Kathmandu, April 25: The developments in Nepal and their outcome would not result in any security problems for India, declares Baburam Bhattarai, the chief Maoist negotiator for the peace talks with the Nepal government.
“We would like to appeal to the government of India not to worry about the current developments in Nepal. When the old regime changes and a new state emerges, there would be no security problems for India. The Nepalese people will be in power and they are the best guardians of Indian security,” claims Bhattarai, the second in command in the Maoist hierarchy after Prachanda.
Bhattarai is the general secretary of the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist) and Prachanda its chairman. They effectively control about 35 of the 75 districts of Nepal but claim that their writ runs in all the rural areas outside Kathmandu valley.
A slightly-built man with a wispy beard who is rarely seen without his trademark golf cap, Bhattarai had agreed to a meeting with this correspondent along with his organisation’s chief spokesperson, Ram Bahadur Mahara. It is a measure of how confident the Maoists feel after coming over-ground and the freedom Kathmandu is willing to allow them.
Soft-spoken and jumping from one idea to the next with speed, Bhattarai has a quick answer for every question.
Preparing for a statesman’s role, Bhattarai says: “When we come to power, we will have relations with India which are better than what they are now.”
The Maoist leaders describe as “propaganda” the fear among some in India that if the monarchy ends in Nepal, there would be political instability and India-Nepal relations would be jeopardised.
“This is absolutely incorrect. Anybody who assumes power in Nepal would want a good working relationship with India. That is the ground reality,” he says.
“We are sandwiched between two big neighbours — China and India. Of the two, India is our closer neighbour. This is a fact which nobody can deny,” he says.
Bhattarai, however, clarifies that not everything was all right with the relationship.
He gives the example of the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950. “The historical wrongs in the treaty should be corrected. Equal national treatment, for example, works against us because Nepal is the smaller partner. You cannot have borders that are totally open. I am not for closed borders but the border needs to be controlled. This will do away with the issues that irritate the relationship — smuggling and Indian fears of infiltration.”
Bhattarai says the projection of the Maoists as anti-India was completely wrong. “We may have some reservations about some policies of the Indian state but that does not mean we do not want good relations with the Indian people. We are fighting for democracy in Nepal and we would like the Indian people to understand our position and support us,” he claims.
But why was it that the Maoists had held formal meetings with most of the foreign missions in Kathmandu, but not with the Indian diplomats'
“We want to meet everyone. But I don’t know why the Indians are shying away from meeting us,” he replies with a smile.
“Perhaps they are afraid of meeting us,” he suggests tentatively.