Kathmandu, August 8

Chief of Army Staff Rajendra Chhetri is handing over his job responsibility to acting CoAS Lieutenant General Purna Chandra Thapa tomorrow. CoAS Chhetri will take a leave from Friday till September 8 when he retires.

Chhetri had assumed office of Nepali Army chief on September 10, 2015. He will hand over his responsibility to Thapa at a special programme to be held at the NA headquarters. However, Acting General Thapa will formally take full charge of over 96,000-strong force from September 9.

Chhetri led the NA when the country was struck by the devastating earthquakes and the new constitution was promulgated by the Constituent Assembly.

Security Expert Geja Sharma Wagle said NA under Chhetri played a vital role in rescue and reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes.

Under Chhetri’s leadership, the NA got for the first time women-led Gorakhkali Gulma in more than 200 years of its history. The NA also took over the responsibility of constructing Kathmandu-Tarai Fast-track.

“Shouldering this responsibility given by the government is good part of his leadership,” Wagle said. Under Chhetri leadership, NA played a vital role in ensuring security during the three tiers of elections — local, provincial and parliamentary.

Chhetri tenure was more about defence diplomacy. He visited more than a dozen countries, including the United States of America. He also invited army chiefs of Maldives, India, USA, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Zambia, Thailand, Pakistan and the UK to Nepal during his three-year term. He also started a process of establishing National Defence University in Nepal.

“Military diplomacy is an essential tool in facilitating the achievement of a country’s foreign policy goals and in the last few years, the Nepali Army has been giving adequate attention to this aspect. A lot more needs to be done. Also, I hope the idea of setting up of a National Defence University, which will not only train senior army officers but also senior officers of friendly countries,  will finally take shape,” said  Nishchal N Pandey, director of the Centre for South Asian Studies.

NA under Chhetri also started joint military excise with new countries. The NA has been conducting joint exercises with India and People’s Liberation Army of China. “However, he could not do enough to introduce professional reforms in the Nepali Army, “ Wagle said, adding that Chhetri is an average commander-in-chief of the NA.

Addressing army personnel, Chhetri said he had done his best to strengthen the institution. He said, as CoAS, he followed the country’s constitution and shouldered the responsibility given by the government. “I tried my best to make NA a better institution,” he said and added that his successor would continue to build the institution on the foundations he had laid.