One of the last decisions of the cabinet led by Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai on Wednesday midnight was to lift embargo on the purchase and import of arms and ammunition by the Nepal army, the most formidable enemies of the red rebels during the latter half of decade long insurgency that ended in 2006 subsequent to Maoists decision to join the peace and democratic process.
Five subsequent government --two of them led by the Maoists--since April 2006—and President Yadav failed to let NA procure. Arms and ammunition required for regular training exercise. India, United Kingdom and the United States among others had decided to stop supplying arms to the Nepal army subsequent to the takeover by King Gyanendra in February 2005, but the embargo remained practically intact even after the King relinquished power to the political parties 14 months later following protest from the Maoists and UN agencies involved in Nepal's peace process.
"With the process of integration of the Maoist combatants in the Nepal Army almost nearing its end, and with Maoist-Nepal army hostility over, the Nepal army had approached the Ministry of Defence to lift the embargo as arms and ammunition were required to train the new recruits including erstwhile Maoist combatants', a Defence Ministry sources said, confirming 'Bhattarai cabinet endorsed our request hours before he bowed out of office'.
Nepal army that has a strength of around 92,000 mainly procures arms from India, but despite request by two past Prime Ministers--G P Koirala and Madhav Kumar Nepal--besides President Yadav during their official visit to Delhi to begin supplying arms, absence of 'formal request' from the government (of Nepal) made this request irrelevant. The UCPN-M inside or outside the government, was able to stall the move always. But, Bhattarai government took the decision moments before it was to relinquish power, probably to appease the Nepal army that will have bigger role in the next election if and when they take place, and also possibly in maintaining security in the days to come as political parties have lost their credibility and acceptability in a larger degree. Moreover, the Nepal army also wrote to the decision ministry that they would need arms and ammunition for regular training including for the new recruits who include around 1,460 Maoist combatants who have opted for integration in the Nepal army. Out of them, 71 are slated to be integrated in the officer rank—one of them a Colonel and the two as Lt Col-on their completing the abridged training successfully. Bhattarai ‘s tactic was to take credit for integration of the Maoist combatants—in a way contributing significantly in the peace process—and also appeasing the Nepal army by lifting the arms embargo. His government has already offered Rs three billion for purchase of helicopters.
But in every decision Maoists have taken, there is an element of tactic and politics. The number of combatants opting to join the army was far less compared to the agreed ceiling of 6,500, and it now appears that the Maoist leadership was mainly concerned about maintaining the chain of command in the 'Peoples Liberation Army’. Keeping the number joining the NA at lower side was part of it. "There are many young combatants with required academic qualification and physical fitness who could have got to the higher post, but that would have resulted in bypassing the senior commanders of the PLA,", a senior Maoist leader confided. As per the recent agreement reached among the Maoists and other 'four political parties' one of the Maoist combatants will be given the Colonel's rank and two others Lt Col rank.. "Yam Bahadur Adhikary, a divisional chief is likely to be the Colonel's while Padam Bahadur Tamang and Basudev Ghimire will be the Lt Cols', Moist source revealed, adding 'only one of them has completed class 12, minimum qualification to be commissioned as officers, while other two have completed class ten only'. Letting more qualified combatants’ entry would have deprived the senior combatant’s chances to occupy the officers’ rank. While the UCPN-M kept their combatants chain of command intact, the government led by Bhattarai as Prime Minister succeeded in introducing the 'fast track promotion system' in the Nepal army for their promotion among the rank of colonels with the idea that 'the more qualified ones should get promotion faster'. The move has been challenged in the Supreme Court by eight aggrieved officials of the NA, something that is not good for the health of the NA. Why did the current NA leadership accept this proposal when two immediate chiefs had opposed this?
Maoist’s mantra and motto continue to remain the same: Now that monarchy has gone, judiciary and NA must be weakened, for power capture. Unfortunately for the nation, CJ Regmi has complied with that. Will NA rise for the nation, or fall into that trap that the Maoists have laid of late?