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India’s special envoy in Nepal, to press for early elections

India’s special envoy in Nepal, to press for early elections
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First Published: Thu, Oct 11 2007. 12 50 AM IST

New mission: Saran says India will help Nepal stay on the peace course.
New mission: Saran says India will help Nepal stay on the peace course.
Updated: Thu, Oct 11 2007. 12 50 AM IST
Kathmandu: India on Wednesday said it wants to see that the peace process remains on track in Nepal, where crucial Constituent Assembly polls have been postponed indefinitely after a stand-off between the ruling multiparty alliance and the Maoists.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy Shyam Saran, who arrived in the Nepalese capital on a three-day visit, said, “I have come here to meet Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and other senior political leaders to assess the situation here. India wants to see the peace process remain on track. We will see what India can do to assist (Nepal) in this regard.”
New mission: Saran says India will help Nepal stay on the peace course.
Besides Koirala, Saran is scheduled to hold talks with Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal and Maoist chief Puspa Kamal Dahal, also known as Prachanda.
State-run Doordarshan has reported Saran will hold talks with Nepal’s seven main parties following last week’s postponement of the 22 November ballot. He will pledge India’s help to Nepal, while insisting elections are held at the earliest possible date, Doordarshan said on its website.
India and Nepal last month agreed to increase police patrols along the border to prevent attacks that could disrupt the vote. India, which receives almost 54% of Nepal’s exports, says it’s concerned about potential political instability in the Himalayan kingdom.
The election was scheduled under a November 2006 peace accord, which saw rebels end their armed struggle for a republic, return 30,000 fighters to camps under UN supervision and join the interim government. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) quit the cabinet on 18 September and threatened street protests after other parties in the coalition government rejected its demands for Parliament to immediately declare a republic and introduce a proportional representation voting system.
The election is for a Constituent Assembly that will write a new Constitution and decide the fate of the monarchy, headed by King Gyanendra.
Koirala said on Tuesday the political deadlock will end within a few days, Nepalnews.com reported. He earlier met Rookmangud Katwal, the army chief of staff, to discuss security in the nation. Katwal said there was increased activity by armed groups in the southern Terai region, one of the main trade routes to India.
Prachanda said on Tuesday his party may press for a new government if no consensus is found on declaring a republic and introducing a new voting system during a special session of parliament on Thursday.
“The interim Parliament is very much capable of forging an agreement among the ruling parties on major political issues,” Nepalnews.com quoted Prachanda as saying. “But if that doesn’t happen, then the seven-party alliance could break.” He said the Maoists are prepared to discuss alternatives to the current parliament declaring a republic, including “a referendum to decide the fate of the monarchy”.
But Koirala said the new parliament must vote on the issue for the change to have popular legitimacy.
Bloomberg’s Michael Heath in Sydney contributed to this story.
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First Published: Thu, Oct 11 2007. 12 50 AM IST