Print Edition - 2017-02-24  |  Oped

Soldier to shoulder

  • The Nepal Army is a close partner in the development efforts of the Nepali people
- Suresh Sharma
The military recognises, both in principle and practice, that the nation’s policies are the responsbility of the civilian leadership; the military strategy of a country reflects its political intentions

Feb 24, 2017- Army Day coincides with the Hindu festival of Mahashivaratri which is known as a source of power and force. The Nepal Army celebrates the day with great respect and salutation to the gallant Nepali soldiers who have ever striven for the safety, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the motherland. The national army’s role in keeping peace in Nepal and abroad is recalled with fondness, and a parade is held to mark the occasion. 

China and India, who possess two of the world’s largest militaries in terms of defence spending, are today a matter of concern to many. As global power shifts in the region, it is important to consider Nepal’s geostrategic location between them and its military position. Astonishingly, 200 years ago, the Gorkhali forces (which later became known as the Nepal Army) contested these two emerging economic and military powers of today without regard to their size and capability, after which Nepal seldom sensed any threat. 

A glorious past
The formation of a need-based modern military strength during and after the unification campaign was vital without which we would not have secured today’s Nepal (actually it was much larger before the Sugauli Treaty). The auspicious day reminds us of the war veterans, the unchecked victory of the forces whose morale was second to none and all those who sacrificed their lives to strengthen our national unity. 
The ruins of abandoned forts lying amid lush forests refresh our memory of the glorious past. We can inspect some of these sites of vigour, courage, patriotism and perseverance, and think about the champions at many historical sites ranging from Imphal in Burma to Waziristan and Abbottabad in Pakistan and Nalapani in the foothills of Dehradun in India. There are several others inside our own territory that retain this legacy. The march past on Army Day reminds us of that glorious day long ago when prime minister Juddha Shumsher had ordered a grand parade to be held at Tundikhel to welcome and congratulate our battalions for their victory in World War II. 
During the battle of Nalapani, British Gen Gillespie’s troops had respect for the forces inside Nalapani fort, including nursing mothers with infants in their arms, when Nepali commander Balbhadra and his soldiers would not give up despite coming under intense cannon fire. After pulling back from captured territories in the east and west, a new offensive was mounted towards Tibet in the north which made Nepali troops confront the great Qing Empire.
“All noble undertakings are fraught with obstacles,” goes an old saying. The Nepal Army has been battle-tested from ancient times, and it is operationally very robust and affirms character for national unity. It was indeed our poor economy in later years and changed security dynamics that led to the downsising of the force. It is imperative that the pristine guards of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national unity and politico-economic stability are always kept in excellent form. 

National security
The military remains silent unless called to act during times of grave national crisis. Some thinkers opine that “they should come and play a role in the national political crisis”. But this matter is still to be examined. The military’s policy of not getting involved in political, economic and social affairs at times of national crisis to achieve a solution may or may not be a wise option. The existing state political machinery must be fully effective and functional, have the trust of the people, and be a reliable and dependable tool to devise a way out. Scholars describe the military as an important visible driving force and emphasise the fact that they are not friendly to elements that create restlessness in the country. Above all, national security is subject to the authority of Parliament and the executive branch.
The military recognises, both in principle and practice, that the nation’s policies are the responsibility of the civilian leadership. The military strategy of a country reflects its political intentions. Nepal’s geostrategic location draws the attention of the major powers, and this is expected to grow in the future. In the coming days , we wish the army to be more visible in civil-military relations, be a close partner of citizens in mitigating natural calamities and the nation’s development works, be constitutionally resolute in addressing internal security problems and be capable of safeguarding vital national interests. 
In recent days, the agreement of the political leadership to support the military in its modernisation programme is very welcome. Our leaders share their pride over Nepal’s contribution to peacekeeping operations abroad while participating in world forums. The institution which is supported by every Nepali taxpayer possesses accuracy in discharging its duties, and is accountable for carrying out its duty to remain people-friendly. 
Nepal’s military leadership is always aligned with national ethics accepted by all. The people will remain supreme if the military of a nation is regarded with reliance and faith by its statesmen. People enjoy watching the celebration of Army Day, and they always gather in large numbers around Tundikhel. The citizens of this great nation with vast potential are expected to reap significant benefits and improve their standard of living by maintaining political stability and economic development for which the military is one of their close partners.

 

- Sharma is the CEO of the Nepal Institute for Strategic Studies and a former spokesperson for the Nepal Army

Published: 24-02-2017 08:47

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