India-China Rivalry Plays Out in Nepal

India-China Rivalry Plays Out in Nepal

On the face of it, the case for firing the Nepalese Army chief, Gen. Rukmangad Katuwal, was fairly straightforward. Katuwal had ignored an executive directive on inducting former Maoist guerrillas into Nepal's armed forces, as per the November 2006 peace treaty that ended a bloody insurgency dating back nearly a decade. As if that weren't enough, he was also rumored to be planning a coup against the civilian government.

But instead, it was Maoist Prime Minister Puspa Kamal Dahal -- commonly known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda -- who ended up resigning, after Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav overruled his cabinet's decision to relieve Katuwal. Prachanda had assumed office in August 2008, after having won the first elections following the peace accord. Political parties, including the Maoists themselves, are now engaged in negotiations to form a new government.

In the aftermath of Prachanda's resignation, the Maoists have orchestrated an anti-India whisper campaign, suggesting that India's ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, had tried to talk the Prachanda government out of removing Katuwal. The Maoists have used this to suggest that India had a hand in Yadav's subsequent decision to overrule the cabinet, with Prachanda referring to outside interference when he resigned on May 4. His deputy, Babu Prasad Bhattarai, went a step further, naming India as the reason for the impasse.

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