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Terrorism & Security

India: How will Maoist gains in Nepal shape two countries' ties?

The Maoist party had a surprisingly strong showing in recent elections. India is worried about the impact on its own Maoist rebel movement, the Naxalites.

By Mian Ridge / April 21, 2008



The victory of Nepal's Maoists is as worrying for neighboring giant India as it was surprising. Following the former rebels' strong showing in general elections this month, government officials in New Delhi are wondering where the Maoists' victory leaves relations between the two countries. They are also concerned that the win may embolden India's own Maoist movement.

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According to results posted Monday, Maoists won half of the 240 directly elected seats. Results for an additional 335 seats allotted to political parties based on the percentage are expected later in the week.

Nepal's Maoists have said they want to scrap the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed by Nepal and India in 1950. The treaty defines the countries' relationship, allowing Nepalis and Indians to travel freely across each other's borders. Until 1969, it also allowed India to keep security positions on Nepal's border with China. (A map of the region can be found here.)

But it is the effect the win will have on Indian Maoists – a group known as Naxalites – that poses the greatest threat to India, reports Agence France-Presse.

India's Naxalites say they are fighting for India's poor and landless – just as Nepal's Maoists did. India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, has previously identified the Naxalite movement as the country's single biggest security threat. The Naxalites had reportedly expanded to half of India's 28 states in 1996, prompting a military counteroffensive, said The Christian Science Monitor.

Daily News and Analysis, a Mumbai (Bombay) newspaper, reports the concerns of an official from India's Border Security Force (BSF) about possible future links between the two groups:

The Nepal Telegraph, noting that the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Shiva Shanker Mukherjee, had met with "Comrade" Prachanda – the nom de guerre of Nepal's Maoist leader, which means "fierce" or "terrible" – said that India was anxious that Nepal not scrap "unequal treaties" made between the two countries.

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