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Nepal's clandestine deals

An aircraft heading for Nepal with a cargo of sophisticated arms and ammunition has been detained in India, reports say.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 12:58 IST

An aircraft heading for Nepal with a cargo of sophisticated arms and ammunition has been detained in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad, a report here said.

The Russia-made aircraft is carrying rifles, ammunition and anti-aircraft guns manufactured in some foreign country, probably Israel, the Jana Aastha weekly reported on Wednesday.

Suspicious at the lack of documents regarding the nature of the cargo and from where it had been shipped, the Indian authorities ordered the aircraft down when it was in Indian airspace.

The aircraft, expected to arrive in Kathmandu on Wednesday, has remained grounded for six days at the Ahmedabad airport in Gujarat, the report said.

According to the weekly, the arms cache is part of a deal struck between King Gyanendra's regime and the manufacturers at a time Nepal's biggest arms provider, India, followed by the US, suspended lethal military supplies to show their disapproval of the king's power grab.

Earlier this year, during the direct rule of the king, his son and heir to the throne, Crown Prince Paras, had visited Austria and other European countries on the pretext of handing over a pair of rhinos to an Austrian zoo.

The visit probably also covered consultations with brokers and arms manufacturers and inspection of the merchandise by army experts, the weekly said.

The Indian authorities have contacted the Nepali embassy in New Delhi for details about the mysterious aircraft and its contents, it added.

The weekly also questioned the rationale behind the new multi-party government's decision to honour the arms deals struck at a whopping loss to the state exchequer, including buying aircraft from China.

Though Nepal's Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat had said the government would not honour such deals struck by the royal regime, it has continued to do so, the weekly said.

Moreover, it has not informed parliament about the new consignment of heavy arms, the report said.

The news of the arms delivery comes even as Nepal obtained a waiver on its dues for military supplies from the Indian government.

Though New Delhi supplied arms to Nepal at a 70 per cent subsidy, a succession of Nepal governments welshed on payments, with the sum running into millions.

However, after Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala made a visit to New Delhi in June, India agreed to waive the dues.

While New Delhi has been magnanimous, the other countries with whom the royal government made deals - usually at enormous profits for brokers, people close to the palace - have been demanding their pound of flesh and succumbing to various pressures, the government is reported to be carrying on with the agreements.

First Published: Aug 30, 2006 12:50 IST