Nepal’s diplomatic scale tilts towards China

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Nepal’s diplomatic scale continues to tilt towards Beijing with an unending procession of high-level visits to the Middle Kingdom despite ruling parties and the opposition Maoists maintaining they want to keep equidistance between their giant neighbours, China and India.

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While Nepal’s peace process remains in the doldrums with the former Maoist guerrillas refusing to disband their underground army, nearly a dozen “commanders” of their People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and lawmakers are on a nine-day visit to China.

These include two former deputy chiefs of the PLA, Barsha Man Pun Ananta and Janardan Sharma Prabhakar. Both are sitting Maoist MPs while Sharma is also the former Maoist peace and reconstruction minister.

Ananta’s wife Onsari Ghartimagar, also a Maoist lawmaker, is member of the team that includes PLA spokesman Chandra Prakash Khanal Baldev.

The Nagarik daily, which broke the news Thursday, said that though the Maoist party said the 11 were on a personal visit, they had met officials of the Communist Party of China as well as Chinese army officials in Beijing and Shanghai.

Both Ananta and Prabhakar are members of the special committee that was formed to facilitate the disbanding of the PLA. With the two Maoist MPs on “vacation”, the special committee has not met even though time is running out for Nepal.

The delay is worrying the UN that is involved in the peace process.

After Nepal’s ruling parties and the Maoists signed a peace agreement in 2006 to end the decade-old communist insurgency, the UN was asked to help by monitoring the arms and combatants of the Nepal Army as well as the PLA.

The UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), the UN agency mandated to monitor both the forces, is to exit Nepal after Jan 15, 2011, and a concerned UN has been repeatedly asking Nepal to speed up the discharge of the PLA.

Nepal remains without a government since June when Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was forced to resign due to Maoist pressure. Since then, the parties have been unable to elect a new premier despite 12 rounds of election. Now the Maoists, the largest party in parliament, have threatened to prevent the caretaker government from tabling the new budget.

The threat to plunge Nepal into a dire financial crisis is a pressure tactic to make the ruling parties support the Maoists form a new government under their leadership. The Maoists have also threatened not to discharge the PLA till their demand is met.

While the peace process languishes, Prachanda is heading towards China Friday for his fourth visit in two years. He was invited by the Chinese government to attend the Shanghai Expo 2010.

Nepal’s Vice-President Parmananda Jha also leaves for the Shanghai Expo Thursday while President Ram Baran Yadav will go end of this month.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at [email protected])