Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Bhattarai’s visit


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Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai is a Maoist like Prachanda but he leans more towards moderation. He is on a visit to India which is his first foreign visit. He has thus made amends for the departure from traditional practice when Prachanda first went to China in 2008. Prachanda however explained it away saying that he had gone to see the Beijing Olympics. Bhattarai’s visit is primarily aimed at seeking Indian support for the political transition in his country. His government is still fragile. New Delhi regards his views with some suspicion but is prepared to strengthen its ties with the Maoist Prime Minister. Bhattarai will have talks with Manmohan Singh whom he has met before and other Indian dignitaries.

Nepal and India share a special relationship. It is hoped that Nepal would be sensitive to various concerns of India. Admittedly, the ruling Maoists in Nepal have asked their Prime Minister to avoid such potential irritants as the signing of an extradition pact and review of the 1950 Friendship Treaty. The first priority goes to security related issues. No major pacts are in sight but both sides are expected to step up cooperation especially in the power sector. Nepal can derive immense economic benefits from ties with India. It is unfortunate that some Indian joint venture companies in Nepal have been under attack. Such attacks keep away entrepreneurs and impair business relations. New Delhi is keen to sign a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. Bhattarai should welcome these moves as an understanding with India will help him set his house in order. What he needs is completion of the peace process in Nepal hampered mainly by the inability to rehabilitate 19,000 former Maoist guerrillas.

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