Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat is visiting Nepal on March 28-31, close on the heels of a planned visit by Chinese defence minister Chang Wanquan.
Rawat was invited by Nepal government soon after he assumed office in December.
“The main purpose of the visit is to confer the honorary title of Nepal Army to General Rawat,” said Nepal Army spokesperson Gen Tara Bahadur Kari.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandrai will confer the title to Rawat on March 29 at a special function for his “commendable military prowess and immeasurable contribution to fostering India’s long-standing and friendly ties with Nepal” and given the special military ties between Nepalese and Indian armies.
It has been a custom between the armies of the two friendly neighbours to confer the title to each other’s army chiefs since 1950 to signify the close military-to-military ties.
Gen Rawat will hold meeting with President Bidhya Devi Bhandrai, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ and defence minister Bal Krishna Khad.
He will also visit Pokhara and Muktinath, where Nepal Army runs a high-altitude military warfare training centre.
Issues related to purchase of military hardware and software for Nepal Army will come up for discussion. Nepal Army makes almost all military and defence purchase from India including helicopters.
The proposed three-day visit of Chinese defence minister to Nepal from March 23 and upcoming China-Nepal joint military drill have made New Delhi “nervous” as Chang is also going to push Nepal to become the member of China’s ambitious, One Belt One Belt initiative, a flagship foreign policy initiative by President Xi Jinping.
The visit of Chinese defence minister, whose programme is yet to be made public, is closely followed in New Delhi due to China’s push for joint military exercise and possible defence and military cooperation between Kathmandu and Beijing where Kathmandu is looking for logistic support for its UN Peacekeepers.
After completing Nepal visit, the Chinese defence minister will leave for Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s government cannot afford to say no to Beijing for the visit of Chinese defence minister and the joint military drill at a time when he himself is visiting China from March 24 to participate in Boao Asia Forum in Hainan Province.
During his official trip to Beijing, Prachanda will be meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping and other senior Chinese leaders.