Monday, June 30, 2008

Prachanda for stronger relations with India on the basis of new realities

Says Maoists will prove their critics wrong on commitment to democracy.

Asked to clarify his party’s demand for the scrapping of the India-Nepal treaty, he said the Maoists’ perception had been altered by a change in India’s position on the developments in Nepal. New Delhi had earlier advocated the twin pillar policy of a constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy but had changed its position and said that the new constitutional order should be according to the wishes of the Nepali people.

The India-Nepal treaty itself dated back to the time of the Ranas but now the monarchy had been overthrown and the people’s wishes have been made clear. The treaty was in need of review in the light of the new realities and the emerging order at the conclusion of the peace process that was still under way, he said. To a question whether the Maoists had identified any specific provision of the treaty that was in need of review, he said they had not done that. That could be done only after a review of the treaty by both the sides. At the moment, all they were saying was that it needed a review in the context of the new realities in Nepal.

Mr. Prachanda said he wanted to change the image of the Maoists among the middle classes in Nepal and among the international community. There was some scepticism about the Maoists’ intentions, given their background as insurgents against the monarchy and it was thought that they would be autocratic when they assumed power. Initially there were doubts whether they would participate in the democratic process of elections as it was assumed their strength lay only in the power of arms. However, the Maoists participated in the elections and proved the critics wrong.

Asked about their approach to the Nepali press that had been functioning under a culture of fear and self-censorship following a series of attacks on journalists by the Maoists and other groups that remained uninvestigated, he said the Maoists were committed to press freedom and democratic rights. They would strengthen the provisions on press freedom and ensure that journalists were offered security and full protection.

As for attacks on the press by Maoists, he said the incidents were “wartime hangovers” that happened at the local level and not at the direction of the central leadership. In the case of a radio journalist, Dekendra Raj Thapa, who was reportedly killed by Maoists four years ago and whose body was found ten days ago, the district committee concerned had offered all help and cooperation to the authorities to investigate the case and punish the offenders. The press had played a valuable role in building public opinion against the monarchy and the feudal order and they would always respect press freedom.

We've never heard that one from commies before.

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