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Downsizing Nepal Army Challenges National Security

Downsizing Nepal Army Serious Challenge To National Security

Rajat KC, Nepal

Finance Minister Dr. Ramsharan Mahat said in his formal speech "To reduce defence expenditure in the long run, vacancies in the Nepal Army this year will be made automatically redundant." This indicates government's decisions of downsizing the Army in the coming fiscal years. Though speech was given during the presentation of annual budget to joint session of Parliament, he gave strong message to reduce the strength of the Army. In Nepal, Maoist problem is still unresolved but government has taken such harsh decision against its own forces, the question rises at the crossroad of this dilemma: Is it the appropriate time to take such decision?

Over the last couple of years, organizational set-up of army was increased due to paucity of troops to deploy throughout the country to fight insurgency. More than 25 districts were without armed forces that allowed Maoist freedom of action to develop communist movement. After the army deployment in all districts, at least all the district headquarters were in full control of government bodies.

Realizing the situation of ongoing political development there is a little sign of prevailing peace in Nepal after solving the ongoing Maoist problem, yet there is a long way to achieve desired objectives. Killing, kidnapping, torture and extortion are still continuing from the Maoist side by violating code of conduct. In every face of life, Maoist pressure and forcefulness exists, which always sideline and undermine the prospect of peace.

On the other hand, the mentality of political leaders from SPA varies in too many different perspectives. Some of the political leaders consider rebel forces as their own force and government forces as hostile forces. At times they forget that a number of their local level cadre were massacred by the same Maoist in the past. Quite a number of them think that foreign force under the UN umbrella is required to solve the problem. Some really do not bother about any forces but very few may have positive feelings about their own national armed forces that always and all the time abide by the constitutional norms committed to safeguard nation's interest as well as protect democratic values of the country.

Present Army leadership is also seen to be little confused and to some extent deviating from their main goal. The rumour states that instead of showing institutional interest some of them are showing their own personal interest. This weakness is perhaps perceived in a different way by the political leadership and in some way started exploiting them as they want. Otherwise, such type of remarks may not have taken place in present context. May be budgetary constraint is there but it is not the way to cut the number, which definitely requires proper analysis based on reality to reach a conclusion. This year, the Chief of Army Staff is going to retire; does this mean that the rank automatically redundant? Similarly Lieutenant Generals and some Major Generals are also getting retirement, then what will happen? Does this mean Nepal Army will be without leadership? Definitely not. Then why the responsible minister gave such unrealistic and bias statement in his formal speech?

Any legitimate government of any nation can take decision to cut down or to increase the army as per the requirement of the country. But I have never ever heard this type of decision in the history so far. Of course government can direct ceiling up to which size can be fixed but not in the way this time Nepalese government express its policy.

The Maoists are building their forces day by day—recruitment and training has become routine stuff of the Maoist's "People's Liberation Army". At the same time, it has been said that they are importing arms and ammunition. Continuous reconnaissance, planning and preparation of urban insurgency are being carried out by hard corps Maoist guerrilla. But no one imposed restriction on them from any side. "May lord Pashupatinath help this country?"

But in the contrary, the government is playing a role of butcher to its own security force. National Armed Forces of any nation is indeed one of the most important instruments of the national power. It is the asset of the government, therefore, it is the government to utilize the army when, where and how. If the government starts to destabilize the military organization, what will happen if truce failed and again hostility broke out? Can they create same organized army in emergency situation? So it is the time to keep the army intact and undisputed. In any case, now the government has not provided any extra arrangement for army except for providing them ration and salary. This much expenditure cannot be considered high and unbearable to the government in present condition. Of course, when peace is established permanently then this many troops may not be required for peaceful Nepal. In that condition we can start downsizing the army, even though which should not be in a whim but has to be in a planned and well organized way.

India does not want strong military force in Nepal and neither do the Maoist. Is this the view the government is carrying at the moment or is it forced to take this decision? In a crisis situation all the citizen of the nation are the soldiers of the country. They have to be ready to sacrifice themselves, as the soldiers are always doing same for their nation. Instead of creating favourable environment, government knowingly or unknowingly in forcing our soldiers discharge from their duty.

What types of policy is this? Hence, as a true citizen of the country, I request the government to reconsider the policy and keep the army intact till the time crisis is resolved by successful accomplishment of weapon management of rebel troops.


(The author is a historian and a freelancer)

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