Indian army chief discusses cross-border terror with Nepal (Lead)

December 20th, 2010 - 8:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Pratibha Patil Kathmandu, Dec 20 (IANS) With growing cross-border terror activities one of India’s major security concerns, Indian Army chief Gen Vijay Kumar Singh discussed security issues with high officials of the Nepal Army here Monday. Earlier, Gen Singh arrived in Kathmandu by a special flight from New Delhi on an official three-day visit at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart, Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung.

Gen Singh was given a briefing by the Nepal Army after he laid a wreath at the soldiers’ memorial in the capital to honour Nepal’s soldiers who gave up their lives for the country.

Major-General D.S. Hooda, who is part of the six-member Indian delegation, expressed India’s concern over the security situation in South Asia.

The Indian government, for at least the last four years, has been alleging greater cross-border terrorist activities through Nepal and the infiltration of its northern Jammu and Kashmir state by militants through Nepal, which shares a nearly 1,800 km open border with India.

The Nepal Army said in a press release that the meeting focused on Nepal’s role in combating terrorism, the possibility of terrorists and criminals using the open border and the need to prioritise these issues.

The two generals also discussed increasing bilateral cooperation, the statement said.

Nepal Army officials also briefed the Indian delegation on the army’s role in UN peacekeeping operations, disaster relief, building infrastructure and combating wildlife trafficking.

The Indian Army chief, accompanied by his wife Bharti Singh, will receive the honorary rank of general of the Nepal Army from Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav Wednesday.

Last year, Gen Gurung was conferred the honorary rank of general of the Indian Army by Indian President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi.

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, that 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.

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