China trip lands Maoist army in fresh row in Nepal

A report claims some top PLA commanders were on unauthorised visit to China.

Kathmandu: As the chief of Nepal`s opposition Maoist party began a tour of Beijing on Sunday in a gesture "to rile India", his guerrilla army landed in a row back home for an unauthorised visit to China earlier this month.

The People`s Liberation Army (PLA) of the Maoists has triggered a fresh controversy after a Nepali daily reported that nearly a dozen of its top commanders and three Maoist MPs were on a nine-day visit to China without informing any state authorities.

The PLA, which has nearly 19,500 combatants, pledged to stay in cantonments supervised by the UN till they were discharged and rehabilitated.

While UN Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) supervises the arms and combatants of the PLA, it is now supposed to be dissociated from the Maoists and under the command of a special committee headed by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

However, neither the government nor UNMIN had any knowledge of the PLA commanders` visit to China this month, creating doubts about the Maoists` agreement to put the PLA under the special committee.

The caretaker prime minister told journalists on Sunday that action would be taken against the errant PLA commanders.

During their China jaunt, the PLA commanders were accompanied by former Maoist minister for peace and reconstruction Janardan Sharma, a former deputy chief of the PLA, and lawmakers Barsha Man Pun Ananta and his wife Onsari Gharti Magar.

Though the PLA told the Nagarik daily, which broke the news, that the trip was a personal one, there have been conflicting reports since then with a senior Maoist leader saying the group was invited to a conference.

The controversy comes even as the discharge of the PLA has grown increasingly doubtful.

Though the combatants were to have been dismissed within six months of the signing of the peace accord in 2006, the Maoists continue to delay the discharge.

Now, even though less than three months remain for the term of their supervising agency UNMIN to end, neither the ruling parties nor the Maoists have come up with any plan to rehabilitate the fighters.

The growing China visits by the Maoists are regarded as an effort by the former guerrillas to rile their southern neighbour India, with whom they are increasingly on a collision course.

Communist leader and MP Narayan Man Bijukchhe Saturday said Maoist chief Prachanda`s current visit to China - the fifth in two years - was intended to ruffle India`s feathers by portraying closeness to China.