Nepali Army’s ‘misdemeanor’ could affect military diplomacy with the US « Khabarhub
Saturday, June 22nd, 2024

Nepali Army’s ‘misdemeanor’ could affect military diplomacy with the US

Experts argue CoAS Sharma aggravated the issue



KATHMANDU: Amid a raging controversy over the issue of the United States’ State Partnership Program (SPP) in Nepal, and further aggravating it, Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) Prabhuram Sharma is paying an official visit to the United States from June 27 to July 1.

The issue was further aggravated in Nepal as CoAS Sharma brought forward the Nepali Army’s views before his impending visit to the United States even before the government made its official stance clear.

This, as security experts and observers fear, would create a crisis of confidence in the military relations between Nepal and the United States.

Moreover, Nepali Army’s consecutive notion and theory on State Partnership Program will not only jeopardize the government’s dealings but is also likely to affect the military diplomacy with the United States, observers argue.

According to them, the NA, particularly its chief, has exposed immaturity by breaching its limitations further complicating the issue.

“Since the issue is related to sovereignty and national integrity of Nepal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have initiated it, and be accountable,” argues Binoj Basnyat, Nepali Army Major General (Retd.) and a security analyst.

Observers have to say that the army chief does not seem to be aware of the extent of his jurisdiction, the role of the army, the division of labor and coordination of work, and the business of the government.

Military diplomacy with the United States is likely to be affected after the Nepali Army, which has been receiving assistance through the US State Partnership Program, issued a statement for public consumption contrary to its diplomatic resoluteness.

There is also a need to understand what Allies and Partnership mean in Diplomacy, and together with that, it is also necessary to understand the strategies and what they mean to small states lying on the borders of the superpower, the US competitor, according to Basnyat.

“Nepal needs to develop its military capacity to protect territorial integrity and sovereignty and the US is a reliable friend for that,” he argues.

The NA’s hasty issuance of a non-diplomatic statement against the US military without coordinating with the government despite getting continuous assistance has created a crisis of confidence in its relations with the latter.

“It wouldn’t be injudicious to say the CoAS Sharma has further aggravated the issue in addition with the 10-point fake public document,” an official told Khabarhub on condition of anonymity.

Furthermore, the issue was politicized after the CoAS consulted with President Bidya Devi Bhandari by circumventing Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba — also the Minister of Defense — and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs without considering the sensitivity of the issue and diplomatic correspondence.

Experts say that the NA will lose credibility and support in the future due to the undue activism of the CoAS.

“The NA has been involved in creating a commotion on the issue,” argues political analyst Devesh Jha adding, “It’s certain to have far-reaching implications from the point of view of military diplomacy.”

However, this is not the first time that the NA has been embroiled in controversy and diplomatic flaws. “Even in the past, the army seems to have had diplomatic weaknesses,” he added.

Jha argues that even if such diplomatic flaws are not taken seriously, they can be unfortunate from the point of view of military diplomacy.

The gravity of the controversy would not have been so intense had General Sharma not issued the statement by snubbing the institutional memory and the ongoing US military assistance at someone’s instigation.

It’s become evident that some communist leaders are hell-bent on trying to provoke the government and creating a mess at China’s behest when Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is visiting the United States in mid-July.

“Had he briefed Prime Minister Deuba and Foreign Minister on such a sensitive issue, perhaps the government could have taken an appropriate decision in consultation with experts,” the official said.

This episode might not mean that the CoAS took the steps with an ill intention to discredit the United States in Nepal but his action certainly needs assessment.

In a democracy, he is either ignorant of the role of the military or unaware of the problems that may arise when moving forward by disregarding the government’s role.

Observers have to say that the army chief does not seem to be aware of the extent of his jurisdiction, the role of the army, the division of labor and coordination of work, and the business of the government.

“This is an undiplomatic gesture on Nepal’s part particularly with its friendly country USA,” Vijay Kant Karna, former Ambassador to Denmark and a foreign affairs expert told Khabarhub.

Karna believes Nepal’s Left political parties and politicians are playing cards against democratic countries “at the behest of one of our neighbors against our national interest.”

It has already come to the fore that it was the NA that had, through formal correspondence, requested the US for the partnership in 2015 and 2017.

“A letter of request by the then Chief of Army Staff, Rajendra Chhetri (Retd) to the US Embassy in Nepal, which holds military to the military, government to government, and nation to nation repercussions was a strategic fault,” Basnyat said.

According to him, since it is related to the sovereignty and national integrity of Nepal, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should have initiated it and should be accountable.

This, as Basnyat said, has modified the impression of the Nepali Army, and damaged the much-needed national political unity, thrived political chaos.

He believes that without any doubt, the NA is the only uninterrupted stable force and trust of the people.

“Politicalization will not carry along well,” he added.

Karna, meanwhile, says NA must stand with the letter they sent to the US Embassy twice.

“It is not in the interests of Nepal as well as the NA. We must abide by our international commitment to USA, India and other friendly countries,” he added.

In fact, the NA has sought US assistance not only during the 2015 devastating earthquake but also for other kinds of natural disasters, and professional development and training.

Now that the NA’s latest actions have exposed a double standard attitude as it not only made different claims to suit its interests but also ignored the sensitivity of the issue by mobilizing some former generals to defend its claims.

The army chief even met Speaker Agni Sapkota in the morning and President Bidya Devi Bhandari in the evening to discuss the issue.

The United States has also recently provided training and capacity building under UN peacekeeping, disaster management, and humanitarian search and rescue to the NA, including announcing US$15 million in aid, the highest ever, after the NA requested more aid.

Interestingly, soon after the meeting with the army chief, President Bhandari discussed with CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli.

Observers say the military activism might even affect overall military assistance.

Moreover, Basnyat believes that concurrently asking the serving CoAS at the parliamentary committee was yet another strategic mistake.

“This is politicization not democratization,” he said adding, “It is also a beginning of placing political blunder in the military basket.

It’s become evident that some communist leaders are hell-bent on trying to provoke the government and creating a mess at China’s behest when Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is visiting the United States in mid-July.

The United States has been assisting the NA for decades. In particular, the US army had provided the necessary training to the NA during the Maoist decade-long insurgency, capacity-building training as well as weapons in special military operations.

The United States has also recently provided training and capacity building under UN peacekeeping, disaster management, and humanitarian search and rescue to the NA, including announcing US$15 million in aid, the highest ever, after the NA requested more aid.

Meanwhile, the United States has also handed over two M28 Skytrucks to the Nepali Army on December 18th, representing the first part of one of the largest security grants to Nepal in history.

A short take-off and landing (or STOL) airplane, the Skytruck is one of the best-suited airplanes for Nepal’s geography.

Giving the Nepali Army the crucial ability to pre-position aircraft, these M28s will revolutionize the overall capacity of Nepal’s humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, according to the US Embassy in Kathmandu.

The two planes are the largest component of an approximately $15 million grant from the United States.

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NA has not received any fund, weaponry or ammunition under SPP: CoAS Sharma

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UML Chair Oli refutes SPP was initiated during his tenure

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Publish Date : 20 June 2022 10:59 AM

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