Prachanda backtracks on charges against India

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Facing a new controversy after a leaked video tape that showed him saying that the size of his guerrilla army was widely inflated before the UN, Nepal’s caretaker Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda Wednesday defended the tape and backtracked on his accusations against India.

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India, he said, had taken the initiative to forge a 12-point agreement between his then underground party and Nepal’s other major parties that paved the way for the end of deposed King Gyanendra’s army-backed regime.

India had also helped Nepal hold its historic constituent assembly election last year, he said.

However, he added that during his party’s recent battle against army chief General Rookmangud Katawal there were public fears that India’s support had waned.

The Maoist government had sacked the general for alleged disobedience but he was reinstated by President Ram Baran Yadav and that triggered the fall of the Maoist government.

Prachanda said that following the statement by Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma that India has not interfered and has no intention of interfering in Nepal’s internal affairs, he hoped ties between the two neighbours would improve and progress in future.

He also said that during his resignation announcement, where he had talked of foreign intervention, he had not mentioned India by name.

However, during the leaked video footage that showed him speaking to his guerrilla fighters in southern Chitwan district, Prachanda had been captured on tape as saying that if “reactionary India and the US” suspected the Maoists would win the election, they would have never allowed it to be held.

Also, after Prachanda announced he was stepping down Monday following a pullout by his allies, a senior party peer, Finance Minister Baburam Bhattarai had accused the Indian bureaucracy of making “an enormous blunder” which would create anti-India feelings in Nepal.

The Janadisha daily, a Maoist mouthpiece, carried a front-page caricature lampooning Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The prime minister was shown leading a rally of the Maoists’ deserting allies and carrying the Nepali president on his shoulders.

The president, whom the Maoists are accusing of a “coup” like the one by Gyanendra in 2005, was shown wearing the long plumed crown once worn by the kings of Nepal.