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Nepal orders probe into Maoist attack on Indian envoy

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS,

Kathmandu : Fearing a diplomatic cold war with India and its fallout, Nepal’s caretaker government finally extended an olive branch to the southern neighbour, ordering an investigation into the attack on the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, by the opposition Maoist party.

Nepal’s home ministry said Yadav Subedi, the chief district officer of Solukhumbu, the mountainous region in northern Nepal where the Indian envoy’s motorcade had come under attack earlier this month, had been asked to investigate the incident and submit his report to the ministry.

The home ministry statement comes almost a fortnight after India made a strong protest against the attack and the Indian Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Nepali ambassador to India, Rukma Shumsher Rana, to indicate the Indian government’s displeasure.

The home ministry also ordered the state departments looking after the security of foreign diplomats to step up security measures in view of the seriousness of the incident and the “concern” expressed by foreign diplomats.

A new coldness hit ties between India and Nepal in the wake of the Indian envoy’s car being pelted with stones and shoes by Maoist protesters led by a former minister, Gopal Kiranti, Oct 6 while the diplomat was inaugurating an eye camp for school children and a drinking water supply project in the region close to the Tibet border.

The Maoists, who blame India for their inability to win the ongoing prime ministerial election, had accused the Indian envoy, who was accompanied by former Indian MP from Ladakh and member of the Indian Scheduled Tribe Commission, Lama Lopsang, of trying to foment anti-China activities near the Tibet border.

Kiranti, who was culture minister during the short-lived Maoist government in Nepal, had in the past been responsible for trying to oust Indian priests from the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu and led an attack on them on the temple premises.

The attack on Sood stung New Delhi into summoning the Nepali ambassador to India after Nepal’s caretaker government failed to take any action against Kiranti or his followers.

The Nepali media said it was a rare gesture of anger. The last such summon took place in the 1980s when New Delhi was irked by Nepal buying arms from China and resulted in a blockade of Nepal by the then Rajiv Gandhi government of India.

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