Nepal will not be sending its soldiers for the first-ever Bimstec (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) anti-terror military exercise to be held in Pune from September 10 to 16.
Nepal has sent only three "observers" for the "Milex-2018" exercise being hosted by India, which will witness platoon-size contingents (over 30 soldiers each) from other Bimstec countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Thailand, in turn, will also be sending only observers due to "prior commitments". Nepal army chief General Purna Chandra Thapa was also scheduled to attend the closing ceremony of the drill but that too has been cancelled, it was learnt.
''In Kathmandu on Saturday, Kundan Aryal, press adviser to PM KP Sharma Oli, was quoted as confirming that "Nepal will not participate in the Bimstec joint military drill. This is the official decision of the government". The Oli government, which is widely perceived to be pro-China, apparently took the decision after strong opposition from Nepal gets access to 4 China ports, ending Indian monopoly on transit
Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali had earlier in the week said there was no discussion held or agreement reached about the military exercise during the 4th Bimstec summit in Kathmandu on August 30-31. Bimstec is purely a developmental forum among the seven member countries, which does not prioritise military exercises, he said.
Though PM Narendra Modi, addressing the inaugural session of the summit, had proposed to host the joint military exercise in India in the second week of September, Gyawali later said, "India was free to float the agenda, but we did not endorse it."
Incidentally, India and Nepal have long-standing deep linkages in the military arena, with over 30,000 Nepalese Gorkhas currently serving in the Indian Army's seven Gorkha Rifles and some paramilitary forces. The two armies also regularly hold their annual Surya Kiranbilateral exercise, with the 13th edition of it being held at Pithoragarh in June.
Courtesy: The Times of India