Army chief off to Nepal, visit expected to ease ties after border row

General Naravane will be in Nepal during November 4-6, when he will meet his Nepalese counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa and top civilian leaders.
File photo: Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane.(R Raveendran)
File photo: Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Mukund Naravane.(R Raveendran)
Updated on Nov 03, 2020 09:25 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByRahul Singh and Rezaul H Laskar

Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane will head for Kathmandu on Wednesday on a three-day visit that is expected to smoothen bilateral ties with Nepal after a bitter border row, especially by building on the traditionally strong military relationship between the two countries, officials familiar with developments said on Tuesday.

Naravane will be in Nepal during November 4-6, when he will meet his Nepalese counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa and top civilian leaders. Nepal’s President Vidya Devi Bhandari will confer the honorary rank of general of the Nepali Army to Naravane at an investiture ceremony on November 6, the officials said.

Bilateral ties were hit in May after defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a key border road to Lipulekh region, which is claimed by Nepal. Kathmandu responded by issuing a new map that showed Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura, all controlled by India, as part of Nepalese territory, exacerbating the row.

Naravane’s visit is expected to lay the groundwork for much-anticipated talks between the two sides on the border issue, the officials said.

“I am delighted to be visiting Nepal and to meet my counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa. I am sure that this visit will go a long way in strengthening the bonds and friendships that the two armies cherish,” Naravane said on the eve of his Nepal visit.

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He said he would be calling on the Nepali PM and it was a great honour for him to be conferred the honorary rank of general of the Nepali Army by President Bhandari. Naravane’s visit comes days after Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) chief Samant Kumar Goel made a low-key visit to Kathmandu during which he met Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

The spokesperson of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, Naveen Kumar, on Tuesday said that the army chief’s visit would deepen the long-standing and customary bonds of friendship between the two armies.

“His visit will provide an opportunity for both sides to discuss the bilateral defence partnership and explore avenues to further strengthen it for mutual benefit,” the Indian embassy in Kathmandu tweeted.

The officials said the army chief is expected to interact with Indian Army pensioners in Nepal during the visit - there are 136,000 pensioners in that country and form part of the strong links between the two sides.

This will be Naravane’s second visit with a diplomatic purpose after his recent tour of Myanmar where he accompanied foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and was part of talks on security cooperation and developmental issues.

India’s assistance to Myanmar currently stands at $1.4 billion, and New Delhi will provide debt service relief under the G20 debt service suspension initiative to Myanmar from May to December to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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