Nepal Army not to participate in military drill of BIMSTEC nations in India

Kathmandu
10 Sep 2018

The Nepal Army has withdrawn from the first military exercise of BIMSTEC nations to be held in India following a political row in the country over the participation in the event, a media report has said. Prime Minister K. P. Oli asked the national defence force not to participate in the drill, compelling the Nepal Army's leadership to rollback its earlier decision to take part in the first ever military exercise of the regional grouping initiated by India.
The decision was taken just a day before the Army squad was set to travel to Pune, where the drill is scheduled to be held from Monday, the Kathmandu Post has reported. The government's decision came after strong criticism from different quarters, including influential leaders from ruling Nepal Communist Party.
The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional grouping comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.  The armies from all seven members states had agreed to send a 30-member squad for the six-day exercise. The event was dragged into controversy as no diplomatic or political level agreement was made before deciding to take part in the exercise. "The government directed the NA not to participate in the drill," Kundan Aryal, the Press advisor to Oli, has been quoted as saying by the newspaper.  A senior Army official has said even though they had not received a formal directive, the 30-member squad has been stopped from departing. Three Army officials who had already travelled to Pune to help plan the conference will also be returning soon, the Army officer has said.
Cross-party leaders in Nepal had raised their concerns against the exercise after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his address at the recent BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu, welcomed Nepal's presence in the drill. "There is no point in our Army Chief participating in the exercise which our government hasn't approved," Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dahal has told the Post.