Indian army chief arrives in Nepal to receive honour

December 20th, 2010 - 4:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Dec 20 (IANS) The chief of Indian Army, Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, arrived in Kathmandu Monday on an official three-day visit to cement ties with the Nepal Army and receive the honorary rank of general of Nepal Army from Nepal’s President, Ram Baran Yadav.The general, accompanied by his wife Bharti Singh, was officially invited by the chief of Nepal Army, Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung, who himself was conferred the honorary rank of general of Indian Army by Indian President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi last year.

Gen Singh, who laid a wreath at the soldiers’ memorial in Kathmandu’s Tundikhel public grounds to honour soldiers who had died in the service of the nation will receive a guard of honour by the Nepal Army and hold consultations with Gen Gurung, the Nepal Army said in a press statement.

This is a ceremonial visit during which issues related to India’s resuming lethal assistance to Nepal Army will not be discussed, army sources said.

India suspended providing arms and ammunition to Nepal Army at a 70 percent subsidy in 2005 to protest against King Gyanendra’s power takeover.

Though the royal regime fell in 2006, the assistance has not been resumed as the Maoist guerrillas signed a peace pact, thereby lessening the need for the army to replenish its arsenal.

However, now Nepal is seeking fresh weapons for training purposes as well as arming its police to combat growing crime and poaching.

With the arms issue being a matter for discussion between the two governments, resuming arms supplies is not likely to feature during the Indian general’s goodwill visit.

On Tuesday, Gen Singh will fly to Jomsom near the Tibetan border to inspect Nepal Army’s Mountain Warfare Training Institute where Indian officers also receive training. He will then visit the Gorkha pension camp in Pokhara city to meet Indian Army veterans.

Unlike the British Army, which is reportedly mulling reducing recruitment from Nepal, the Indian Army this year continued with its recruitment from the Himalayan republic and Pokhara was one of the main recruitment centres.

Also, unlike in the British Army, where Gurkha soldiers receive lower pay and perks, the Indian Army treats soldiers from Nepal on par with its own citizens and an officer from Nepal can rise to the highest rank in the Indian Army.

On Wednesday, Gen Singh is scheduled to visit the Birendra Peacekeeping Training Centre in Panchkhal, which will be followed by meetings with Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Defence Minister Bidya Bhandari.

In the evening, at a special ceremony in the presidential quarters Shital Niwas, he will be conferred the rank of honorary general of the Nepal Army, a fraternal gesture existing between the two armies of the two neighbouring nations for almost six decades.

Gen Singh is scheduled to return to India Thursday.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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