KATHMANDU: The Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh’s special envoy to Nepal, Mr Shyam Saran began his whirlwind consultations on Thursday by first holding talks with the top leaders of the Maoist party.
The Maoist party had asked New Delhi not to interfere in the crucial prime ministerial election and the formation of a new government.
Mr Saran, a former Indian foreign secretary as well as ambassador to Nepal during the height of the Maoist insurgency, held nearly an hour-long dialogue with Maoist chief and former prime minister, Mr Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda as well as Mr Prachanda’s three deputies, Mr Baburam Bhattarai, Mr Narayan Kaji Shrestha and Mr Mohan Vaidya.
The current Indian ambassador to Nepal, Mr Rakesh Sood as well as two other Maoist leaders, Mr Ram Bahadur Thapa and Mr Krishna Bahadur Mahara, were also present at Thursday’s meeting at Mr Prachanda’s residence in the capital.
Mr Saran told media the talks had been extremely fruitful. He would also be meeting caretaker Prime Minister Mr Madhav Kumar Nepal and Mr Sushil Koirala, chief of the Nepali Congress party that along with the Maoists is taking part in the poll on Friday.
Soon after his almost unheralded arrival in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Mr Saran held informal parleys over dinner with the four ethnic parties from the Terai plains, whose support will prove crucial in the election. Maoist deputy chief and MP Mr Shrestha told the media that Mr Saran had come to express India’s concern about the peace process and the drafting of a new Constitution by May 2011 and to see how India could help.
The Indian envoy had assured the Maoist leaders that his visit was not intended to pressurise the parties and influence Friday’s election. India wanted to improve ties with Nepal and had put its concerns frankly before the Maoists, Mr Saran said.
Mr Saran had also expressed New Delhi’s concern over the fate of more than 19,600 fighters of the Maoists’ People’s Liberation Army who have been lying in the doldrums since the end of the Maoist insurgency in 2006 and the signing of a peace agreement.
The Maoists have remained at loggerheads with the ruling parties on the induction of the PLA in the national army and rehabilitating those who wanted to opt out. The issue has remained a major hurdle that derailed three rounds of elections with the parties failing to elect a new prime minister.