India wants free, fair polls in Nepal: Menon

Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon, however said that India will not play a direct role in the management of arms in Nepal.

india Updated: Dec 01, 2006 18:35 IST

Though India will not play a direct role in the management of arms in Nepal, it is ready to offer all assistance required for free and fair elections, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said on Friday, winding up his three-day visit to the country.

Menon, the first senior Indian official to visit Nepal after the signing of a peace accord between the coalition government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and the Maoist rebels, said New Delhi has an "open mind" regarding the controversial friendship treaty signed between the two nation almost six decades ago.

The Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in 1950 has been a major thorn in Indo-Nepal ties with its clause that Nepal consult India while exporting arms, ammunition, or warlike material and equipment necessary for internal security.

Nepal's left parties, including the Maoists, have been demanding the scrapping of the treaty - a demand Menon said New Delhi had been discussing with the past governments in Kathmandu.

Regarding Indian assistance for monitoring the arms and armies of the state and the guerrillas, who are to be confined in barracks and cantonments, India can't be involved directly since international norms rule out the direct involvement of contiguous countries.

However, New Delhi is ready to proffer whatever assistance Nepal requires, starting from providing storage containers where the arms will be kept under a single lock.

Menon said India is also ready to offer assistance for the critical election scheduled for June 2007 when Nepal will vote to choose a constituent assembly, which in turn will decide whether the country should remain a kingdom or become a republic.

Reiterating that it's up to the people of Nepal to decide what sort of government they want, Menon said all India wanted was that the election should be free and fair.

India is also ready to supply power to Nepal and is expecting to provide between 50-60 MW once transmission lines between the two countries are improved.

The Indian foreign secretary's visit is to be followed by a trip to Kathmandu by Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Mukherjee is scheduled to arrive on December 17 with an official invitation for Koirala to attend the 14th SAARC Summit to be held in New Delhi in April.

First Published: Dec 01, 2006 18:35 IST