India’s foreign minister is in Nepal to meet political leaders, amid growing international worries about a stalemated peace process in the Himalayan country. India is also concerned about an anti-India campaign by Nepalese Maoists and the possible rise in Chinese influence in the neighboring country.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna arrived in the capital, Kathmandu, Wednesday for a three-day visit. On his arrival, he expressed his commitment to creating a stable and democratic Nepal.
This issue tops his agenda, because Nepal faces the possibility of missing a May 28 deadline to write a new constitution.
Nepal's process of completing its transition to a democracy is virtually deadlocked because of deep differences among Nepalese political parties about the drafting of a new constitution.
Sukh Deo Muni, a former professor at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University and a specialist on Indo-Nepal relations, says there is widespread concern that these differences are blocking the process of writing a constitution.
"The most important is the fluid political situation in Nepal, and the difficulties in arriving at a broader consensus which can push the peace process towards a culmination. So it is a bad situation and unless something is done to see that a sense of direction evolves, and if Krishna can help in that respect, I think he would have marked a success to his visit," Muni said.
The Indian foreign minister has a host of other issues to tackle during meetings with the Nepalese president, prime minister and other leaders.
Krishna has expressed India’s commitment to strengthening economic cooperation. But, faced with a mounting anti-India campaign led by the Maoists, officials say he will emphasize the need for security at projects being undertaken with Indian assistance.
In recent weeks, supporters of the former rebels have waved black flags at functions to inaugurate India-funded projects and raised the pitch of their anti-India rhetoric.
With the Maoists a dominant force in the government, New Delhi is also worried that China is gaining influence in Kathmandu. Last month, the Chinese army chief, General Chen Bingde, signed a new aid deal with the Nepalese government.
A defense analyst at New Delhi’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, Dipankar Banerjee, says there is concern about inroads being made by China in India’s neighborhood. "Nepal looking towards China for all sorts of military assistance and support seems somewhat out of place from an Indian perspective," Banerjee said. "So India is not entirely happy with such developments."
India has been the influential player in landlocked Nepal for decades.
But Sukh Deo Muni says New Delhi needs to rebuild trust with some sections of Nepal’s political classes -- especially the Maoists. "Where have we gone wrong, if at all? Why people who were identified with us, like the Maoists, why they feel a bit distanced from us, or a bit alienated from us?" Muni stated.
Political analysts say the Indian minister will try to reassure Nepal about its continuing commitment to the country’s development.