Indian Army chief to visit Nepal

January 1st, 2010 - 3:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Jan 1 (IANS) Indian Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor will be visiting the Himalayan republic this month to be decorated with the honorary title of general of the Nepal Army.

Gen Kapoor, who assumed office in 2007 and kicked up a controversy last month by opposing the induction of Nepal’s former Maoist guerrillas into the Nepal Army, will resume the tradition of Indian army chiefs visiting Nepal to receive the honour after four years.

The Indian general will arrive on a four-day visit starting Jan 31, highly placed Nepal Army sources told IANS. He is coming at the invitation of his Nepali counterpart, Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung, who visited India last month.

Marking the sea change in Nepal since the last army chief’s visit in 2005, Nepal’s first president Ram Baran Yadav will confer the general title on Kapoor instead of King Gyanendra, who was then the titular head of the Royal Nepalese Army.

Nirmal Chander Vij was the last Indian general to visit Kathmandu in April 2003, within four months of being sworn in as the Indian Army chief. During his four-day visit, he had received a sword from Gyanendra.

The fag-end of Vij’s tenure in 2005 saw the king try to seize power from the elected government with the support of the army, which led to the abolition of monarchy in Nepal, till then the world’s only Hindu kingdom, as well as estrangement between the Indian and Nepal armies.

The Indian government suspended its military assistance in Nepal following the coup and Vij’s successor, Gen Joginder Jaswant Singh, skipped the Nepal visit during his term due to the escalating turmoil in the Himalayan nation.

The ice between the two armies was broken in December 2007 when then Nepal Army chief Gen Rookmangud Katawal visited India and was conferred the honorary title of general of the Indian Army despite his questionable human rights record and proximity to the deposed king.

Now Kapoor’s visit to Kathmandu will further cement ties between the two armies. The visit, however, is expected to trigger protests by the former Maoist guerrillas, who were angered by his statement in New Delhi last month opposing the merger of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with the national army, saying it would lead to the politicisation of the army.

Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who headed the PLA for 10 years to wage a guerrilla war on monarchy in Nepal, condemned the statement, saying it revealed “naked Indian intervention” in Nepal’s internal affairs.

Since then, Prachanda has asked the new government of Nepal as well as the current Indian government to clarify their positions vis-a-vis the Indian chief’s remarks.

The Maoists have also warned of an indefinite general strike nationwide from Jan 24 over their protracted feud with the government over the army.

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