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Indo-Nepal Ties First Casualty?
|by Dr. Rajinder Puri|
The unseemly and unnecessary controversy created between Army Chief General VK Singh and Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony has extracted its first pound of flesh from India’s security concerns. This week’s visit to Nepal by the Army Chief to attend the regional seminar on disaster management and counter terrorism hosted by the Nepal Army has been downgraded by the Government. The General originally was scheduled to visit Katmandu for four days in order to attend the two-day seminar. The extra two days were reserved for discussions with Nepalese Army top brass to discuss furtherance of crucial Indo-Nepal defence ties. It was expected that a formal treaty on military assistance between India and Nepal was to be signed during this visit. The Nepalese government is keen on this agreement. However, thanks to the spat between the army and the ministry not only has the treaty been put on hold; the strength of the Army Chief’s delegation will be reduced and his trip shortened to preclude any meaningful dialogue with his opposite numbers in Nepal.
This move arising from the government’s pique with the General could not have come at a worse time. Can national security permit a lame duck Army Chief? India’s ties with Nepal are crucial. Nepal is strategically located as the buffer between India and Tibet. China is working overtime to include Nepal into its fold. Nepal had supported China’s inclusion in SAARC as a full member. With some difficulties that move was thwarted. India’s ties with Nepal as the world’s only Hindu state are ancient, historic and enduring. If relations are not as close as they ought to be the fault lies entirely with the unimaginative policies followed by successive Indian governments.
Right now India is closely watching the Nepal government's proposal to end the recruitment of Gorkhas in the Indian army. There are over 25,000 Nepalese Gorkhas serving in the Indian Army. They comprise roughly 70% of the Gorkha Regiment. The rest are Indian domicile Gorkhas. Another 20,000 Gorkhas are in paramilitary and police forces. India plans to extend the benefits of the ex-servicemen contributory health scheme to retired Indian army personnel in Nepal to help perpetuate Nepalese Gorkha recruitment in the Indian army. Though the total percentage of Gorkhas in the over a million strong Indian army is small, their symbolic and strategic value for strong ties with Nepal is incalculable. The Gorkhas with a glorious record dating back to World War II in which they won over a dozen Victoria Crosses are a great morale booster for the Indian army. They maintained their reputation in operations after India’s independence winning the highest gallantry awards like the Param Vir Chakra, Ashok Chakra and Mahavir Chakra. How will efforts to woo Nepal be affected by General VK Singh’s crucial Katmandu visit being downgraded?
The government is doing everything possible to help China gain total ascendancy over India’s most natural ally. The damage inflicted internally by this dysfunctional, divided and corrupt government might be undone by future governments. The damage inflicted on our ties with foreign nations will not be as easily undone.
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03/10/2013 07:35 AM