protest and shutdown, the talks between Manmohan Singh and Koirala will focus on the ongoing negotiations between the Nepalese government and the Maoist rebels on the shape of the future political structure in the Himalayan state.

New Delhi has cautiously backed the integration of the Maoists into the political mainstream provided they renounce violence and come to a negotiated settlement with the SPA.

As the rebels and the government resumed peace negotiations last month, both sides agreed to ask the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Kathmandu to monitor the ongoing ceasefire. That issue is also likely to be discussed during the talks.

Koirala's India visit would not be liked by the royalists, who have already begun propaganda against the upcoming Indian assistance.

People's Review, a pro-palace weekly that according to the white paper tabled by Mahat in parliament last month received heavy financial aid from the royalist government during the king's direct rule, wrote that India was "pushing its economic roadmap to bring Nepal completely under its economic and political control."

First Published: Jun 02, 2006 20:04 IST