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India Pleges Support for Nepal's Fight Against Rebels

India has pledged to support Nepal in its efforts to stamp out an increasingly violent Maoist insurgency. The assurances have been made to Nepal's King Gyanendra, who is in India on a five-day visit.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said New Delhi remains committed to do "whatever it can do for Nepal in these testing times."

The assurance came Tuesday as the Nepalese king concluded two days of meetings with top Indian leaders including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee Monday, Defense minister George Fernandes and Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani Tuesday.

India will train Nepalese soldiers in counter-insurgency operations. It is also expected to provide more equipment to the Nepalese army, which has been battling the rebels since November last year when an emergency was imposed in the mountain kingdom.

New Delhi has also promised to step up security along its 1,750 kilometer-long, open border with Nepal and share intelligence to prevent Maoist rebels from slipping into India. Nepalese officials said rebels fleeing the army and police often find shelter in Indian villages. In turn, New Delhi wants Nepal to ensure that its territory is not used as a base for Islamic militants.

Both countries have discussed development projects for districts in Nepal, where the Maoist guerrillas have their strongholds.

The Maoist rebellion began six years ago. It has become more widespread and violent in the past year, and is now Nepal's most pressing domestic problem. The insurgency is also worrying the international community, which sees it as a threat to the country's fragile democracy. The rebels want to overthrow the country's constitutional monarchy, and establish a communist republic.

Meanwhile, Nepal is also looking at the possibility of stepping up business ties with India, the country's largest trading partner.

King Gyanendra, accompanied by Nepal's industry minister, Purna Bahadur Khadka, and a business delegation, met senior Indian business leaders on Tuesday. Both sides decided to explore the business potential is areas such as power, tourism and information technology.

King Gyanendra's visit to India is his first since he ascended the throne a year ago after his brother, the former king, was killed in a palace massacre. He is the country's constitutional monarch, but some analysts see his Indian visit as a signal that the new king could play a larger role in Nepalese politics.