Change Of Guards Part -II

The Nepalese Army is recognized as the strength that belongs to the country and owned by the people. The authenticity should be to find out the source of financial irregularities. The Chief of the Army and the few as well as the absence of parameter and law to charge the conspirator and the schemer is where the problem lies.

Jan. 7, 2022, 2:26 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 15, No. 12, Feb.04, 2022 (Magh 21,2078) Publisher and Editor: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

There were many enthusiasts in the last days of office of Purna Chandra Thapa (PCT), former Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) that put up judgement on how the Chief of the Nepalese Army (NA)performed in the stipulated three years tenure. The primary argument is “Was there a line of reasoning to carry the evaluation of the performance in form of a media campaign?” This is bracing the leadership to come to an assumption to be a populist in comparative to literal professional soldierly charisma, which is principally based on performance for shaping the force for national responsibility envisioned in the constitution. My previous opinion “changing of guards” published on 22 August 2018 (Changing of the guard (kathmandupost.com) acknowledged six challenges for the national force, which necessities to be appraised. You get to read considerable opinions on pros and cons of the former chief, raising eyebrows of the inevitability of bringing military transact to the public domain with the argument of the top leadership’s cognizance and media paranoia. The governance structural layouts in the administration system consigns the Chief of the Army (CoA) as just the man behind the wheels on matters concerning national security. This goes back a few decades.

During the period of Constitutional Monarch, the Principal Military Secretariat in the Royal Palace performed as the arbitrator on deriving to strategies, policies and concepts on matters of national security considering South Asian and international security environment.

A few headings that I would like to discuss that has institutional impressions and national security manifesting. As accepted NA is the only stable, most trusted institution. It is always a pride to be known of being a member of it.

Impression during the Inning

Two notions were delivered to the general public through a rare personal presence in the media conference by PCT. One, that the NA is corrupt pointing out that his predecessor Rajendra Chhetri was involved in financial irregularities and two, the internal governance lacked systemization and clarity indicating that the previous institutional heads were short of competent leadership merits. Both issues are serious concerns for institutional precision, professional growth and national security.

In the political realm, Nepal Communist party Maoists (NCPM) attempted to blemish or even disassemble the semblance while executing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) but was tricky to accomplish. A politically motivated motion by the NCPM encouraged them to attempt various modalities but at the same time feared the long-standing organizations that would impede their political goals. NCPM believed in dismantling the deep-rooted old democracy and to capture state power and set up “new people’s democracy” (naulo janabad) inherited from the thoughts of Mao Zedong. The Maoists struggle was in the form of a new democratic revolution that can telescope the phases of bourgeois and proletarian domination merged with Leninist theory of “continuous revolution”. The constitution still upholds that the NA should be democratized, when the army is under a democratic practice. This is just one instance.

The two stable and unwavering institutions were the Institution of Monarchy and the NA even after the ten-year-old conflict and signing of the CPA. NA has the impression as a reliable, professional institution not just by the ones in uniform or the veterans but by the general public, the political parties, the civil society and the international community.

In the academic ambit former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Executive Director of UNICEFKul Chandra Gautam opinionated in Kathmandu Post on 11 Nov 2021. “Does Nepal really need a national army and the Armed Police Force that are larger than those of Argentina, Australia, Canada & South Africa? I propose some specific recommendations to reform and restructure the Nepali Army to suit Nepal's real national and human security needs.”Restructuring Nepali Army (kathmandupost.com.

I argue that the opinion is influenced with a few western thoughts, which may possibly or may not be favourable for sustained stability, depriving the tangible realigning of the enduring geopolitical competition and the impact that would bear on smaller nations particularly Nepal. Altering geostrategic environment, trends of geopolitics and assessable Himalaya reveal that defence capabilities obligates to be deemed into. Indo-Pacific Region is primacy comparatively.

In the regional dynamics, China’s new border law being executed from Jan 2022 is aimed at the borders with India in South Asia and other smaller states south of the Himalaya as well as the 14 states in the rim. The central sub region of the Himalaya arc where Nepal lies is vital for both our immediate neighbors. Nepal and other South Asians has stiff choices to choose with the altering geopolitical motions. Risk of national security and challenges require the NA and the security sector to transform, rearrange, revitalize and reshape.

To elucidate, NA should aim for a technology supported smart agile force.

Re-deployments of troops

The thoughts that prevailed in the NA during the last six years have their own logic when the nation is in the state of transformation. But unquestionably is lost years and missed opportunities with wrong priorities. Popularism was at the center of the CoA by assuring the political body that the requirement of additional financial support was not needed but by upgrading higher ranks compromising at the cost of the ability of a fighting force.

The 3+1 command with Chiefs of Command (command Senapati) has been debated literally in every space with the establishment expressing that the thought should be contemplated as national and not just military. Changing of structures and appointments in the army has direct impacts on capabilities, regimentalization, professionalization and perpetuation of institutional far-sightedness. The army perform with a vision overseeing long-term national security challenges.

Two operational command amendments within five years are more time drawn and less foresightful. The six division commands as per the developmental regions were on geographic lines, which got readjusted on political and administrative set ups supporting federal system of governance with eight Commands. Well-marketed 3+1command is on geographic lines with river basins as the focal consideration which is actually comparable to the deployment based on developmental regions, which had both geography and administrative baseline.

Geography has changed and connotes not just natural features but political interests, infrastructure development, technology, artificial intelligence and geopolitical shifts mainly allowing military maneuverability and the political connotation. Both the powers India in the south, east and west and China in the north of the Himalaya arc is and will strengthen their strategic advances dreading each other’s aspiration. The central sub-region of the Himalaya with Nepal, Sikkim (India) and Bhutan was the buffer zone for India. South of the Himalaya is now the buffer, political space an alternative route to the Indian Ocean for China in the 21st century with ambition to be an effective global actor. Xi’s visit and the strategic plan $ 30 billion till 2025 of Tibet is an instance.

In reality a command has three tiers strategic, operational and tactical. The command structure is hierarchic with command, corps, division, brigades responsible for administering groupings of small units.

An example can be the Indian Army which has seven commands with each command holding four corps and twelve divisions, though Theatre Command is finding its way to be materialized with the establishment of the Chief of Defense Staff.

The largest formation of the British Army is a division commanded by a Major General with two or more Brigades up to 40 thousand troops, when the army fights it deploys Brigades under a divisional headquarters, the army has four different types of fighting brigades, the air assault brigade, armoured infantry brigades, strike brigades, several infantry brigades with supporting arms and services including intelligences. British Army could be another example as Nepal’s broadening security and defence arrangements for political comfortability and diplomatic reassurance.

The command has changed but not the military act and rules that provides legitimacy for the commands and heads of department to exercise their authority to be accountable, which was one of the challenges identified as: “collective leadership and responsibility”. Defense forces function on certain guidelines with structure in commands.

Popularism was at the center of the CoA by assuring the political body that the requirement of additional financial support was not needed but by upgrading higher ranks compromising at the cost of the ability of a fighting force. The thoughts that prevailed during the last six years have their own logic when the nation is in the state of transformation. But unquestionably is lost years and missed opportunities with wrong priorities.

National responsibility

The CoA should advise on the political trajectory that the nations should grasp. This would be fulfilling national responsibility and being accountable rather than inscription in newspapers and magazines.

With the absence of strategic structures that oversee national security, the CoA is looked upon as the focal operator behind the helms of national security even when the nation has been attempting to understand the relevance that national security occupies for stability, which then generates an environment for prosperity.

National support and diplomatic engagements have endured surroundings for international peace efforts through international peacekeeping arrangements by the security sector, which well contributes to the foreign policy.

Though Oli, former prime minister was the head of the government almost throughout the tenure of PCT; the structural changes that has strategic, operational and tactical impacts commenced when the government was exhausted. There are segments at large like some business, institutions, lack of regulations, politicizations etc. that profit from political instability, which is detrimental to the overall growth of the country.

Wouldn’t it be correct if I say that the main responsibility of the CoA would be to appraise the political leaders of mainly the major parties on how the country would contour in another decade or two if challenges are overlooked and institutionalization of corruption and political instability prevails?

The CoA should advise on the political trajectory that the nations should grasp. This would be fulfilling national responsibility and being accountable rather than inscription in newspapers and magazines.

Conclusion

The rush to devise public opinion and the aggressive nature of media misinformation and disinformation is surrendering a behavior of a soldier. The people must be well informed of the army’s contribution to the country but without keeping oneself at the center or being media conscious, shabby or phobia. An example can be one of numerous articles that was published on 10th August 2021 in http://myrepublica.nagariknetwork.com/news/general-purna-chandra-thapa-a-role-model-for-emerging-genderation-of-military-leaders/.

Some press has been portraying of financial irregularities in the army while praising PCT and a few that occupied key trust. This has not furthered to the accountabilities to the nation nor the institution.

The authenticity should have been to find out the source of financial irregularities. The CoA and the few as well as the absence of parameter and law to charge the conspirator and the schemer is where the problem lies not the NA. The NA is recognized as the strength that belongs to the country and owned by the people.

The nation is in a dire state. The status of national security is vulnerable, uncertainty is taking stride, the national challenges are getting more complex and the political, economic, diplomatic, social, cultural state of affairs is ambiguous.

Together with retirement comes statements, so did it happen by PCT that the security situation will be worse in days to come. This statement expresses the grounds of avoidance to be answerable while holding accountability responsibly as CoA. What segment does the CoA occupy or is accountable on proceeding of national security, is a deep-seated question to be answered?

National Security environment over the past six years has distorted and disoriented by political decisions, unwarranted and unjustifiable activities. But equally is also due to lack of sincere advice by the convener of the highest national security body the NA to the politicians and particularly the ones in chair and the ones that make a difference.

The NA a well-respected force by the global community and will always remain a professional force. The schooling is as such that there is no reason to argue or even mention of democratizing the army or if the army does not remain professional.

CoAS General Prabhuram Sharma takes charge while the country is perforating a newfound geo-strategic and a new geopolitical setting. When the country is politically unstable, economy is in downfall, loosing political trust, conceding diplomatic faith, frustrated population; all grievous national security challenges presaging that the responsibility is even more liable in days to come for the NA.

Basnyat is a strategic analyst and a former, Major General of the Nepalese Army

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