Hindustan Times has reported that Oli had asked General Thapa, who is also an honorary Indian Army General, to rebut Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Mukund Naravane’s remarks about Indo-Nepal border disputes. But according to Hindustan Times, General Thapa refused to be dragged into this and declined Oli’s order. This report has turned many eyeballs in the political circles of Nepal, and now the Nepali Army has rejected the “lies, innuendo and mischief”.
The Indian Army Chief had recently said, “There is reason to believe that they (Nepal) might have raised this issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much possibility,” in an indirect jibe at China. According to a report on Hindustan Times by Shishir Gupta, this riled Oli so much that he asked General Thapa to rebut the comments, but the Nepal Army Chief pointed out that this was a political issue and had nothing to do with the military.
It is important to mention that while Shishir Gupta mentions ‘top sources’ as his source, the Nepali Army has now come out to squarely reject the claim that the Nepali Army Chief declined to be dragged into this ‘political issue.’
In a letter to TFIPOST rejecting Shishir Gupta’s claim, the Nepali Army has stated, “Nothing can be farther from truth than these write up with claims that the Chief of the Nepali Army, Gen Purna Chandra Thapa refused to obey the instructions of Right Honourable Prime Minister to rebut the statement of Indian Army Chief Gen Manoj Mukund Navarane’s on Indo-Nepal Border dispute.”
It also went on to say, “Nepal’s institutional ties with any of its counterpart anywhere in the world is guided by well considered need of the time, reciprocity and not at the cost of country’s independence, sovereignty and the glorious values it stands for.
General Thapa is an honorary General of the Indian Army, as it is a customary practice between the Armies of India and Nepal to award the honorary General title to each other’s Army Chiefs. General Thapa was awarded the title in January last year at a Special Investiture Ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, shortly after he took over as the Nepal Army Chief.
The Armies of the two countries share strong bilateral ties, and there is a tradition in the Nepal Army according to which its Chiefs visit New Delhi as their first international destination, after assuming office. General Thapa too had visited India as per the said tradition in 2019.
Moreover, the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army recruit heavily from the hill districts of Nepal. Currently, there are 32,000 Gorkha soldiers from Nepal serving in the Indian Army. The Indian Army also pays pension to 1,25,000 retired Gorkha soldiers and civilian personnel which shows the level of confidence that the two Armies share.
The Indian Army has also helped Nepal Army in terms of training and institutional support. A number of Nepal Army officers attend Indian Army training courses. And General Thapa himself is a graduate from the National Defence College in India and a post-graduate in Defence and Strategic Studies from the University of Madras.
Prime Minister Oli probably has not taken into account the strong military ties between India and Nepal, while indulging in a spat with India. While ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu have soured because PM Oli has started serving as China’s proxy, military ties must remain intact as there is much at stake.