Prachanda has given up anti-India rhetoric: Chinese media

Concerned by Nepal`s Maoist supremo Prachanda`s bid to "appease" India during his just-concluded visit, China`s official media today said it`s a "clear departure" from his earlier policy towards New Delhi.

Beijing: Concerned by Nepal`s Maoist supremo Prachanda`s bid to "appease" India during his just-concluded visit, China`s official media today said it`s a "clear departure" from his earlier policy towards New Delhi.

"Looking closely at speeches of Prachanda during his four-day official India visit one can find a clear departure from the Maoist party`s earlier policy towards Nepal`s southern neighbour," China`s state-run Xinhua news agency said in a report today.

"Political observers say UCPN (Maoist) changed its India policy realising that India has a huge influence in Nepal`s internal politics and it is not possible to gain power without appeasing the country`s southern neighbour," it said.

During his meetings with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prachanda did not discuss the party`s differences and disputes; he was more focused on winning the trust of Indian leaders, the report quoted analysts as saying.

The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (UCPN (Maoist) Chairman Prachanda visited Beijing and met President Xi Jinping and other leaders before his visit to India and sought financial aid from Beijing for Nepal`s development.

"Raising old differences will provoke the bilateral relation, so we have to redefine our relation with India," the Xinhua report quoted Prachanda as saying in an interview with an influential Nepalese daily.

As the party chairman, Prachanda did not raise these contentious issues during the visit, giving a message to the Indian leadership that the party has changed its earlier policy towards India, the report said.

"UCPN (Maoist) abandoned their agendas to appease India because the party has realised that without making a cordial relationship with the southern neighbour (India) it is difficult to get power in the country," it quoted a former UCPN (Maoist) leader Mumaram Khanal as saying.

During the meeting with Indian leaders, Prachanda tried to assure them that his party is ready to address the security and other concerns of India, it said.

In his political document, endorsed by the Party`s seventh general convention last year, Prachanda talked about making relations with India more cordial and having a balanced relationship with both India and China, the report said.

59-year-old Prachanda is known for his anti-India rhetoric after his removal from power in 2009 when he had tussle with President Ram Baran Yadav over the issue of sacking the then Army chief Rukmangad Katawal.

However, UCPN-M has since softened its stance against India when Baburam Bhattarai was elevated to power with the backing of Madhesi parties in 2011.

UCPN (Maoist) was raising the issue of "national independence" during the tussle over Katawal, but now seems to have downplayed the issue, the report said. PTI
Row over Indian origin family using SAfrican military air base
Johannesburg: The landing of a private aircraft full of guests for an Indian wedding - billed as South African wedding of the century - on a restricted Air Force base has raised eyebrows here with the ruling African National Congress demanding explanation from the military.

An aircraft, chartered by the prominent Gupta family - which has close ties to President Jacob Zuma - landed at the Waterkloof Air Base yesterday.

Local radio reported that the Guptas` wedding guests were flown to the base and escorted from there by blue-light vehicles to Sun City, in North West.

The billionaire family, which owns The New Age newspaper and Sahara Computers, is expected to celebrate the wedding of Vega Gupta, 23, to Indian-born Aaskash Jahajgarhia at Sun City between May 1-4.

The family says permission to land at Waterkloof was obtained through the Indian High Commission, while a SANDF spokesperson said that he was not aware of permission being given to any private airplane to land at the base, state-owned broadcaster SABC said in a report.

Leading union confederation Cosatu and the ruling ANC said they were demanding answers from the South African National Defence Force over the alleged misuse of government resources.

"It is an absolute insult to the people of South Africa that private individuals can use a public facility for their social activities and that state officials should escort them," Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said in a statement.

He said Cosatu was seeking an urgent investigation into who authorised the airfield`s use for a purely private function, warning of the possible risk to national security, and said those responsible should be disciplined.

The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) insists that it was not aware of any permission granted for the Gupta family to use Waterkloof.

"As far as I know, no permission has been granted to a private citizen to use the base. It is a military base and a national key point used by government and its guests," spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said.

The lack of explanation from the SANDF has drawn the ire of the ANC, which said it had waited patiently for an explanation on how these private individuals managed to land aircraft at Waterkloof.

In a statement, Secretary General Gwede Mantashe said that Waterkloof, as one of the national key points, is declared as such "on the basis of being so important that its loss, damage, disruption or immobilisation may prejudice the Republic".

"... Safeguarding of their sanctity is integral to the protection and upholding of the safety and sovereignty of the Republic.

"The African National Congress, driven by the concern for the safety and sovereignty of South Africa, shall never allow a situation where our ports of entry and National Key Points are penetrated with impunity"," media reports quoted him as saying.