Nepal PM defends BIMSTEC joint military exercise against criticism from lawmakers
KP Sharma Oli was forced to respond after ruling and opposition party leaders questioned the decision to join the Bimstec military exercise and sought an answer from the premier.Updated: Sep 05, 2018 08:29 IST
Hindustan Times, Kathmandu
Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Tuesday defended the first Bimstec joint military exercise to be held in Goa during September 10-16 after ruling and opposition party leaders criticised his government’s decision to join the wargame.
Making a speech in Parliament, he said, “This (military exercise) is focused on capability building of the armies. We will not enter into any kind of military pact with any country or regional organisations, and we do not believe in military pacts too.”
Oli was forced to respond after ruling and opposition party leaders questioned the decision to join the Bimstec military exercise and sought an answer from the premier. The lawmakers said Nepal’s decision was a mistake and went against the country’s foreign policy stance as enshrined in the Constitution.
The premier expressed dismay at statements made by senior political leaders, including those who had served as defence minister and home minister. “I am really puzzled by statements made by former ministers on the joint military exercise. There should not be any confusion,” he said.
Officials said the proposal for the military drill was first floated by India, and there was concurrence by all Bimstec members during the grouping’s summit in Kathmandu last week.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on member states to join the exercise, to be followed by a conclave of army chiefs of the countries in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation.
The exercise will feature a unit of 30 soldiers from each Bimstec member state. The personnel will share experiences and learn skills from each other in counter-terrorism and disaster management.
Assuaging concerns expressed by Nepalese politicians, Oli said: “Nepal has been conducting such military exercises with many countries such as India, China, Pakistan, the US and others. Before sending Nepali peacekeepers to UN missions, our army does military exercises. Have you seen in the Bimstec declaration that we are going to (sign) a military pact?” he said.
Ahead of Oli’s statement in Parliament, a ruling party leader, Bhim Rawal, said, “The government has made a mistake by deciding to take part in the military exercise. This is against our Constitution and against our national interests.”
Many ruling and opposition party leaders expressed similar concerns about the military drill in India, and said Bimstec could turn into a military bloc by shifting from its original goal of technical and economic development.
The opposition Nepali Congress, considered more liberal than the ruling Community party, also criticised the government and raised the issue with Oli in Parliament. “Bimstec is all about a technical and economic bloc. How did this joint military exercise suddenly appear?” Nepali Congress lawmaker Minendra Rijal said.
First Published: Sep 05, 2018 08:29 IST