Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rao steps up political parleys, dinner diplomacy

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao busied herself with political parleys on the second day of her three-day visit to Nepal. On Wednesday morning, she met Nepali Congress president Sushil Koirala and discussed government formation, constitution drafting and status of peace process after exit of the UN mission in Nepal.

She also met Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) chief Jhalanath Khanal later in the day and got to know their views on the same issues.

Nepal’s three main parties—Maoists, NC and CPN (UML) are locked in a fresh struggle over heading the next government after 16 rounds of voting in parliament failed to elect a new prime minister.

They have time till Friday to forge a consensus or else another round of voting to elect the PM by majority vote is likely.

After hectic meetings, Rao is slated to engage in dinner diplomacy with leaders of Madhes-based parties at a reception held in the evening.

The Madhesi-parties from Nepal’s Terai region are crucial in formation of the next government as they have 82 lawmakers in parliament.

During her discussions with caretaker Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on Tuesday evening, Rao had made it clear that India would support a government led by any party in Nepal.

In the past, Maoists have accused the southern neighbour of scuttling their attempts at regaining power by putting pressure on Madhesi parties not to support Dahal in the PM poll.

Taking time off from meetings, Rao also visited Pashupatinath temple, the most popular Hindu shrine in Nepal, to offer prayers and inquire about the security of Indian priests.

Rao will meet Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala on Thursday where she is expected to raise the issue of the long pending extradition treaty between both nations.

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