18,May:With the Maoists in Nepal demanding the scrapping of the 1950 Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty, India has said it was open to talks on the issue, this was stated by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
In reply to a question from reporters in Kalimpong (WB), he said the question of participating in a dialogue, however, would arise only if an initiative was taken by the Nepalese side.
Mukherjee, who inaugurated a ground water reservoir in Kalimpong, said most countries were placing importance on potable drinking water, the sources of which were limited.
The union government had given adequate stress to potable drinking water in the 11th Five year plan, he said.
The Centre, he said, was concerned over presence of arsenic in water in some parts of West Bengal and was doing everything possible to help the state government.
Mukherjee, also a senior Congress leader, termed the violence in panchayat elections in West Bengal as "unfortunate".
Prachanda says reviewing Treaty will help Indo-Nepal ties
Keen to mend fences with India, Maoist chief Prachanda has said reviewing the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty will "not sabotage" ties with New Delhi but help develop a "close" relationship on the basis of a "new" understanding.
"There should be some sort of special relation between Kathmandu and Delhi…. We want a new relationship with India, which means better relation, better understanding and better cooperation," Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda, said.
The Maoist leader, believed to be Nepal's prime minister-in-waiting, said he wanted "each and every" provision of the treaty to be reviewed in the "new changing context" for "better" relationship between the two countries.
"People feel that it (treaty) is not benefiting them, there is some kind of inequality in it, so people have, time and again, raised concern for reviewing the 1950 treaty," he told in an interview with a news a channel.
"I don't think reviewing the treaty will sabotage the relation," he said.
New Delhi has expressed its readiness to have a re-look at the 58 year old treaty after the Maoists voiced the demand following their triumph in the April Constituent Assembly poll.
Prachanda, however, favoured "equidistance" from both New Delhi and Beijing at the "political level".
"At the political level we will never side one country against another," he said.
"We will try to maintain equi-distance between Delhi and Beijing in political sense, but not in practical sense and in matters of cooperation."
The 53 year old former academic led a decade-long armed struggle by Maoists against the monarchy before joining mainstream in 2006. The former rebels had opposed open borders with India and work permits for Indian workers and demanded a ban on Hindi cinema in Nepal.
"We wanted to come closer to India on the basis of new understanding and new basis," Prachanda said, adding "nobody can ignore the fact that we have historical, economic, cultural and geographical relationship."
In a strong message to Maoists in India to shun violence, Prachanda also said his party's electoral triumph should make them understand the difference between ballot and bullet.
"Our behaviour, our policy, our practice itself strongly gave the message to the Maoists of India. Though, we don't want to directly address them, the benefit we have got, the difference of ballot and bullet has already sent a message," the Maoist chief said.
Prachanda was asked what advice he would give to the Maoists in India.
"There should be a serious discussion in the matter inside the Maoists of India. A strong message has already gone to the Maoists of India and Maoists all over the world about our victory," he said.
Asked whether he would like India to persuade the US to take the Maoists off the terror list, said "I won't request them but expect them to do it".
When asked whether he would ban screening of Indian films in Nepal after coming to power as the Maoists had demanded all these years, Prachanda said the situation had changed and ruled out any such move.
"We don't have any problem with Indian cinema and stars … coming to Nepal and screening their film," he said. Courtsey DD NEWS