Nepali Times
Editorial
Demob deadline


Government formation, the prime minister's foreign trips, then there was Dasain-Tihar. Finally, there are no more excuses for the government to start governing.

But there is one more potential distraction: army integration. The January deadline for UNMIN's mandate is beginning to focus everyone's minds on dismantling cantonments and containers. Those bankrolling the UN are not in the mood for another extension.

Given the extreme posturing and grandstanding by doctrinaire Maoists led by Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and the centre-right supporters of status quoists in the Nepal Army, integration won't be easy. Thapa's rash public pronouncements, and the kangresis whipping up a storm over rumours they heard that Nanda Kishore Pun was being proposed as army chief has needlessly polarised the debate.

Back in early 2007, the whole process of interning the guerrillas and their weapons was called 'arms management' just so that it wouldn't hurt Maoist feelings by making it look like they lost. Everyone knew the hardcore guerrillas and their commanders were not in the camps. The Maoists knew we knew. We agreed to call the camps 'cantonments' and gave them the other key to the containers that contained mostly .303s just to keep the ex-rebels happy.

We knew the real hardened fighters were actually the YCL and they were in the cities, but we went along with it. And when the YCL kept beating up and killing people and running kangaroo courts, we looked away for the sake of protecting the peace process. Semantics mattered then because the peace process was fragile. It's now time to call 'arms management' what it really is: disarmament, demobilisation and rehabilitation.

And it is time to downsize our bloated military, make it more transparent and institutionalise civilian command. The army's argument that it can't allow politically indoctrinated cadre to join a professionally-trained force is a bit disingenuous. After all, it could be argued that the ex-royal army also has a sizeable proportion of 'indoctrinated' officers and soldiers.

Some integration is necessary. You can't have peace when there are two standing armies. There are some 19,000 verified guerrillas in the camps, if they are all integrated into the national army its size will grow to 120,000 at a time when it probably needs to be brought down to its pre-war size of 45,000.

This is a challenge: how do you add and subtract at the same time? The only answer to that is the political will to find a compromise formula. That is what the multi-partisan committee is supposed to do, let it work independently.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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