ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Winning India Over

Baburam Bhattarai's visit to India secures its support for the peace process in Nepal but are the "hardliners" convinced?

Nepal Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai’s mission when he arrived on a state visit to India last month was to convince his hosts to support his government’s efforts to conclude the long-stalled peace process. To that extent, his visit turned out to be a success. Barely a week after his return to Kathmandu, the more contentious aspects of a peace process that had begun in 2005 were resolved after a three-year long stalemate. The Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) or UCPN, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) or UML have signed a nine-point deal that paves the way for the parliamentarians to focus on the writing of a new constitution. The centrepiece of the deal is an agreement on integrating the former Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army; a give and take by all sides enabled a decision on an issue that had led to political drift and uncertainty. It needs no reiteration that a change in India’s stance and its support for the Bhattarai government’s efforts must have been a major factor in the conclusion of the process.

Bhattarai’s visit to New Delhi was mostly one of goodwill, as the Nepal government was keen not to stir any controversy at home in a delicate political situation by signing any major security or energy-related agreements with a neighbour who is widely and correctly perceived in Nepal as a hegemon. Even then, the inking of the non-controversial Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) triggered an outburst of protest by the opposition UML as well as the dissident Mohan Baidya “Kiran” led faction of Bhattarai’s own party. Nepal already has BIPPAs with five countries (France, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, Germany and Finland) while India has 80 such. There was nothing in the India-Nepal BIPPA that was skewed towards Indian investors. On the contrary, the India-Nepal BIPPA provides for compensation to Indian investors in cases of losses due to war, armed conflict, emergency, insurrection or riots – as opposed to the BIPPAs India has entered into with many other countries that have broadly defined the “civil disturbances” clause, which could include, for example, labour strikes.

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