Former RNA bigwigs debate army’s role post April 24

Kathmandu, May 9:

A high-ranking army officer, who retired from the army recently, today said the government should come up with a new national policy to decide on the nature and size of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA).

The policy should reflect the changed political climate after April 24, he added.

“Now that a debate on the much-hyped inclusive democracy has begun in earnest, let the cream of society also debate the Constituent Assembly and come up with a national security policy,” said Lt General Chitra Bahadur Gurung, who retired from the Royal Nepalese Army only last year.

He said only a clear national policy should dictate the size of the army and whether it should remain a ceremonial entity.

He suggested the signing of a security pact with Nepal’s neighbours if the country cannot afford a bigger army budget.

“But that should be decided only after a healthy discussion,” said Lt General Gurung, who has also worked as a Force Commander in the UN peace-keeping mission.

Citing the example of Angola, where the United Nations peace-keeping forces were mobilised to disarm 30,000 militants, Gurung said: “After the war ended, the rebel commander in Angola brought in the open his 150,000-strong force. Similarly, no one predict the size of the Maoist militia in Nepal.”

Saying that it was the time to learn from past mistakes, he added: “We are looking for reconciliation, not confrontation.”

Lt General Gurung denied the allegation that the RNA had refused to take orders from the government after the Dunai and Holleri incidents.

“I feel sorry for the Royal Nepalese Army personnel who were unjustly blamed of declining to take orders.”

Likewise, Brigadier General (Retd), Gopal Singh Bohora, suggested the reform of the high-level National Security Committee, which was earlier formed in haste.

“The political parties should come forward with a single opinion regarding the security needs of the country,” he said while speaking at an interaction at the Freedom forum held at SAP Nepal.

“If the country still needs the RNA, then what should be its optimum strength? Issues like this should be discussed only after the formulation of foreign and domestic policies,” Bohora said.

Renaming the army would not be difficult, Brigadier Bohora further said: “It is important to make the RNA responsible towards the parliament and the people. The Royal Nepalese Army is a very sensitive institution and if not handled properly, a military rebellion like those in Africa might take place here too.”

Also speaking in the same programme, Prof Dhruva Kumar of the Tribhuvan University said it was a bad idea to try to assimilate the Maoists into the RNA as it would place great economic burden on the country.

He suggested the army use its own finances to make the RNA a more efficient unit.