Updated: Nov 18
Nepal a status quo state with limited border disputes or differences with two principal neighbours has marginal defence and security challenges in the Republican era post 2006.
In the internal security sphere mainstreaming of the Maoist insurgency which had assumed alarming proportions in the late 1990’s has provided cushion while limited disruptive activities are evident these have minimal impact on the security situation. As an outcome the Nepali Army the principal force is mainly employed in UN Peacekeeping and development activities.
For the record, the goal of Nepal’s defence policy is three fold to maintain a stable and peaceful external, internal environment and to contribute to world peace.
The defence of Nepal is enshrined in Article 144 of the Constitution of Nepal 2063. Nepal Army has gone through a period of transition from a monarchy to a Republican Army after having contested a strong Left Wing Extremist insurgency. Smooth integration of the Nepal Army and former guerrillas the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been achieved. Given limited external national security challenges, the defence strategy enshrines the following:-
· Safeguard the Nation from external or internal threats, protect its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity by physical deployment where necessary and mainly through dissuasive deterrence – a combination of diplomacy and defence.
· Contribute to international peace through robust presence in the UN Peace Keeping force. The Nepal Army is a key contributor to UN Peace Keeping.
· Engage in defence cooperation for maintaining a peaceful external environment.
· Undertake internal security and national development tasks as allocated by the Cabinet. The Army also has a key role in development and disaster response.
Nepal has a unitary armed force – the Army being a land locked nation. The limited air assets – transport aircraft and helicopters are also controlled and operated by the Army.
The Supreme Commander of the Nepalese Army is the President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Nepalese Army is controlled by the authority for mobilization and management on the Cabinet of Ministers. The Cabinet of Ministers is also authorized to appoint the Chief of Army Staff (COAS). In addition there is a National Security Council (NSC) for the mobilization and employment of the Nepalese Army.
Ministry of Defence is established as per Govt. of Nepal (Business Allocation) Rules, 2063 BS with the objective of managing and operating national defence affairs. The Ministry is responsible for maintaining internal as well as external security in order to safeguard the national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Besides its primary responsibility of external security, it is also responsible for maintaining internal law and order by protecting the lives and properties of the people as per the derisory of the government .
In this context the principal task of the Defence Ministry is to make policy directions on defence and security matters and communicate them for implementation to the Nepalese Army and its various service departments. Besides, the MoD also acts as a liaison or contact point for communication and interaction for Nepal Army with other Ministries and Departments.
The Nepalese Army is divided into eight divisions, one each in the seven regions geographically and one in the Kathmandu Valley as given below. Each Division has a number of infantry battalions while artillery and engineer units are allocated as on required basis:- Far Western Division, North Western Division, Mid Western Division, Western Division, Mid Eastern Division, Mid Division, Eastern Division, Valley Division
Civil military relations in the Nepal Army are presently smooth, however there was a period in 2007-09 during the transition of the large Maoist force to the mainstream and with the erstwhile communist guerrillas taking office in Kathmandu that a crisis emerged.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expressed commitment to provide adequate resources to the Nepali Army inaugurating a two-day event organised at NA Headquarters, PM Deuba, who is also in charge of the Defence Ministry, directed the NA to make objective analysis of the situation and formulate strategies to cope with it.
Newly appointed Chief of Army Staff (CoAS), Prabhu Ram Sharma assumed office in September this year. General Sharma was appointed as the 44th army chief.
Indian and Nepal Army also held the annual Exercise Surya Kiran in the hills in Uttarakhand during the month which was mainly focused on counter terrorism.
Outgoing Army Chief General Purna Chandra Thapa is heralded as a pioneer of establishing transparency in Nepalese Army. Nepal Army was actively engaged in supporting the government to manage COVID 19 as well as in flood relief during August.
Meanwhile preparations for UN Peacekeeping training and focus on activities in missions has continued.
General Sharma has a led an Infantry Battalion to a peacekeeping mission in the African Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). He has commanded two Infantry Brigades namely number 3 and 6 Infantry Brigades. His Division Command was in the Mid Division in 2017 as the General Officer Commanding (GOC), according to the Nepal Army.
In recent development activities, Nepali Army handed over the newly constructed Karnali Corridor to the Department of Roads. Nepal Army is however under fire for delay in Kathmandu-Terai/Madhes Fast Track (Expressway) Project a mega highway project considered as an “infrastructure of national pride” which runs along the Bagmati River corridor.
In what appears to be the last straw against the sheer apathy shown by the British government to address their demands, the ex-Gurkha veterans have launched a relay hunger strike in the United Kingdom to put pressure to address their demands.