Government to clear legal hurdle to US arms deal

- Binod Ghimire, ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Dec 24, 2018-

The government has said it is ready to clear the legal hurdle to single sum payment for assault rifles purchased from the United States, even though it goes against the national procurement law that requires the sum to be paid in three tranches.

The move is expected to clear the way for importing weapons for Nepal Army soldiers who will be deployed to conflict flashpoints across the globe as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Nepal is trying to conclude the weapons procurement process urgently considering that some of the decisions taken by the United Nations recently with regard to the global peacekeeping operations. Unlike in the past, all members of the peacekeeping force have to be equipped with full logistics as soon as the United Nations orders deployment of troops.

In a government-to-government deal, the Nepal Army is procuring 6,492 M-16, M4 and A4 rifles through the US Army’s Pacific Command. For months, the Nepali side has been trying to convince US authorities to receive the payment in three allotments citing legal provisions. It was on the agenda during the visit of Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali to Washington DC last week.

Nepal’s procurement law does not allow the Army to make payments in a single go and requires a Cabinet clearance to bypass the law.

However, the proposal to amend the law is yet to be tabled in the Cabinet, according to officials at the Ministry of Defence.

The Cabinet, with consent from the Finance and Home ministries, will be taking the decision to release the payment for three variants of combat rifles at a single go.

Baburam Gautam, spokesperson for the Defence Ministry, confirmed to the Post that the government will clear the way soon for releasing the sum. All the arms consignments will be delivered immediately after payment from the Nepali side, officials said.

The government expects to pay nearly Rs2.19 billion for the weapons that will replace thousands of old rifles Nepal Army personnel have been using for years. “It is urgent that our soldiers get modern rifles while they serve in war-torn countries,” Gautam said.

The Army acquired the M16 rifles for the first time in 2003 as part of the US government’s support to containing the Maoist revolutionaries. Washington provided around 17,000 sophisticated rifles as per the deal with the Sher Bahadur Deuba administration in 2002.

Apart from procuring weapons for the Army, four Skytrucks are soon to arrive in Kathmandu from the United States. Additionally, during his recent trip to Washington, Gyawali also requested an upgrade to Nepal’s only peacekeeping training centre in Panchkhal, Kavre.

Gyawali said at a press conference on Sunday that Nepal also sought assistance in modernising the Nepal Army for peacekeeping operations. “We have also asked for Washington’s support to preparing the Army for disaster management,” he said.

Published: 24-12-2018 06:48

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