The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army waits for govt signal

New Delhi, April 27: The army is seeking clarity on the government's Nepal policy.

Military-to-military relations between the Indian Army and the Royal Nepalese Army are so intimate that the defence establishment has told the government that they cannot be carried out in accordance with past practice till there is a clear direction from the political leadership.

The army chief, General Joginder Jaswant Singh, is expected to meet national security adviser M.K. Narayanan later this week.

The security concerns of the defence establishment in the wake of the Maoist insurgency in Nepal, King Gyanendra's coup, suspension of military supplies to Kathmandu and confusing signals on India's commitment to the RNA are likely to figure in the high-level meeting.

Army headquarters is constrained because it cannot publicly state its views unlike political outfits. The army's sensitivities on its relations with Nepal have been articulated to the political leadership.

The army does not want to risk its support for the RNA at a time when there is a threat perception from the Maoist movement in Nepal and the RNA is running low on military hardware supplies.

The army is also concerned at the toll that tensions in Nepal are taking on its seven regiments (about 40,000 men in 38 battalions) of Gorkha troops. Besides, it has been pointed out that India is bound by a friendship treaty and an arms assistance treaty to come to the aid of the RNA.

The top brass is concerned that India's Nepal policy is floundering between the security compulsions of the army and the political compulsions of the coalition government. This was evident at a meeting the Left had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in which defence minister Pranab Mukherjee was also present.

Mukherjee is understood to have pointed to the unique relationship between the Indian and Nepalese militaries, the fact that the RNA has practically been hand-held by the Indian Army and that it is dependent on supplies from India in its war against the Maoists.

The minister argued strongly in favour of resuming military supplies. He pointed out that Pakistan has offered funds to Nepal to procure weapons and that the US was also offering its support with 'non lethal' supplies (for crowd control).

The Left had opposed resumption of military supplies which Nepal claimed was likely after the Prime Minister met the king in Bandung.

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