NEW DELHI, MAR 5, 2012
In September last year, while briefing the media in New York about Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Nepali counterpart on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai questioned the use of term ‘peace process’ in Nepal. Though Mathai did not mention it clearly but while fielding questions from journalists about rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, he indicated that, saying: “The Prime Minister of Nepal did speak about the process [during the sideline meeting]. It is called a peace process, I do not know why….” (Here is the link to this press briefing : http://mea.gov.in/mystart.php?id=530318315)
In a similar tone, rather openly, Indian National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, during a programme organised by an independent Indian think tank last week in New Delhi, claimed India never used the word ‘peace process’ to refer to the political development in Nepal after 2006. He clarified that peace process always involves two parties where there are possibilities of blaming each other which could invite the mediation of a third party. Though Menon did not elaborate on this, he maintained that India has the two-fold goal of mainstreaming the Maoists and multiparty democracy in Nepal.
But the official documents of Indian government have used the term peace process in galore, contradicting Menon’s remarks. The description of bilateral relationship between Nepal and India in the website of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which could be understood as the official stance of Indian government, has mentioned the term peace process.
A part of the description goes like this: “India has consistently responded with a sense of urgency to the needs of the people and Government of Nepal in ensuring the success of the peace process and institutionalisation of multi-party democracy through the framing of a new Constitution by a duly elected Constituent Assembly.”
No exception is the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and his Indian counterpart Singh during the former’s visit to India in October, which had mentioned “India’s full support to build consensus on the peace process and constitution drafting to pave way for Nepal’s transition to an inclusive, multiparty democracy”.
MEA officials were not immediately available for comments on the remarks of the top Indian bureaucrats. However, some Nepal observers in New Delhi said that they were taken aback with those remarks while quickly adding that India has always been ‘supportive of peaceful, prosperous, democratic and stable Nepal’.
“India does not want involvement of third party in solving Nepal’s problems. India thinks that it is the Nepali actors who have to sort out the domestic problems themselves with goodwill from the international community,” said Ashok Mehta, a former Major General of Indian Army who keeps close tab on Nepal related issues.
“It is also an uncovered truth that India was not happy with Unmin’s presence in Nepal. But remarks about the word peace process from NSA really surprised me,” added Mehta. However, Nihar Nayak, a Nepal-analyst at Institute of Defence and Strategic Analyses, took exception to Mehta’s observation.
“It is not an individual’s statement, but the official document of Indian government which speaks about India’s stance. Referring to the usage or non-usage of a particular word, India’s positive attitude towards Nepal’s political process should not be questioned,” Nayak opined.
This piece originally appeared in March 6 issue of The Kathmandu Post.Here is the link : http://www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2012/03/04/nation/peace-process-confusing-for-many-indian-leaders/232260.html