South Asia

New Nepal PM Baburam Bhattarai makes new peace pledge

Police stand guard in Kathmandu at a rally by a Maoist faction opposed to giving up the former rebels' weapons, on September 2, 2011
Image caption Many fear dark days ahead for Nepal if a final peace cannot be secured

New Nepalese PM Baburam Bhattarai has said he will resign if he fails to make progress in the peace process.

He told the BBC he would "do his best" to produce a first draft of a new constitution by the end of November.

Dr Bhattarai is the country's fourth prime minister in five years. He has what may be a last chance to save increasingly fragile peace moves begun with Maoists five years ago.

He also denied India played a crucial role in his appointment in August.

The Supreme Court has said that the tenure of Nepal's constituent assembly, which is supposed to write the new constitution, cannot be extended beyond the end of November.

However, Dr Bhattarai suggested the assembly's term could be extended on the basis of what he described as the "doctrine of necessity".

"I have been given a timeframe of the end of November to complete the peace process and make the first draft of the constitution.

"I will do my best to meet that target," he told the BBC Nepali service.

"If I fail in that then I won't like to continue in this position."

'Violent struggle'

Dr Bhattarai's Maoist party joined the democratic process in 2006 after a decade-long insurgency in which more than 15,000 people were killed.

He denied having blood on his hands, pointing out that the Maoists "had to go through a violent struggle in the past" but have now passed that phase and entered into the phase of peaceful democratic transition.

He is widely seen as a leader who is committed to completing the peace process.

But he faces strong opposition from a hardline faction within his own party who accuse him of being too close to India and working in its interests. Dr Bhattarai is planning to visit Delhi soon.

He stressed that during his visit no treaties would be signed against the national interest of Nepal.

He also said that his visit to India would be followed by a visit to China, which has also already extended an invitation to him.

Dr Bhattarai is hugely popular and commands respect for his relative honesty and integrity.

But Nepal's politics are becoming increasingly complex, and any consensus among the major parties looks a long way off.

And without that consensus the completion of the peace process will be impossible. Nobody knows what the implications will be if it fails.