Indian Army chief’s remarks ‘hurt sentiments of Nepali Gurkhas’, says minister
The Indian Army chief’s remarks about Nepal acting at the behest of others in raising a border dispute has “hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gurkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India”, Nepal’s defence minister Ishwar Pokhrel has said.
Days after Indian Army chief Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane made the comments, which were seen as a veiled reference to a possible Chinese role in the border row, Pokhrel dismissed the remarks as a “political stunt”.
The Nepal government recently protested against the opening of a new road to Lipulekh by defence minister Rajnath Singh to facilitate people making the pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet. India rejected the protest by saying the road was within Indian territory. Nepal then published a new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadura, which fall within India, as part of Nepalese territory.
In an interview with Nepal’s news agency Rastriya Samachar Samiti, Pokhrel said the Indian Army chief’s remarks “have come in an embarrassing manner” at a time when Nepal has been trying resolve the border issue through diplomatic dialogue.
“No matter what background and circumstance is it based on, such statements are an effort to offend sovereign and independent Nepal and prideful Nepalis… With this, the Indian CoAS [chief of army staff] has also hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gurkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India. It must now become difficult for them to stand tall in front of the Gurkha forces…In fact, the statement by the Indian CoAS seems to be a political stunt,” Pokhrel said.
He added, “How professional is it for the head of the army to make a political statement? We don’t have anything like that here. Nepali Army does not go vocal on such matter. Army is not there to speak. Nepali Army is a fully professional military force. It would definitely play its role in the right time, as per the directives of the government based on our Constitution.”
Pokhrel, who is also the deputy prime minister, described India as “our friendly state” and said the “lost Nepali territory must be returned through peaceful political dialogue and through diplomatic channel, and I am confident that it is possible”.
There was no immediate response from the Indian side to Pokhrel’s remarks.
Pokhrel also said this was the “first time in history” that the Nepal government had written an official letter to the Indian government “saying Nepali land at the Nepal-India border region has been encroached and this should be stopped”. He added, “We have raised this topic on the basis of the historical facts, proof and treaties available to us. We have issued the new map of Nepal on the basis of this.”
He reiterated that Nepal had been seeking talks on the border issue since the Indian government issued its new political and administrative maps of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on November 2 last year.
“Now, serious political and diplomatic initiatives have to be immediately pursued on the basis of the combined force based on common and unified stance of the political forces of the entire nation as well as of historical facts and evidences. Infrastructure development and comprehensive security plan needs to be implemented in that area,” he said.
Pokhrel said the Nepal government had published its new political map after it didn’t receive “any immediate positive response to the communication we sent” to India for talks on the border issue.
There are more than 30,000 Nepalese Gurkhas serving in the Gurkha Rifles regiments of the Indian Army.