Nepal: Army Commanders Debate Restructuring
Posted by Ka Frank on November 12, 2009
eKantipur, November 11, 2009
Differences persist over Army restructuring
KATHMANDU: Nepal Army (NA) has initiated internal debate on its restructuring in the changed political context, but there has been little convergence with political parties on key issues of the peace process.
The Interim Constitution agreed to by the Seven Party Alliance government and CPN (Maoist) in 2007 envisaged that the Council of Ministers would “formulate extensive work plan for democratisation of Nepal Army and implement it.” The action plan would determine the appropriate number of Nepal Army personnel and develop the Army’s democratic structure along “national and inclusive characters.”
The new Chief of the Army Staff Chhatra Man Singh Gurung has called all these outstanding issues, including the integration and rehabilitation of Maoist combatants, as “political” and said the call should be made by political parties and the government. Gen. Gurung has formed a task force led by Brig. Gen. Pawan Jung Thapa to come up with recommendations on restructuring the NA. The move followed Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal’s visit to Army Headquarters on Oct. 11. “The task force will ‘introspect’ on the strengths and weaknesses of Nepal Army,” said a senior Army officer. “It will also review the performance and structure of the Army.”
Institutional debate on the Army’s restructuring was shelved during the tenure of Gen. Rookmangud Katawal. Gen. Katawal transferred the then Director General of Military Operations Maj. Gen. Shiva Ram Pradhan to Western Division two years ago for supporting integration and downsizing, said a senior NA official. Gen. Katawal accused his second-in-command and the Maoist-appointed Acting Chief of Army Staff Kul Bahadur Khadka for supporting “the Maoist plot” to undermine the Army’s institutio-nal integrity.
Gen. Katawal’s tenure came to an end in September, but there are still divergent views on the Army’s restructuring among senior officials. “We should take Nov. 23, 2001 as the cut-off date while taking decision on rightsizing the Army,” said an Army general. The Army was first mobilised against the Maoists right after that. “There were 58,000 personnel then and there were plans to add a thousand new soldiers each year for 10 years.” According to the 10-year plan, the size of the Army should have been 66,000 now, and that would be an appropriate number for the current situation.
However, many senior officers believe it is not a good idea to downsize the Army, (currently at 95,753) until the constitution is drafted and the transition period is over. “Some international actors, including the UN and the Maoists, are interpreting the commitment to determine the appropriate size of the Army as downsizing,” said a two-star general. “But rightsizing also means increasing the number depending upon the political context and needs.”