Envoy protests anti-India activity by Nepal Maoists

Envoy protests anti-India activity by Nepal Maoists

Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood this month lodged formal protests with Nepal's foreign ministry as well as Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, former prime minister and chairman of the Maoist party, saying the stepped-up anti-India rhetoric by the former guerrillas would not improve ties between the two countries.

It would also make India think twice before funding new development projects in Nepal, the diplomatic communication said.

The issue was raised again this week when Sood met Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal. Though Khanal regretted the campaign and said he had taken it up with the Maoist leadership, with the Khanal government heavily dependent on Maoists for survival, the prime minister's words are not likely to be effective.

India has taken exception to Maoists defacing the Indian tricolour depicted on a section of the serpentine highway connecting Nepal with India and providing the major trade and communication route.

Almost 75 percent of the East-West Highway, renamed Mahendra Rajmarg, was built with Indian assistance. Recently, at the Kohalpur-Mahakali segment of the highway, where India has also funded the construction of 22 bridges at a cost of NRS 92 crores over and above the financing of the highway, Maoists tarred the Indian tricolour depicted alongside the Nepali flag, and blacked out "India" from the legend "Nepal India cooperation".

This year, the Maoists, who are the dominant party in the two-party ruling alliance, began dogging the Indian ambassador during his trips outside Kathmandu to inaugurate India-funded projects, waving black flags.

The black-flag wielding protesters are often brought from a different district following instructions from the party leadership. Though Prachanda has been repeatedly saying his party wants friendly relations with India, during their public programmes, he and other Maoist leaders have been blaming New Delhi for the fall of the Maoist government in 2009 and his inability to win the prime ministerial elections subsequently.

The Indian ambassador has indicated to Nepal's government and the Maoist leader that unless all the major Nepali parties gave their approval, new India-aided projects may not be undertaken.

As part of its economic cooperation to reach out at the grassroots, India has been
building schools, roads, drinking water projects and hospitals all over Nepal. In the last three years alone, 176 projects have been completed and another 200 are in the pipeline.

In addition, the embassy has received nearly 50 more requests for fresh projects in Gulmi and Kailali, the two districts where he was shown black flags last month. The ambassador has indicated that it would be difficult to consider these new proposals if the India bashing continues.

The Maoist propaganda apparently increased from December 2009 after the former guerrillas failed to return to power despite a protracted blockade of parliament. Subsequently, they announced a series of protest programmes at a public programme in the capital, where Prachanda called India the arch enemy.