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Prachanda: time to go for a fresh start

Special Correspondent

Political transition in Nepal a “collective accomplishment”

New Delhi: Pronouncing himself “fully satisfied” with the “new chapter” in bilateral relations that had been established as a result of his first official visit here this week, Prime Minister Prachanda of Nepal described the momentous political transition which had taken place in his country as a “collective accomplishment” to which India too had contributed.

“After the historic change, people in Nepal have high expectations and hope this visit will create a new chapter,” he told a breakfast meeting of editors and journalists on Tuesday. “And though I had been here many times, I also was wondering what kind of discussions I would have in India as Prime Minister of Nepal.” However, after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, he said, “I was fully satisfied ... that a new chapter has been initiated.”

He said the Nepal and India which were meeting today were not the same countries of 60 years ago. “There is a new democratic consciousness in Nepal and new development consciousness in India.” Appreciating the Indian reassurance that a peaceful and prosperous Nepal was in New Delhi’s best interest, Mr. Prachanda said the era of “petty contact” was over and that the two countries needed to embark on large projects together. “Our people have high expectations and without huge projects these cannot be realised. We cannot be satisfied with petty contact. For example, we want an East-West railway in the terai which will create revolutionary change in the lives of people. Also, we want huge hydroelectric projects — we are speaking of 10,000 MW in 10 years — and if India and Nepal collaborate and there is trust, we can even go to 20,000 MW,” he said, adding, “Only with big projects can we have revolutionary change.”

Treaty needs change

Asked about the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty, Prime Minister Prachanda said Kathmandu wanted a change but was not blaming anyone or arguing that the existing arrangements were all bad. “But a lot has changed in 60 years. We are now a democracy. There is no cold war. There have been big developments in science, technology. We have to grasp the dynamics of change and go ahead. The 1950 Treaty has brought us this far ... If someone says it has only worked against Nepal, this will not be a correct analysis. But now it needs change to help the relationship get stronger, based on new ground realities.”

He said the Task Force which Nepal and India had decided to set up would examine the issue. “This is a treaty signed at the time of the Ranas. It is not a question of which provision is bad, but we can have a new treaty on a new basis. It is not a question of negating, but of updating. This is a historic opportunity. This is really the time we should catch it and go for a fresh start.”

On New Delhi’s concerns about Nepali territory being used by forces inimical to India, Mr. Prachanda said his government intended to be even more strict about this than its predecessors. “We cannot do magic overnight but we are taking this very seriously,” he said.

Mr. Prachanda said the peace process and integration of former Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army needed to be seen from a broad ideological and strategic perspective. “Without this, we can’t understand the dynamics. This is not a question of manoeuvring and tactics but of a big transformation ... To lead a People’s War and then become the largest party in CA, this is something new that has happened.” He said integration was a “delicate and sensitive problem” but that a basis for it had already been laid down.

India had helped in the peace process because the ‘12 point understanding’ between the Maoists and Nepal’s other parties was reached in Delhi, he said. “If we Nepalis fail, its repercussions will also be in India. So we have a collective responsibility to ensure success.”

Asked about his party’s links with the Indian naxalites, the Nepali Prime Minister said there are “ideological relations.” But when the Maoists in Nepal spoke of taking part in elections, their Indian counterparts spoke of a “rightist deviation,” he said. “When we won, they congratulated us but warned us not to take part in government. Now, of course, we are leading the government.” The historic transformation in Nepal could serve as a reference for revolutionaries and Maoists elsewhere, he said. “A serious debate has already begun in India and the world on our experience and in time you will see the results of this,” he said.

The biggest challenge facing the Constituent Assembly, he said, was to develop a new model of democracy for Nepal. “We need to go beyond formal democracy and create new mechanisms of power which truly empower the oppressed classes and castes,” he added.

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