New Delhi: Nepal’s Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda, has called for a “new beginning” in relations with India.
Both countries agreed to review bilateral ties that have been underpinned by the 1950 Treaty of Friendship as well as several river water management agreements, such as the 1954 Kosi waters treaty.
At a lunch hosted by Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav, Prachanda said the “time has come to break with the old and make a fresh start” in bilateral ties.
Prachanda, who completed the New Delhi leg of his four-day visit to India on Tuesday, has been feted wherever he’s been, completing the transformation from an underground revolutionary to prime minister. He goes to Bangalore on Wednesday.
In his meetings with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, Prachanda and his team have underlined the gravity of their message: India’s security concerns are of paramount importance to Nepal, but New Delhi must also be ready to overhaul the old relationship with the former government and forge new links with the people’s republic in Kathmandu.
Give and take: Nepal’s PM wants Delhi to overhaul its old relationship with the former government and forge new links with the people’s republic. He is willing to address India’s security concerns. B Mathur / Reuters
On top of Prachanda’s “new list” is a complete review of the 1950 friendship treaty, which gives New Delhi the right to supervise Nepal’s defence relations with third countries, thus limiting the Himalayan nation’s sovereignty in name, if not in practice.
A second demand is a rewriting of the 1954 Kosi waters treaty, which gives India the right to send its engineers and technicians to upgrade the embankments on the Kosi river and carry out repairs on its barrage in Nepal.
Prachanda gave fair evidence of these demands at the lunch meet, which was attended by a cross-section of politicians from Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee to Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, and Nationalist Congress Party chief and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar.
“I said in Nepal’s assembly a couple of days ago that Nepal will not allow its soil to be used against the security of any other country, and I want to repeat that Nepal understands India’s security concerns very well,” Prachanda said.
“However, in this unique relationship between our two countries, India should also realize that we must break with the old dynamics and create a new dynamic.”
“We call ourselves the new Nepal at home; accordingly people in India should recognize this new reality.”
In his talks with Prachanda on Monday, the Prime Minister is said to have assured him that India would respond favourably to the new leadership in Nepal in word and kind, according to an official familiar with the conversation who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The official said India had “no problem” with reviewing the friendship treaty, pointing to a similar review undertaken by India and Bhutan last year.
The 1949 treaty between New Delhi and Thimphu, too, contained references to Bhutan’s defence needs that required India’s clearance, and these had been accordingly deleted in the updated version.
“If India and Bhutan can upgrade their friendship treaty, then India has no problem doing the same with Nepal. However, Kathmandu must also take into account the special relationship between our two countries, and not try and play off India against China,” the official said, pointing to the “national treatment” clause in the treaty that guarantees Nepalese nationals have the same rights as Indian citizens in India, including the right to work in the Indian army and buy property.
As for revamping the Kosi waters treaty, the official said India and Nepal needed to look in a “holistic manner” at managing water resources, as well as electricity generated from hydroelectric projects.
Nepal’s information minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara told Mint that his government was happy that the two sides had at least talked about reviewing bilateral ties. “We will not be able to change things on this visit, but at least a beginning has been made,” he said.