Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nepal leader eager to visit China

By Jiao Xiaoyang (China Daily)

KATHMANDU -- Nepal's Maoist leader Prachanda said Thursday he hopes to visit China soon and seek inspiration in Chairman Mao's hometown Shaoshan.

"I am very eager to visit China," the chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) told China Daily at his residence.

"When our communication minister was there (in China) he was instructed to prepare for my visit. I hope I will soon be in Beijing," Prachanda said, referring to Maoist senior leader Krishna Bahadur Mahara's low-profile visit to Beijing earlier this month.

"I want to go to Chairman Mao's village and home to get some more inspiration by seeing and feeling."

The CPN (Maoist), which waged a decade-long armed struggle before signing a peace deal in 2006, emerged as the largest party in the April elections for the Constituent Assembly. The assembly declared an end to Nepal's 240-year-old Shah dynasty a fortnight ago, and is working on a new constitution and the formation of the government.

Prachanda is widely tipped to be prime minister in the new government.

He said his country will maintain "equidistance" between China and India - the Himalayan country's only two neighbors - while seeking rapprochement with Washington, making it clear the new Nepal will not be driven by ideology in foreign relations.

"Equidistance means not siding with one country against another. My exact meaning of equidistance is to have good relations with both the neighbors," he said.

India's new ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, recently had high-profile parleys with top leaders in Kathmandu and discussed thorny issues such as power sharing among political parties in Nepal. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said last month that New Delhi supports Nepal's "democratic experiment".

When it comes to foreign relations, ideology will "not be a barrier", said Prachanda. "We are eager to have diplomatic relations with countries which do not share our ideology."

He expressed cautious optimism on relations with the US, which still has the Maoist group on its terrorist blacklist.

"Some discussions are going on with the ambassador of the US and the last time I met one of the ministers of the United States they said that they are going to change the previous policy but it will take some time," said Prachanda.

"They said that they will continue with joint projects in Nepal, other economic aid will continue. There will not be any change even when we lead the government."

Tibetan secessionists

Prachanda said the new government will take "strong measures" against anti-China activities in his country.

Over the past few weeks, Tibetan secessionists have protested almost daily in front of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. They are usually detained by police and soon released, only to repeat the story the next day.

"When we lead the government, we will change the situation," said Prachanda.

He said Nepal's new government will discuss with India the open border, which enables Tibetan demonstrators to come to Kathmandu from Dharmashala, the Dalai Lama's base in India.

"We will not tolerate anti-China activities on our soil and we will take strong administrative measures to control these activities," he said.

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