New Delhi, Sept. 5: India has chosen a career diplomat, rather than a political appointee, to be its ambassador to Nepal.
Shyam Saran, the 1970 batch IFS officer now posted as ambassador in Indonesia, will take up the job soon.
The Kathmandu post fell vacant after I.P. Singh died in July. Singh was a political appointee who had replaced career diplomat Deb Mukherjee after his retirement.
The names of several political candidates, including former health minister C. P. Thakur, Samata Party MP Harkishore Singh and editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser Sheshadri Chari, were doing the rounds as possible candidates. But the government finally decided on Saran, who has barely served a year in Jakarta.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who agreed on Saranís name, also got it approved by Rashtrapati Bhavan. His agreement has been sent to the Nepalese government and is expected back in a few days.
Indiaís relations with Nepal are extremely sensitive and have gone through several ups and downs.
South Block was of the view that at a time when the political situation in Nepal is fluid, a career diplomat would be seen to be more balanced and unbiased than a political appointee.
Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha, during his visit to Kathmandu last month, had made it clear that Delhi does not have any favourites and will try to deal with whoever comes to power in Nepal with the same sincerity and warmth.
Delhi has managed to strike the right chord with King Gyanendra. It is also happy to do business with Sher Bahadur Deuba, who has been expelled from the Nepali Congress by the party president Girija Prasad Koirala. The Election Commission of Nepal will decide which of the two, Deuba or Koirala, is the legitimate leader of the Nepali Congress. As the fight between the two factions of the Nepali Congress hots ups, it is the leader of the Communist Party of Nepal, Madhav Nepal, who seems to be emerging as the main winner.
Madhav has been heading the main Opposition, but indications are that he might become Prime Minister after the November elections.
To ensure that India does not find itself in a difficult situation if the communists come to power Madhav was recently invited to Delhi for talks. During his stay here, the communist leader met deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and foreign minister Yashwant Sinha. He was assured that in the event he comes to power, Delhi will want to have strong and cordial relations with Nepal.
India believes that multi-party democracy and Constitutional monarchy are the two main pillars of Nepalís stability. But the Maoist-led violence and the political instability in the country have been cause of concern for India. In the past two years there has been greater understanding between the two sides and Delhi has been co-operating closely with Kathmandu in its fight against the Maoists.