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Nepal on weapon hunt

New Delhi, June 9: Nepal’s King Gyanendra is scouring the world markets for arms. A public notice from the Nepalese government carried in a state-run newspaper asking military contractors to contact the interior ministry has New Delhi looking on with consternation.

India’s official position, re-stated by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee yesterday, is that arms supplies to Nepal are under “constant review”.

But Kathmandu has been urging New Delhi to not only release supplies in the pipeline but also for fresh supplies of ammunition for Indian-manufactured Insas rifles used by the Royal Nepal Army.

India and Nepal are also signatories to an Arms Assistance Treaty and New Delhi has in the past frowned upon Nepalese efforts to procure arms from third parties.

But reports reaching New Delhi say Nepal’s home ministry floated a global tender for weapons and other equipment on May 19 for its paramilitary Armed Police Force (APF). Like the RNA, India has also supplied equipment to the APF and has trained its officers in the National Police Academy.

The Rising Nepal, the government’s official newspaper, carried the notice that asked “interested and reputed foreign manufacturers or authorised distributors” to make their submissions to the government in 30 days. The APF was raised to tackle Maoists.

The notice does not detail the requirements of the APF but says Nepal wants to procure “relevant arms and ammunition, machinery tools and spare parts, equipment concerning explosives and equipment for crowd control”. The government also wants communication equipment.

Nepal procures a bulk of its arms and munitions from India under a liberal export regime subsidised by Delhi but also has weapons from the US, the UK and Belgium.

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