India favours Nov 19 elections in Nepal




By IANS,

Kathmandu : Reiterating India's firm support for a democratic, peaceful and prosperous Nepal, visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh Sunday said India favoured holding of the Nov 19 constituent assembly elections as per schedule.

"As per my discussions with political leaders in Nepal, I found that everyone is committed to the elections. So, we are in favour of free and fair elections as per schedule," she said at a press conference before wrapping up her two-day Nepal visit.

Singh arrived in Kathmandu Saturday on a two-day visit to assess the ground reality ahead of Nepal's elections at a time when all political parties in the Himalayan nation are yet to agree on the electoral exercise.

During the course of her visit, the Indian foreign secretary held meetings with a wide range of the Nepali political leadership, including President Ram Baran Yadav, Chairman of the Interim Election Council Khil Raj Regmi, Home Minister Madhav Ghimire, former prime minister and chairman of the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPN-M) Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', and president of Nepali Congress Sushil Koirala.

"On our part, India is ready to provide all kinds of cooperation for peace, prosperity and democratic process in Nepal," Singh said

She also said that during the conduct of the elections, India was ready to make security arrangements like sealing the border.

Stating that it was in the interest of India to have a stable situation in Nepal, she said she had assured Nepali leaders of India's assistance in the election process.

At a time when Singh was visiting Kathmandu, the political parties in Nepal were holding negotiations to address the demands of different parties regarding holding the polls on Nov 19.

On Friday as well as Sunday itself, President Ram Baran Yadav convened all-party meetings to persuade the political parties to take part in the election process.

Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M), a breakaway faction of the Prachanda-led UCPN-M, and 33 other affiliated parties are against the Nov 19 polls and want these deferred to April or May next year.

However, the other major political parties of Nepal are opposing this.

In this context, Singh's visit and meeting with political leaders has put pressure on the parties not to defer the polls at any cost.

Her visit at a time when President Yadav himself is making efforts to persuade CPN-M to come on board the constituent assembly election process is being considered meaningful.

The visiting top diplomat also held talks with Nepal's Chief Election Commissioner Nil Kantha Uprety during which she inquired about the preparations for the elections to the second constituent assembly.

Election Commissioner Ram Bhakta PB Thakur quoted Singh as suggesting that it would be suitable to hold elections with the participation of all and committing that India was ready to provide necessary support for the process.

Regarding controversy doing the rounds with claims and counter-claims regarding the birth place of Lord Buddha, the visiting foreign secretary said there is no need to have any controversy at all.

"Buddha was born in Lumbini and Lumbini is in Nepal. So why is there a controversy," she asked.

During the meeting with her Nepali counterpart, Arjun Bahadur Thapa, the two sides also reviewed the progress in bilateral ties.