Indian envoy mediates between Nepal prime minister and Maoists


Kathmandu : With Nepal’s embattled Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala failing to strike a compromise with the Maoist guerrillas even after parleys for nearly two months, Indian ambassador Shiv Shankar Mukherjee Wednesday met the premier as well as the top militant leadership to effect an understanding between the two.

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Koirala, who was earlier scheduled to fly to his hometown Biratnagar in eastern Nepal to open a medical conference, put the trip on hold to meet Mukherjee, who returned to Kathmandu from New Delhi Monday.

Last week, the cornered Koirala had stepped up diplomatic parleys to gauge the international support for his leadership, holding consultations with the British, American, German and Chinese ambassadors.

However, Mukherjee had been in India last week to receive medical treatment.

In his meeting with Koirala, Mukherjee reiterated the message given by Indian prime minister’s special envoy Shyam Saran that the parties should not try to abolish King Gyanendra’s throne through parliament since the house did not have the mandate of the people of Nepal.

Mukherjee also emphasised Saran’s message that an early constituent assembly election was the only credible way to know the verdict of the people.

After meeting Koirala, Mukherjee held parleys with Maoist supremo Prachanda and his deputy Baburam Bhattarai at the Indian embassy.

It is being speculated that Mukherjee is offering a compromise, which also has the consent of the prime minister, in a bid to avert a vote in parliament that could split the alliance and drive the Maoists to a new revolt.

Mukherjee is likely to have asked the Maoists to reach an understanding to avoid a vote Thursday or, if that is unavoidable, to accept the verdict.

On Wednesday, for the third consecutive day, parliamentarians debated the Maoist demand to abolish monarchy and declare Nepal a republic immediately.

With the rebels refusing to budge from their demand and Koirala not giving in, the battle is heading for a vote unless Mukherjee can save the situation.

If a vote is held, the Maoists are certain to be defeated. Maoist MP Bamdev Chhetri told the house Wednesday his party would begin a street movement to implement the demand if it was defeated in parliament.

If the guerrillas begin a new protest, the pact between them and the other political parties, which resulted in peace in Nepal after 10 years of civil war, could be badly impacted.

Koirala can’t afford a fresh Maoist movement as that would make it impossible to hold the election.

The more he tarries over the election, the faster his government is losing legitimacy and credibility, both at home and abroad.