Think Tank Looks at Conflict Over Nepal’s Two Armies
Posted by Mike E on April 14, 2009
The following is a white paper from the South Asia Analysis Group. As always, Kasama has published it here because it is of interest, not because we necessarily agree with the analysis presented here.
“The most critical factor confronting Prachanda’s government is the issue of integration/rehabilitation of PLA personnel. On this there are not only differences within the coalition partners, but also within the Maoist party itself.”
“There are 32,250 Maoist cadres registered in 28 cantonments. Of these only 19,692 are eligible to be treated as combatants. “
“Major opposition on bulk integration has come from the Nepalese Army. Surprisingly they have not been consulted on this issue or represented in the high-power Special Committee…. The Nepalese Army is not willing to accept that it is a defeated Army. This is true also and the major problem is that the PLA of the Maoists thinks that it is a victorious army! The Army contends that induction of politically indoctrinated combatants into an apolitical national army will weaken it and is not in the interest of Nepali democracy.”
“Gen. Katuwal, the Army Chief has suggested four options for the combatants- 1. Send them for foreign employment 2. Send them to school or college 3. Engage them in national building tasks and 4. Employ them in Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and in the Nepalese Army.”
NEPAL: PLA Integration Continues to be a Contentious Issue: Update No. 175
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
The most critical factor confronting Prachanda’s government is the issue of integration/rehabilitation of PLA personnel. On this there are not only differences within the coalition partners, but also within the Maoist party itself. The opinion varies from total mass integration with the Nepalese Army, to selective integration and absorption in other para military units already existing or to be created for the specific purpose or total rehabilitation of all the personnel outside the army.
The mandate of UNMIN will also be over by the end of the year and before it leaves some decision has to be taken on the disposal of arms deposited by the PLA in the camps under the joint supervision of the UN and the PLA. The UN Secretary General who visited Kathmandu last week indicated that he would have no objection in extending the term if need be.
There are 32,250 Maoist cadres registered in 28 cantonments. Of these only 19,692 are eligible to be treated as combatants. The rest continue to be in the camps without any payment being made to them. In the final analysis, the government will also have to take the responsibility of these people also.
It is also known that quite a number of deserters of the Nepalese Army (estimated to be over 12,000) are also in the cantonments. The Army leadership has not talked about this and no body knows as to how many deserters are in the camps, but some decision will have to be taken on these people too.
With the increase in allowances by Rs 2000 to all the eligible personnel in the camps the economic condition of the PLA personnel has improved. Living conditions in the camps are also better now.
But the personnel in the camps with no work to do and with their future uncertain, cannot be allowed to languish indefinitely. Some quick decision will have to be taken on their rehabilitation and integration. The cantonments will also have to be dismantled sooner than later.
After much delay and internal wrangling, Prachanda’s government established a high powered five member special committee to work on the integration and rehabilitation of the PLA. Bam Dev Gautam, the Home Minister belonging to UML has been made the chairman, with one member each from the MJF and the Nepali Congress as members. The CPN (M) is being represented by two of its stalwarts- the Defence Minister Badal and Janardhan Sharma, the latter as the coordinator. Prachanda was said to be very keen to get Sharma alias Prabakar as the coordinator in the committee.
The Nepali Congress has declined so far to nominate a member from the party for the committee on the ground that the party was not consulted in the formation of the committee or in the terms of reference given to the committee. It is learnt that even Madhav Nepal is upset over the formation of the committee which he feels has been unilaterally done by the Maoists.
The MJF has nominated Prof. Mohammed Habibullah as its representative.
The terms of reference given to the committee are that it should prepare a report for “rehabilitation and integration of all Maoist PLA personnel in the Nepalese Army and suggesting alternative solutions.”
It means that the committee can choose alternative avenues for the PLA personnel and not necessarily the PLA. This is not only a realistic approach but a doable one. Prachanda in one of his statements more or less agreed with this approach, but he is being vehemently opposed by his other colleagues including the Defence Minister Badal.
Badal’s statement should be cause for concern. At one point he said that new ‘standards’ should be applied in the matter of integration of PLA into the National Army. On 31st August he declared that a new national army will be formed after army integration. He connected this to the peace process itself and said that the integration will be done on the basis of a new national policy.
Other senior Maoist leaders whose opinions matter have opposed selective integration.
Kiran alias Mohan Baidya perhaps the senior most member of the party after Prachanda ( we ignore for the present the internal differences within the party over the rise of Baburam Bhattarai) is opposed to individual integration. In an interview he said that PLA integration is a critical issue and that the party is in no mood to budge “even an inch” from its insistence of bulk integration though it does not mind smaller sections being adjusted.
Similar views were expressed by another senior member C.P. Gajural. He said that all verified combatants should be integrated with the Nepalese Army. He also added that the seniors in the PLA who have proved their worth in the battles with the Nepalese army and who hold high positions in the PLA should be given similar positions in the Nepalese Army. If there is reluctance of the Nepal Army to take them in higher position for their lack of skills and training, they seem to be planning to seek help from China. The Government is said to be sending Pasang the present PLA Commander to China for training at the National Defence Institute- the institution meant for training of PLA ( Chinese) officers of the Brigadier General level.
The Chinese interest in Badal is also noticed elsewhere. Badal during his visit to Beijing on 26th September was offered military assistance of Rs 100 million to Nepal by their Defence Minister Liang Guanglie. The Chinese offer to Badal by the Defence Minister is very intriguing. The amount is small and is perhaps symbolic. But then why should the offer be made to the Defence Minister directly? To me it looks that the Chinese have a mischievous intent.
More intriguing is his overnight visit to Khasa along with another minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara and two other central committee members during puja holidays. The military attache of the Chinese embassy is also said to have accompanied the party to TAR.
The opposition particularly the Nepali Congress claims that the nation cannot afford to have ideologically brain washed people in the regular army. They further allege that the aim of the Maoists is to have political and ideological control over the military and a decisive say in the command structure.
Major opposition on bulk integration has come from the Nepalese Army. Surprisingly they have not been consulted on this issue or represented in the high-power Special Committee. They contend that any solution to the integration should be within the 12 point agreement, Interim Constitution and Comprehensive Peace Accord of November 26, 2006. The last one talks generally of setting up of a special cabinet committee for oversight, integration and rehabilitation.
The Nepalese Army is not willing to accept that it is a defeated Army. This is true also and the major problem is that the PLA of the Maoists thinks that it is a victorious army! The Army contends that induction of politically indoctrinated combatants into an apolitical national army will weaken it and is not in the interest of Nepali democracy.
Gen. Katuwal, the Army Chief has suggested four options for the combatants- 1. Send them for foreign employment 2. Send them to school or college 3. Engage them in national building tasks and 4. Employ them in Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and in the Nepalese Army.
He is not against taking some in the Army so long as the combatants have the requisite skills and come up to the criteria laid down for various ranks.
Prachanda is in a difficult situation as the opposition for “dispersed induction” comes both from other coalition partners like the MJF and UML as also from Nepali Congress, but also from his own seniors who wield considerable clout within the party!
It is still possible to work out a mutually acceptable solution so long as those opposed to his plan are not too rigid.