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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 11:36 GMT
India's key role in Nepal affairs
By Rabindra Mishra
BBC Nepali service

Madhav Kumar Nepal and former Nepal PM Girija Prasad Koirala in a news conference
Nepal politicians want a common front with rebels against the king
Recent clandestine meetings in India between leading Nepalese politicians and Maoist leaders have once again highlighted the crucial role India continues to play in Nepal's internal affairs.

Nepalese leaders have denied any face-to-face meeting with rebel leaders in India, let alone in a government guest house where talks are believed to have taken place.

For its part, India denies knowledge of any Maoist leaders on its soil and has declared them "terrorists". But it has been a long established fact that some top Maoist leaders do reside in India.

Since the 1 February royal coup, Nepalese leaders have regularly visited Delhi, but last week saw an unprecedented jamboree in the Indian capital.

Delhi 'check-ups'

What surprised many was the sudden visit of a leader of the Communist Party of Nepal (UML), Madhav Kumar Nepal, to Delhi.

It is very common for Nepalese political actors to maintain silence if the involvement of India helps them - and curse it if it does not

Mr Nepal's visit took place less than a week after he had returned from an extended three-week tour of India, during which he met several Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

As soon as he returned home, he had a series of meetings in Kathmandu with British Ambassador Keith Bloomfield, American ambassador James Moriarty and Indian Ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, as efforts to find a solution to Nepal's political impasse continued.

Mr Nepal then headed off to Delhi again after the meetings. Mr Moriarty, who has remained active in co-ordinating a uniform international approach towards Nepal, was already there.

Mr Nepal insisted he had gone for a "heart check-up", while Mr Moriarty said his was a regular visit for consultations with Indian officials.

Meanwhile, Nepali Congress president and former Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala was in Delhi too, also for a "health check-up".

And a leader of a smaller partner in Nepal's seven-party opposition alliance had gone there for his "son's health check-up". There were other leaders too.

Crucial time

What baffles many is the role Delhi is suspected to have played in all these movements.

Last week, the Indian foreign ministry denied any information about the latest meetings.

Maoists in rural Nepal
Politicians say they are trying to persuade Maoists to give up violence

However, it is difficult to believe that the movement of top Nepali leaders in the heart of Delhi and meetings with rebel leaders declared terrorists at a politically crucial time could have gone unnoticed by the Indian authorities or intelligence officials.

General Ashok Mehta, a leading Indian security expert, believes that Indian intelligence established links with the Nepalese Maoists at least two years ago.

Speaking to the BBC, he once said "in circumstances as that of the Maoists, government strategy is implemented through intelligence agencies and not the official channels".

However, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran tries to avoid any direct reference to an alleged link between the Indian establishment and the rebels.

He said the Indian government was engaged in dialogue with all key political actors of Nepal, but did not mention the Maoists by name.

India was the first country to call the Maoists "terrorists" in September 2001, even before Nepal did so. At that time the Nepalese government was engaged in peace talks with the rebels.

Ironically, leading Maoist negotiator Krishna Bahadur Mahara travelled to Kathmandu from Delhi to participate in peace talks in November that year.

'Anti-nationalist'

India's role has been crucial in every major political change and the sustenance of such changes that Nepal has witnessed since the late 1940s.

After late King Mahendra sacked the elected government and took control of state power in 1960, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, made his displeasure public.

King Gyanendra (L) and Manmohan Singh on sidelines of Saarc summit
Manmohan Singh (right) has urged King Gyanendra to restore democracy

However, within six months, his government had signed four aid agreements with Nepal and normal friendship resumed.

Many believe that the self-serving change in Indian attitude helped the continuation of the monarchy's rule for 30 years.

Similarly, many believe India played a crucial role in the collapse of the royal regime in 1990.

Supporters of the current king have been trying to portray Delhi-rushing leaders as "anti-nationalist".

However, it is very common for Nepalese political actors to maintain silence if the involvement of India helps them - and curse it if it does not.

The latest Delhi saga is only likely to strengthen the belief of many Nepalese that Kathmandu remains a hostage of Indian national interest, which they say, has led India to constantly manipulate the politics of its tiny, land-locked neighbour.




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