Maoists keen to improve ties with India, Prachanda tells Krishna

Maoists keen to improve ties with India, Prachanda tells Krishna

Maoists keen to improve ties with India, Prachanda tells Krishna

On the last day of his trip, Krishna held nearly one-hour-long talks with the former revolutionary, who denied his party was anti-India and said it was keen to improve ties with the neighbouring government.

After the meeting at the Dwarika Hotel, where the Indian minister was staying during his visit, Prachanda told journalists that Krishna had raised queries about economic and security issues.

Though the Maoist chief did not elaborate, Krishna had said earlier that New Delhi was concerned at the growing attacks on Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood and major Indian joint ventures in Nepal, and had asked the Nepal government to ensure security for both.

Prachanda said both sides had agreed that there was a need for mutual understanding. Krishna also asked about the Maoist perspective on the peace process and the new constitution that has to be promulgated by May 28.

The Maoist chief, who had earlier been calling for a new "People's Revolt", dramatically changed his stand this week, instead urging his party to focus on the peace process and the new constitution.

On Thursday, he said it was possible to ready the new constitution within a week. However, New Delhi realises that the constitution may not be ready by May 28 and is urging all the parties to put their heads together and come up with an alternative to prevent a crisis after the deadline elapses.

Krishna, who also met the leaders of the ruling Communist Party and the opposition Nepali Congress, has urged them to hammer out a consensus solution with the Maoists.

After the meeting with Prachanda, Krishna flew to Birgunj city on the Indo-Nepal border to lay the foundation for the integrated checkpost being built with Indian assistance worth nearly Rs.87 crore.

The Birgunj-Raxaul checkpost is the main route for Indo-Nepal trade, accounting for almost 75 percent of goods movement. Krishna will also lay the foundation for PRN120, the highway that is part of the network of roads to be built in the southern Terai plains, for which India has pledged assistance worth Rs.805 crore.

"These projects aim at strengthening the cross-border connectivity between India and Nepal to facilitate better people-to-people contacts and economic opportunities for the people of Nepal," Krishna said. The political results of the Indian delegation's visit will not be apparent immediately.

The developments will begin to be manifest only after the Maoist central committee ends its meeting, called Friday. If the central committee endorses Prachanda's call for peace and the constitution, India can look forward to better ties with the former guerrillas.

However, Prachanda's position is likely to be challenged by his hawkish deputy Mohan Baidya, who is advocating revolt and resuming hostilities against India.