NA, PLA merger no cakewalk, say security experts

Kathmandu, October 13:

Security experts said today that the Nepali Army (NA) needs to be democratised while the CPN-Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA), now in cantonments, needs to be made professional if both the armies were to be integrated in accordance with the Peace Accord and the Agreement on Management and the Monitoring of the Arms and Armies.

The CPN-Maoist central committee organised a one-day discussion programme at Hotel Malla among the security experts on Security Sector Restructuring (SSR). At the programme, Fred Schreier, a retired Colonel of the General Staff of the Swiss Army, made a presentation on SSR.

Opening the discussion, Maoist leader Dr Baburam Bhattarai stressed the need to restructure the NA to democratise and also professionalise the PLA. The chain-of-command, structure and leadership of the NA should be restructured to turn it into a more inclusive national force, he said. He cited instances that over the past 40 years, almost all the chiefs of the army staff of the NA hailed from the elite class. He said the state force needs to be involved in the development sector.

Fred Schreier, in his presentation, highlighted the aspects of national security interest, national security policy, protection of population, protection of constitution, foreign and economic policy, information and communications and national and international security cooperation.

Commenting on Schreier’s presentation, Chitra Bahadur Gurung, a retired general of the NA, said the national security policy was nothing more than the protection of national interest and the protection of the country from external interference.

Gurung expressed doubt over the possibility of integration of the PLA with that of the NA

given the nature of their formation. “I do not believe much about democratisation of the Nepali Army given its history of 239 years while making the PLA professional given its political indoctrination,” he said.

Gurung said all would depend on the decision of the political leadership as how they decide to shape the ongoing peace process, which, he said, might take at least three years to reach a final conclusion. He said there could be other unseen problem even if both the forces were integrated.

Retired major of the Nepali Army and a lawmaker, Kumar Fudung, said political leaders were the ones who shape the national security policy and strategy. “A small country like Nepal must have an ideology to safeguard its national interest,” Fudung said. Dr Minendra Rijal of the Nepali Congress, who was also invited at the discussion, said that there was no question of integrating the PLA as they were not disintegrated from the state force. They should rather be integrated into society, he said.

Secretary at the Ministry of Peace and Reconstruction Janak Raj Joshi opined that the Comprehensive Peace Accord and Agreement on Management and the Monitoring of Arms

and Armies were the guidelines of integration. He said that there must be an “analysis of conception” among the parties concerned regarding the integration of the PLA with the NA.