4-10 September 2015 #774

War-makers to peace-keepers

Former Maoist guerillas now in the Nepal Army prepare to leave for UN peacekeeping missions
Rameswar Bohara

As a part of the peace process, when former Maoist guerrillas started being integrated into the Nepal Army, the decision was criticised by many political leaders. They predicted difficulties for the national military from indoctrinated revolutionaries and feared that the army may be radicalised.

The process went ahead, and Nepal is now hailed as one of the few conflict areas of the world where integrations of fighters have happened so smoothly. Of the 1,463 former combatants who qualified for integration into the Nepal Army, 1,420 graduated from the Nepal Military Academy in 2013. Seventy five ex-PLA commanders are already serving in the Army as officers.

The new graduates were deployed in the National Development and Security Directorate, especially formed to accommodate the former combatants who enjoy a 33 per cent quota in the general directorate. Nepal Army spokesperson Jagdish Chandra Pokhrel says: “The integration has been successful, each soldier has done his duty.”

Although the former combatants have been assigned similar responsibilities to others in the Army, so far they have not been able to participate in UN peacekeeping missions. That also may soon change.

After consulting with the government, the office of the Chief of Army Staff this year released guidelines for the career development of former Maoists integrated into the military, including postings for peacekeeping duties abroad. As per selection criteria, a candidate must have served in the Army for six years, proved with a certification letter issued by UNMIN with admission date, and Army classification.

The guidelines also mention a quota system for integrated combatants deployed in different units within the Directorate of National Development and Security to participate in the peacekeeping missions. The first batch of former combatants will leave for peacekeeping missions in Lebanon, Congo and Darfur starting next fiscal year. Selection will start in December.

The policy also states that if there are two soldiers selected from integrated former Maoists or from regular recruitment procedures with equal time served, priority will be given to the more senior-ranking officer. Those opting for a second stint at peacekeeping will be selected under the 2013 Policy of Peacekeeping Force Selection or according to the current regulations of the Army.

Also 14 First Class and Second Class Warrant Officers from the integrated combatants will be selected to participate in peacekeeping operations. Integrated former combatants of other ranks will be selected based on the standard regulation of the Army, so that the number of former Maoist guerrillas in the peacekeeping operations do not exceed 10 per cent.

The headquarter expects both the integrated and the regularly recruited army will be deployed on peacekeeping missions on an equal and regular basis by 2019.

As per the new arrangements, the integrated army will only be deployed within the Directorate of National Development and Security. Promotions and training will depend on individual ranks. The procedure also gives equal accreditation to the training and bridging course undergone by the former combatants making it easier for them to rise up the ranks. They also get similar pensions to the regularly recruited army and opportunities to train abroad.

Deepak Prakash Bhatta, a member of the secretariat of the now defunct Special Committee for Army Integration believes that providing equal opportunities to the former combatants is a success story of the peace process.

Says Bhatta: “The uniqueness and success of Nepal’s peace process will be further validated once the integrated army gets equal opportunities to serve in the peacekeeping missions abroad.”

READ ALSO:

The end of a sibling war, Bhrikuti Rai

The price of peace, Rameshwor Bohara

Power sharing, post-handover, Madhav Kumar Nepal

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