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Indian arms for Nepal again

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 23, 2009

An Insas Rifle

An Insas Rifle

New Delhi, July 22: India has decided to lift a self-imposed bar on arms supplies to Nepal and will resume its cheap sale of rifles and ammunition to the Himalayan nation’s military despite protests from the Opposition Maoists.

Defence ministry sources said today that India would resume supplying Insas rifles with ammunition, re-start joint training programmes and recruitment of Gorkhas from Nepal into the Indian Army.

The decisions were conveyed to visiting Nepal defence minister Bidya Devi Bhandari who met defence minister A.K. Antony yesterday. Bhandari is on an official tour to India and is also here for medical treatment.

In Kathmandu, the news that India was resuming its subsidised supply of arms to the Nepalese army immediately angered the Maoists whose chief, Prachanda, urged Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal to shelve the move. Prachanda interpreted the supply of arms to the army as a threat to the peace process in his country.

India suspended supplying arms to the Nepal Army — then the Royal Nepal Army — in 2005. The RNA till then was overwhelmingly dependent on Indian military aid and training. The RNA’s main task was to take the fight to the Maoists.

But since then the tumult has seen the Maoists leading the government and now they are in the Opposition. Nepal itself has transformed from a kingdom to a republic.

India has its own compulsion to restoring military ties and its special relations with Nepal. Officials in the Indian security establishment noted with concern the growing influence of China in Sri Lanka after India turned down requests for firearms from the island nation.

An expansion of Chinese influence in Nepal after the Maoists have gained legitimacy is strategically undesirable for New Delhi.

But the Indian Army’s standard issue weapon — the Insas rifle — that was supplied to the RNA became, for large sections of Nepal’s people, a symbol of Indian hegemony. When India stopped supplies, Kathmandu scoured the world market for arms and once even advertised in its state-run newspaper.

India and Nepal have a special Arms Assistance Treaty that the Maoists oppose. India frowns on Nepal’s efforts to procure arms from third countries.

Source: The Telegraph


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