Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
One country two armies




Defence Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and COAS Rookmangat Katuwal have been at loggerheads on the issues of army recruitment and integration. The row became acrimonious as rumours swirled that Thapa was getting ready to sack Katuwal. The prime minister himself had to deny there was any such plan. Eventually, Thapa accepted that there had been a misunderstanding. But only three weeks later, the controversy has erupted again with Thapa complaining in public that the Army was refusing to take his orders. The NC and the UML have taken the stance that the recruitment process should continue. Now that even the MJF and Sadbhabana have joined in, the Maoists are isolated. The Maoists now have three options: appease the army, squeeze its budget, or replace the top brass.

It seems that the Maoists are inclined towards the third option. But taking that road will not be easy because the Maoists are alone, there are legal hurdles and although the government has the power to change the commander in chief, there is another provision that allows Katuwal to hold his post for the full three-year term. In addition, to change that provision and also to change the army leadership, the Maoists will need the support of the president. That support seems unlikely at the moment.

However, the question arises: why is Thapa raking it all up again? Does Thapa want to create a new position for himself in his party? Or are the Maoists planning to take over the army? "Both of them are egoitistical," says an army official. The personality clash between Thapa and Katuwal seems to be at the root of the controversy.

It is only natural for the Maoists and the Nepal Army to have differences because they were killing each other till not too long ago. The government is facing the sensitive issue of army integration and the army is adapting to a democratic civilian chain of command. Ex-general of the Nepal Army and also a CA member, Gopal Singh Bohara says: "This debate has to be solved through negotiations, it can't be prolonged."



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


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