Nepal’s army chief sacked

May 3rd, 2009 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, May 3 (IANS) In a stinging rebuff to India, Nepal’s ruling Maoist party Sunday sacked the chief of the army, General Rookmangud Katawal, rejecting New Delhi’s repeated advice not to meddle with the army’s chain of command.
Maoist PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda replaced the 61-year-old controversial general just three months before the latter was due to retire - with senior army officer Lt. Gen. Kul Bahadur Khadka, who is regarded as being close to the former guerrillas.

The move ends a nearly two-month long impasse that crippled the nation, parliament and the fragile peace process but triggers a fresh crisis, both at home and with the international community, especially India.

New Delhi had sent its ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood to meet Prachanda four times within the last fortnight, asking him not to take any unilateral step about the beleaguered army chief.

But the hardliners in the Maoist party who have been growing increasingly hostile to India, pressured the party into finally firing Katawal even though the other members of the five-party ruling alliance boycotted the cabinet meeting Sunday to show their disapproval.

Besides its own allies turning hostile, the Maoist-led government will now also have to contend with protests by the main opposition party, former prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s Nepali Congress, which began public rallies Sunday.

The firing of the army chief will also have an adverse effect on the army.

Though the Nepal army has been vigorously rejecting reports that it was planning a coup, the Maoists’ ambitious plan to merge the guerrilla army, the People’s Liberation Army, with the state troops is bound to be affected in the long run.

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