Nepalese Foreign Minister says Indian influence still strong

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New Delhi, Aug. 10 (ANI): Nepalese Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala, who is here in an effort to bridge the widening gap between India and Nepal, on Monday admitted that some gaps have developed between the two traditional neighbors. She, however, dispelled the notion of growing Chinese influence in Nepal.

"Indian influence is still there, and it is very strong. Chinese are also our big neighbours. It is quite natural they take interest when there is a problem in the country; when Nepal is destabilized, they feel concerned, which is natural," said Sujata Koirala.

Indian think tanks and strategic community have been voicing their concern over the rising Chinese influence in Nepal, which has remained a close ally of India traditionally.

Analysts believe that Chinese penetration in Nepal, whether in the guise of big infrastructure projects or Chinese study centers, has grown under the Maoist led government.

Former Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda's pro-China gestures has been discomforting to policy makers in South Block.

Sujata Koirala believes that conflicts and instability in Nepal are the prime reason behind the growing wedge between New Delhi and Kathmandu. She firmly believes that to bring the peace process to its logical conclusion the international community, and India will have to play a bigger role.

Sujata Koirala's India's visit is her first oversees assignment after assuming office although her 22 party coalition formed out of constituent assembly does not have the mandate to sign any agreements or taking decisions and is essentially in place to promulgate a democratic constitution.

While in India she will be discussing a host of issues including border, trade, connectivity, water resources and electricity.

Koirala will also be discussing with the Indian leadership the contours of High level Political Mechanism which is being mooted by the spectrum of political parties in Nepal.

"This mechanism will be built to enhance level of confidence among the major political forces. It is also aimed to increase understanding among the 22 coalition parties," said Koirala told ANI in an exclusive interview.

Sujata Koirala, who is here on the invitation of Union External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, will be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chief Sonia Gandhi, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma and other leaders

To help the interactions along the border, she is expected to propose the opening up of a Nepalese Consulate in Patna. She said: "It is in our mutual interest that we should have consulate in Patna." This would help in curbing activities of criminals in the area.

" Our police is ill equipped," she added.

Nepalese foreign minister is positive that the political parties in Nepal would be able to meet the deadline of writing constitution.

"I am very positive. Maoists also does not have anywhere to go, they cant go back to jungle, they have no other choice than to write this constitution and stabilize the country otherwise people will throw them out," Koirala said.

Sujata Koirala was responding to fears raised by commentators that Nepalese parties may not be able meet the May 28, 2010 deadline for the endorsement of new Constitution. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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