American assistance: Inopportune time to resume arms supply

It was very kind of Richard Boucher, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, to offer American help for the political and economic process in the newly restored democracy in Nepal. But it was very unkind of him to show his readiness to resume suspended military supply to the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA).

By doing so, Boucher is unnecessarily pricking the raw nerve of the Maoists. It is the most inopportune time to talk about the arms and army when our rebels have successfully tried a peaceful means to achieve their political objective after a decade-long experiment with violence. It is unwise to provoke them at this crucial time to revert back to guns when they are getting initiated to non-violent slogans.

It was equally wrong of Boucher to give over importance to the Nepali army after the people’s movement of 2006 as the US did before this historic event. The army is reconciled to the new change and publicly agreed to work under the civilian government. There was no point in rechecking with “the army if they were supportive of the political process and if they were supporting the civilian leaders”. Even if they were not, they cannot reverse the transfer of power from monarchy to the people.

The Jana Andolan has decided that the army will remain loyal to the people and their representatives and not individually to the King. It is the weakness of the newly restored parliament and the seven-party government in delaying to formalise this new truth. The army is in no position or mindset to revolt if the all-powerful parliament takes a decision to this effect.

There is no other choice for the army to succumb to this reality unfolded during the heyday of the people’s movement. The US deserves, nonetheless, thanks to train our army officers realise that it is absolutely untenable to fire on the peaceful demonstrations and even threaten them of grave consequences if they do. This is like real superpower conduct to keep state firepower under sane control. But was it not clear to Boucher that the Jana Andolan was unstoppable even if the army had gone berserk and downed few dozens, few hundreds or few thousands of the people on the street?

What Boucher should in all fairness do is to reverse his thoughts and moves. Instead of offering military assistance to Nepal, he should ask Nepal to offer armed help to the US. Instead of, in other words, supplying modern lethal weapons to the RNA, he should ask Nepal to spare the martial fighters of the RNA for US services. Frankly speaking, Boucher, we love American dollars more than your killer weapons.

In the new context, monarchy is sidelined and the newly empowered political parties are reconciled with the newly tranquillised Maoists. With the ceasefire in place and the terrorist tags removed from over the rebel heads, the day is not far when the CPN (Maoist) becomes a part of the legitimate government. The RNA finds itself oversized with a quantum jump from 40,000 to 100,000 strength within a couple of years. When the main foe is turning into a friend, what is the use of the increased number? Since the US has spent a lot of resource and energy in training them, they can better be mobilised elsewhere in the world where the Americans fear to tread but the Nepalis would love to go. Boucher might not agree with me in my plea. But he can listen and agree to his fellow countrymen who are advocating similar ideas. Take, for example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US Secretary of State who has envisaged recruitment of foreign troops in the American and other developed countries’ armies in the near future under the population and security dynamics in the world.

In a recent publication, The choice, Global Domination or Global Leadership, he said, “With conscription-based citizen-armies currently being replaced by technologically skilled professional militaries, the highly developed states may have to rely increasingly on mercenary migrant recruitment. With national fervour no longer the key determinant of fighting spirit, the professional armies of the more affluent countries may increasingly be composed of highly trained recruits from the Third World whose loyalty extends to their next pay check.” Why not start it from Nepal, Mr Boucher.

If he does not believe me, Boucher should have asked our army chief if they had not prepared everything to send a contingent of the RNA to Iraq when President Bush had asked all anti-terrorist minded governments of the world to contribute their armed forces for actions against Saddam Hussein. It is the civilian government that did not clear the military preparedness of Nepal to join the unified international command in Iraq. Is Iran the next target? If so, the US really needs military help from us, and not vice-versa. It is high

time that Nepal and the US stopped thinking the wrong and set it right. It is matter of free choice to join or not to join for the free citizens of a free Nepal.

Shrestha is co-ordinator, Volunteers Mediators Group for Peace