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Prachanda heads for China after becoming PM

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : A day after swearing in his new cabinet on a note of discord, Nepal’s first Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda Saturday left Kathmandu for Beijing, his first destination abroad after assuming office.

Accompanied by his wife Sita, who is also the central advisor of the party, Maoist spokesman and newly appointed Information and Communications Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and other Nepali officials, Prachanda’s five-day visit is intended to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games Sunday as well as meet Chinese President Hu Jintao as well as Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

The Maoist leader’s first official trip to an international forum like the Olympics is expected to create a splash, especially with the former guerrillas’ recent history of leaving their armed struggle and sweeping the April election.

Prachanda, who led a 10-year guerrilla war to capture power influenced by Chinese leader Mao Zedong, is also expected to visit Shaoshan, the village in Hunan province where Mao was born, his mausoleum as well as the Great Wall of China.

The Maoist chief was keen to attend the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo earlier but failed to make it as disputes over power-sharing with the other major parties caused a long delay in the formation of a Maoist-led government.

Prachanda’s trip comes even as China donated $50,000 to Nepal Red Cross Society as emergency flood assistance.

Though the Maoists say there is nothing political about Prachanda’s China visit, yet there are indications that Nepal’s southern neighbour India is not happy about it.

Prachanda’s predecessor Girija Prasad Koirala had made New Delhi his first port of call after assuming office in 2006.

An Indian delegation that visited Nepal this month had advised Prachanda to postpone his China visit, saying it would send negative messages to India.

Before he left, Prachanda made his first address to the nation, saying his government would seek friendly relations with the neighbouring countries and follow the Panchsheel principles of co-existence.