Despite Prachanda's suspicion, Bhattarai's Delhi visit doesn't cut much ice<br>ABIJIT SHARMA in DELHI

Jan. 23, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. :04 No.-15 Jan. 21-2011 (Magh 07,2067)

Critics in own party including chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ see him as a pro-Indian face. But that did not deter Baburam Bhattarai to embark on a tour of the southern neighbor -- twice in less than two weeks.

In Delhi to attend a seminar on Nepal the senior Maoist leader took the opportunity to meet top Indian officials hours after landing at the Indira Gandhi Intenational Airport  -- and before another seminar
invitee and senior pro-Prachanda leader Barsha Man Pun ‘Ananta’ reached there.

In what has now been confirmed as a political tour he held talks with Indian Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Foreign Secretary Nirupam Rao, national security advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and the opposition leaders.

Shortly after returning to Kathmandu the parliamentary party leader-aspirant of the  largest party in the legislative parliament flew to Mumbai to attend another seminar. This time alone. Without
Barsha Man Puns.

Not much is learnt about his latest visit except that he gave a speech at the seminar to extol the Maoist ties with India with which, according to him, “there had been some misunderstandings.”

At a time when the Maoist-India relations are not at their best Bhattarai’s meetings with Indian leaders have been described as highly strategic and significant moves for both sides.

Incidentally, the Bhattarai visits coincided with the preparation for the fresh race for new prime minister.

Not unexpectedly, his visits added fuel to the fire that he is being tipped as Delhi’s favourite boy to win the race.

On return Bhattarai was upbeat. “The visit has helped bring the strained India-Maoist relations back on track,” he boasted.

His boss was in no good mood, though. “One individual’s meetings and talks would not make much difference,” said Prachanda.

This has only lent credence to the speculations doing round in the some circle the South Block would rather see the division in the Maoist leadership deepen than reconcile with the former rebel outfit.

According to knowledgeable sources in Delhi, the Bhattarai visits have not cut much ice. They say, the South Block is in mood yet to offer an olive branch to the former rebels of Nepal  unless they changed course and moved away from what Delhi sees as the militant posture and the China-tilt.

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