Nepali Times Asian Paints
Headline
Love thy neighbour

MALLIKA ARYAL in NEW DELHI


BILASH RAI
It's an indication of just how sensitive India-Nepal relations have become that few in the New Delhi foreign policy establishment want to speak even off the record to a Nepali journalist these days.

By ignoring Indian concerns and accepting Beijing's invitation to the Olympics closing ceremony last week, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal set alarm bells ringing here. Indian politicians and foreign policy bureaucrats tried to play down Dahal's 'China card', but the military-intelligence establishment, the opposition BJP and some hawkish commentators have voiced concerns about China's growing influence in India's neighborhood.

'Prachanda's Beijing sojourn merely confirms the subcontinent's shifting balance of power in China's favour,' wrote the Indian Express in an editorial on Tuesday, a view echoed by other influential commentators here. 'Prachanda's departure from Nepal's natural logic for a strong relationship with India can only be understood in the context of Beijing's new powerplay in South Asia.'

The opposition BJP, which has no love for Nepal's Maoists, said that now that they are in government the former rebels should behave more responsibly.

"The Maoists need to change their overall attitude towards India because they haven't been especially warm towards us," BJP leader N N Jha told Nepali Times.

Prime Minsiter Dahal's Beijing controversy was replaced by the Kosi embankment collapse this week as Indian officials realised the full extent of the flood crisis in eastern Bihar. The Kosi changing its course has made 60,000 homeless in Nepal, but downstream in India the number affected has reached a staggering three million.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh toured the region on Thursday, and most of the Indian press has passed the blame to Nepal for not allowing Indian engineers to repair the Kosi's east embankment in June when the breach was first noticed.

In Bihar, the inundation has got worse because railway embankments and flood control levees have dammed up the diverted Kosi as it flows through villages and towns.

Nepal's new Foreign Minister Upendra Yadav, in New Delhi for a meeting of the subregional group, BIMSTEC, was likely to have been quizzed about his "equidistance" remark when he met his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Nepal's ambassador to India, Durgesh Man Singh, was in full damage control mode before Yadav arrived, dismissing the controversy as "pointless". He added: "Ties with India are in a different category."



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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