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Mukherjee meets Nepal PM, pledges support

By Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
December 17, 2006 17:39 IST
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Firmly backing the peace process in Nepal, India on Sunday offered to supply food grains for Maoists confined to cantonments under UN supervision and vehicles and equipment to strengthen its police force.

"India always remains committed to supporting all efforts that are aimed at achieving peace, democracy and development in Nepal," visiting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

Mukherjee offered to supply food grains for nearly 30,000 Maoists confined in various cantonments under UN supervision as per the November 21 peace agreement, according to Suresh Chalise, Prime Minister's political advisor.

The minister also told reporters that India will provide 200 vehicles and communication equipment to Nepal police.

"I had very useful meeting with Nepalese leaders and we discussed a number of issues related to our bilateral relations, as also the current situation with regard to the peace process in Nepal," said Mukherjee, who also met Deputy Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Nepali Congress (Democratic) President Sher Bahadur Deuba and CPN-UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal.

He appreciated Prime Minister Koirala for successfully moving ahead with the peace process towards establishing permanent peace in the country.

However, unlike in the past when protocol demanded that visiting dignitaries meet the monarch, Mukherjee did not call on King Gyanendra, who has been stripped of most of his powers and has been removed as head of state in the interim constitution. He will also not meet any Maoist leaders.

Mukherjee handed over an invitation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Koirala to attend the 14th SAARC Summit slated for April 3-4 in New Delhi. Koirala has accepted the invitation.

The current political situation, the on-going peace process and issues of bilateral cooperation dominated the meeting between Koirala and Mukherjee, the first Indian minister to visit Nepal after King Gyanendra was forced to give up absolute rule in April, according to the Prime Minister's Office.

Mukherjee also congratulated Koirala for his 'leading role' in finalising the interim Constitution through consensus among the eight major political parties.

"Nepalese people, through their political leaders, have successfully taken a number of steps to consolidate peace and democracy in the form of various understandings and agreement," he said addressing a packed news conference.

"This has amply proved that the people of Nepal, who have taken destiny in their own hands, can successfully address the challenging tasks ahead," Mukherjee pointed out.

The external affairs minister was accompanied by Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon, Joint Secretary North Pankaj Sharan and Joint Secretary SAARC Preety Sharan during his brief visit.

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Shirish B Pradhan in Kathmandu
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