India ready to renegotiate 1950 treaty with Nepal

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New Delhi, May 6: India today dismissed as ''non-issue'' the Nepal Maoists' demand to revise the 1950 Peace and Friendship treaty between the two countries, saying it was ''fine'' with New Delhi if the matter is put on the bilateral agenda.

''This is a non-issue for us. If they (Nepal Maoists) want to put the matter on the bilateral agenda, it is fine with us,'' Prime Minister's special envoy Shyam Saran said in an interaction with journalists at the Indian Women's Press Corps here. CPN Maoists chairman Prachanda had earlier demanded abrogation of the 58-year-old India-Nepal friendship treaty.

Mr Saran, a former Indian Ambassador to Nepal, said India had agreed to review the treaty after talks with the Nepalese Government in 2001.

''One round of foreign secretary-level talks have been held on the issue after the 2001 proposal. There are no differences between the two countries on the matter. Why make an issue out of it?'' he asked.

Mr Saran also rubbished Prachanda's charge that the treaty was an ''unequal pact,'' saying under it, the Nepali citizens enjoy special privileges in India.

However, he said the treaty was based on the historical relationship between the two countries built over the years.

The former Foreign Secretary also said that it was too early to say what India would discuss with the new government in the Himalayan country.

Asked about the impact of Maoist victory in Nepal on Naxalism in India, Mr Saran said Prachanda had himself stated that the Indian Naxals should learn from the Nepal Maoists. ''The Nepal Maoists have agreed to join the political mainstream and are committed to multiparty democracy,'' he said, adding the Indian Naxals should follow the example.

The Prime Minister's aide said the Nepal Maoists had no affiliation with the Indian Naxals.

Refuting the possibility of the ''China factor'' coming into play in Nepal after the victory of the Maoists, he said there was no evidence suggesting any link between China and the Nepal Maoists.

About reports that Nepal King Gyanendra would seek political asylum in India, Mr Saran said the government had not received any such request so far.

''It is a hypothetical question. Whenever such a request comes, we will deal with that accordingly,'' he added.

However, Mr Saran said reports had been received suggesting that King Gyanendra had decided to stay put in Nepal as a citizen, adding, ''What happens to the monarchy...it is for the people of Nepal to decide.'' On elections, Mr Saran said free and fair polls were key to political stabilisation in Nepal. The people of Nepal had given their mandate and it was the requirement for all the political parties now to work together to form a new constitution and a new government there, he added.

''The post-poll bargaining is going on in Nepal. We have nothing to do with that. We will learn to live and work with the new dispensation once it assumes power.

''We also cannot say that the Maoists are not friendly to us...That is a wrong assumption.'' He said India's interests would be best served by ensuring that Democracy functions in the full form in Nepal.

Nepal's Maoists won 220 seats in a 601-member special Assembly, making them the single largest party. The new Assembly would write a new Constitution, abolish Nepal's 240-year-old monarchy and make laws.

UNI

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