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Protests greet Indian army chief in Nepal

January 19, 2010 22:09 IST

Indian Army chief General Deepak Kapoor met his Nepalese counterpart on Tuesday, as he began a crucial four-day trip, amid protests by hundreds of Maoists at the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. The police arrested over a dozen Maoist cadres who attempted to wave black flags at the Tribhuvan International Airport, said the police.

General Kapoor will hold talks with Nepal's top political and military leadership and will be decorated with the honourary rank of General of the Nepal army by President Ram Baran Yadav on Thursday, according to officials.

The decoration for the Indian general comes after Nepalese army chief General Chhtra Man Singh Gurung was conferred with the honourary title of General of the Indian Army by President Pratibha Patel in New Delhi on December 14, upholding a six-decade old tradition.

Hundreds of communist supporters protested outside the Indian Embassy in the capital coinciding with the visit of the Indian general, who has been targeted by the Maoists for allegedly opposing the en masse integration of former PLA guerrillas force into the Nepal army.

The Indian Embassy earlier clarified that the reported remarks of General Kapoor was 'highly distorted' and did not reflect New Delhi's position on the issue.

Maoists held anti-India rallies at different parts of the capital as part of their fourth phase of their protest to uphold 'civilian supremacy' and 'preserve national independence', coinciding with the arrival of the Indian Army chief.

Maoist cadres led by party Vice Chairman Narayankaji Shrestha and General Secretary Ram Bahadur Thapa staged demonstrations at the Indian Embassy amid anti-India slogans. They carried banners opposing Kapoor's reported remarks against the en masse integration of Maoist combatants into the military.

Kapoor will also call on Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Defence Minister Vidya Bhandari, Army sources said.

Political tensions have been high in Nepal since the Prachanda-led government resigned last year amid a dispute with the president over former army chief General Rukmangad Katawal's refusal to incorporate former Maoist rebel fighters into the military.

Prachanda had accused General Katawal for trying to resist the integration of former rebels into the military as stipulated under the 2006 peace agreement, which brought the Maoists into mainstream politics.

The political parties are deadlocked over the Maoists' demand to rectify the decision of President Yadav, who reinstated Katawal, the then Army chief who was dismissed by Maoists Prime Minister Prachanda last May.

The Maoists, who have nearly 40 per cent of the seats in parliament, argue that the president's move was 'unconstitutional' and has compromised 'civilian supremacy' over the military. The stand-off has put new pressure on Nepal's reconciliation efforts amid fears that a planned indefinite strike by the Maoists from January 24 may derail the peace process.

Shirish B Pradhan In Kathmandu
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