Western governments hail Nepal house extension, India wary

India remained wary, feeling the new pact would not resolve conflicts.

Kathmandu: Nepal`s major western donors on Sunday hailed the last-ditch agreement among the major parties to reprieve Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal`s government by giving another three months` life to parliament while Nepal`s neighbour India remained wary, feeling the new pact would not resolve conflicts.

The European Union, Norway and Switzerland issued a joint statement, saying the three major parties` decision to extend the term of parliament by three months from May 28 showed that "consensual politics" remained on course.

"Political parties in Nepal now have a fresh opportunity to complete the drafting of a democratic, inclusive constitution within the next three months," the western donors said.

"We also urge them to ensure that the agreements they have reached on the integration and rehabilitation of the former Maoist combatants are brought to a successful conclusion."

The bloc said the finalisation of the constitution would pave the way for free and fair elections and ensure lasting peace and stability in Nepal.

However, India preferred not to regard the developments through rose-tinted glasses, instead feeling that the five-point agreement signed between the ruling parties - the communists and the Maoists - and the opposition Nepali Congress was ambiguous and contained nothing new.

The agreement says the peace process will be completed by August 28, including deciding the fate of the Maoists` People`s Liberation Army (PLA) with its nearly 20,000 fighters.

It also says the prime minister will quit to pave the way for a new national, consensus government; the first draft of the new constitution will be made public by Aug 28; and the Nepal Army, once comprised of the elite classes, will be made more inclusive.

It also says all past agreements inked with the regional parties from the Terai plains will be implemented.

Indian diplomats said there was no time frame for either Khanal`s resignation or the discharge of the PLA.

The same situation had occurred last year as well with Khanal`s predecessor, the then prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, forced by the Maoists to agree to resign in order to gain a year`s extension for parliament.

However, almost seven months of the extra time was gobbled up by the war among the three parties to step into the prime minister`s chair, resulting in an unprecedented 17 rounds of vote marked by horse-trading.

No timetable has been drawn up for the discharge and rehabilitation of the nearly 20,000 PLA fighters though it was supposed to have been completed within six months of the signing of a peace accord in 2006.

The Maoists and opposition parties still remain at loggerheads over how many PLA fighters would be hired by the national army. While the parties say the number should not exceed 5,000 at the most, the Maoists had been pressing for 10,000.

The Khanal government has remained a puppet in the hands of the Maoists, its dominant ally, who have stepped up anti-Indian propaganda with the helpless state unable to rein them in.

Earlier this month, the Maoists burnt down the site camp of Indian power company GMR Energy in western Nepal. Despite continued threats since then by local Maoist leaders that they would not allow Indian investment in Nepal, police have failed to make any arrest.


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