Army Integration in Nepal

Army Integration in Nepal: Democratization or politicization?

Bishta makes a strong argument that the Nepal Army should never be politicized in the name of Loktantrikaran. He has a striking question: if the Maoists achieved so much with some 3400 crummy weapons, cannot the Nepal Army which has 95,000 trained soldiers equipped with all modern ammunitions revolt it the Maoists try to politicize it on their will?


Recently, Nepal marked the 50th anniversary of participation in UN Peacekeeping operations worldwide. It is rather ironic that the same army that contributes the fifth largest contingent of peacekeepers in the entire world, and which has won many accolades in the international arena is considered in need of 'reform' by non other than a Maoist-led government. As such, it is about to be laid on the alter of sacrifice at the mercy of those whose intent is at best unclear and at worst an unmitigated disaster for the prospects of democracy.

Integration and other 'reforms' in the national army may be understandable and justified at the logical end of a political process. In other words, if we were a hundred percent clear that the Maoists have come into the democratic political mainstream and no longer harbor any further designs for seizing unchallenged power, almost any measure, including the integration of all 19,000 UNMIN-verified Maoist combatants into the army, would have been justified. However, in Nepal, the Maoists are very clearly on the path of defeating all opposition to their unilateral rule.

Indeed, the Maoists have not even tried to disguise their unchanged objective of eventually establishing a communist republic. The problem in Nepal lies in the wider community deliberately choosing to ignore these clear indicators and indulging in wishful thinking--arguing that surely, the Maoists do not really mean what they say! In this context, allowing the removal of the army as the last line of defense of democracy--following on the heels of the end of monarchy, sidelining of the NC and now the compromise of the UML--is nothing short of political suicide by the democratic front.

Without a doubt, the peace process must come to a logical conclusion with Nepal achieving an enduring peace, stability and economic progress under a multi-party democratic framework. The Nepal Army, which has been instrumental in promoting peace nationally and internationally, now clearly relies on objective civilian control to maintain its apolitical and neutral status. This is apparent from the very mature and measured manner in which the army accepted the reality of the demise of the monarchy. At the core of the concept of objective civilian control is the recognition of the professional military's right to retain control of its fundamental values and procedures.

Today, it has become common practice, even in backward Nepal, to consider stakeholder interests while making decisions that ultimately affect their future. Yet, while the future of 95,000 army personnel is being decided, it is apparently left up to a closed group of politicians, most of whom, in Nepal's new reality, are going to be from the Maoist pact.

Is it that difficult for the politicians and the international community to realize that what is happening, in essence, is that those in power are taking the army for granted simply because it is disciplined, cohesive and intact--the very values that the Maoists now seek to destroy?

It does not take the brains of a rocket scientist to figure out that, in Nepal's reality where one has to revolt to be heard, it may not be too long before the army is forced to assert itself. And rightly so. If the Maoists achieved so much with some 3400 crummy weapons, is it really in anybody's interest to destroy the very fabrics that hold the army together and restrain it? The purity, sanctity, and integrity of an army that has proven itself apolitical and restrained, should never be compromised in the name of 'loktantrikaran'. Certainly, it should not be left at the mercy of a proven undemocratic force to grab unequivocal power.

Till date, the army has obeyed the orders of the legitimate government mandated by the people. However, it is unlikely that it will take its own destruction and the compromise of Nepal's territorial integrity and sovereignty lying down. Democratic politicians should start listening to the genuine stakeholder concerns of the army and provide ownership to it. Only then can it stand as bedrock upon which Nepal's burgeoning democracy can be built. (TKP, July 3, 2008)

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