|Dahal with his wife, Sita and general secretary Post Bahadur Bogati at TIA. Former PLA chief Nanda Kishor Pun 'Pasang' seen in the background. (Photo: Bijay Gajmer)|
KATHMANDU, April 28: A week after he returned from a week-long visit to China, UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal on Saturday flew off to India.
Dahal is visiting India after a five-year bittersweet relationship with the southern neighbor. The UCPN (Maoist)´s relations with India had soured, especially after they accused India of interfering in the internal affairs of the country and launched what they called “a struggle for national sovereignty and civil supremacy”. They claimed that the president did not allow the Dahal-led government to sack then army chief Rookmangud Katwal at India´s behest.
The UCPN (Maoist) took an anti-India stance especially after the formation of Madhav Kumar Nepal-led government. Later Dahal had said formation of a government headed by CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal had given India a clear message that the country was capable of taking its own decisions. But he later realized that he would not be able to remain firm on his stance. There was a thaw in the relationship, only after Madhes-based political parties supported formation of the Bhattarai-led government.
The Hetauda general convention of the party has refrained from naming the principal enemy. The party had earlier named domestic reactionary forces backed by India as the party´s principal enemy.
“We have to learn lessons from history,” said Dahal talking to media persons at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu before embarking on a four-day visit to India. Dahal also said that his visit will mainly focus on Indian investment in Nepal´s hydropower and tourism apart from support to the Constituent Assembly polls to be held in November.
Dahal has been advocating for a strategic tripartite partnership between India, China and Nepal. According to him, the tripartite relationship would not affect the existing bilateral ties between these countries. Dahal had also floated the proposal of a tripartite partnership with the Chinese leaders during his China visit. However, a few days later Indian Minister for External Affairs Salman Khursid had rejected the idea, saying it was too early to envision such a partnership.
Dahal is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Salman Khursid, among other prominent leaders, before returning home. He is accompanied by his wife Sita, senior leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara and his aide Shiva Khakurel
´Visit has no great significance´
As Dahal left for Delhi, diplomats in Kathmandu are optimistic about positive developments in the bilateral relations between the two countries. However, they maintain we should not have high expectations from the visit.
“He is not the executive head and would not sign any agreement or a treaty. It is his goodwill visit as a party chief and hence will have no great significance,” said former ambassador of Nepal to India Lokraj Baral.
However, Dahal told media persons at the airport hat his visit would have a greater significance as he is visiting India as the representative of the country in transition. Commenting on the Dahal´s claim that he would seek Indian investment in tourism and hydropower, Baral said it would have been wiser of Dahal to come up with a common agenda through discussion with other political parties.
Commenting on Dahal´s agenda to seek Indian support to the upcoming election and investment, another former ambassador argued that it was not appropriate of Dahal to seek support elsewhere without forging consensus with parties at home.
“It is not appropriate of Dahal to search for solutions from outsiders. It is not good to invite external interference,” said Bhekh Bahadur Thapa, former Nepali ambassador to India. According to him, we can only seek goodwill from outside.
“Investments will pour in from everywhere once there is peace and security in Nepal,” added Thapa.
So is Dahal´s visit the result of Hetauda convention or is there more to it than meets the eye? “In the changed political context, both India and China want to build stronger ties with big parties in Nepal. Especially both India and the UCPN (Maoist) want to resolve their past differences,” said Thapa arguing Hetauda convention prepared the grounds for this development.