India-Nepal Military: Relation and Aid

By Pramod Raj Sedhain.

Amid series of defense-purchase negotiations, Nepal Army (NA) received huge military assistance from India. The tiny Himalayan nation received forty-five trucks loaded with bullets, bomb disposal items and explosive devices in the second week of June this year. India, the major arms suppliers to Nepal Army had earlier suspended military aid to Nepal following the royal takeover in 2005. At a meeting last year, Nepal had sought 1.76 billion Nepali Rupees (USD 18.33 million) worth military supplies from India.

The Nepal Army sought to purchase more than 26,000 weapons of various kinds including several thousands Indian-made Insas rifles to landmines, detonators, safety fuses and time pencils. India has been providing weapons, including 81 and 51 mm mortars and other military hardware. India provide Nepal army weapons with 70 per cent of the aid coming in grant since 1962. Military hardware exported by Delhi to Nepal comprises mainly rifles, helicopters, mine-protected vehicles and other equipment. After nine years of suspension, India provided non lethal weapons – including 216 light vehicles, 154 heavy vehicles, including 58 trucks of 7.5 tons capacity, 67 trucks of 2.5 tons capacity, 4 ambulances, 25 multi-purpose armored vehicles, among others.

Resumption of arms supplies has been Nepal military’s prime priority. In the backdrop of huge arms dealing, Nepal’s Army Chief General Gaurav Shumsher Rana visited India for five times. Likewise, India’s Army Chief General Bikram Singh visited Nepal three times in two years.

Nepal has not procured arms and ammunitions for Nepal Army for nearly a decade. The Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the then Maoist rebels stopped both parties to buy arms and ammunitions until the completion of peace process. After conclusion of the peace process and with the integration of the former Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army, the government of Nepal wrote to all countries having diplomatic relations stating that there was no obstruction for procurement of arms and ammunitions.

Nepal since long has been buying weapons from India under the Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950. Article 5 of the treaty mentions Nepal shall be free to import arms from third country but needs consultation with Indian government.

This has remained a divisive and debated issue among the leaders, experts and analysts. That treaty has often been termed as unequal while some hard-line communist have maintained that the treaty has compelled Nepal to fully depend on India. Several people want revision of the treaty while some have been demanding that the treaty be scrapped in the changed scenario. It should also be noted that India had stopped a plane carrying 3,000 American M16A2 Rifles meant for Nepal Army during the armed insurgency period in December 2002.

The recent armed shipment is a special significance in the light of enhanced defense cooperation between Nepalese army and Indian army since Nepal became republic in May 2008. Since the restoration of Democracy II in Nepal, military relations and cooperation between the two countries have gradually improved. Likewise, India’s concern and influence, after Nepal’s peace process, has increased dramatically.

Root of Military relation and Indian Priority

Nepal and India’s military has a “very deep and vast relationship”. India and Nepal hold strong and special military ties. Nepal Army has heavily depended on Indian arms and ammunition. Since 1965, both the countries have been practicing conferring the title of “honorary general” to army chief of both the countries. The two armies have been exchanging goodwill visits since 1950 when the then chief of Indian Army, General Kodandera Madappa Cariappa visited Nepal. Since then, 20 Indian Army Chiefs visited Nepal while 15 Nepal Army chiefs have visited the southern neighbor.

After 7th India-Nepal Bilateral Consultative Group on Security agreement in 2011, India and Nepal army platoon level (30 persons each) held a joint training exercise. India and Nepal held joint military exercise titled “Exercise Surya Kiran”. The joint exercise, which has been complete after sixth series, is alternatively hosted by Nepal and India.

The level of joint training was upgraded to company level (approximately 80–250 soldiers) in 2012 based on experience gained in previous two exercises in 2011. Such exercise is basically focused in jungle warfare operations and counter-insurgency and aimed at boosting military level relations between the two neighboring nations. Such operation exercises are conducted up to the battalion level (approximately 300 to 1,200 soldiers, 2 to 7companies).

Military ties between the two countries have been deep-rooted and historic. Gurkhas are best known for their history of bravery and strength in the Indian Army’s Gurkha Regiment and the British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas. Nepalese Gurkhas have participated in all operations undertaken by the Indian Army since its Independence. Gurkha engaged in 1947-48 Indo-Pak War, Hyderabad War in 1948, 1965 Indo-Pak War, Chola in 1967 and the 1971 Indo-Pak War. Gurkhas also operated with distinction in anti-militant operations in Assam and Jammu & Kashmir .

After the independence of India in 1947, six of the original ten Gurkha regiments remained with the Indian Army. Additionally, a further regiment (11 Gurkha Rifles) was raised. The Gurkha regiment that was transferred to the Indian Army have established themselves as a permanent and vital part of the newly independent Indian Army. British Indian Army’s Gurkha regiments won a dozen Victoria Crosses and other top laurels in World War I and II, before they were divided between the British and Indian armies in 1947.

Gurkhas from Nepal and India are recruited not only in these battalions but also in other regiments such as the special force (parachute battalions). Under the Indian Army, there are 7 Gurkha regiments serving around 25,000 Nepalese working in 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th and 11th Gurkha Rifles, each of which has five to six battalions (800 to 1,000 soldiers each). Gurkha’s serving in the Indian Army and the ex-serviceman collectively generate an annual revenue of $200 million .

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the contribution of Gurkha soldiers during his official visit in August . Modi said the Nepal’s Constituent Assembly “There is no war that India has won without the blood of Gurkhas. I respect their contribution,” he said to a thunderous applause. Modi quoted former Indian Army chief Sam Manekshaw to acknowledge Gurkhas’ bravery: “If a man says he is not afraid of dying, he is either lying or is a Gurkha,”.

Indian Priority

Nepal is a land-locked country situated between India in the east, west and south and China in the north. The country’s strategic importance is derived from its status as a buffer between the two Asian super powers. Nepal has a geopolitical strategic Himalayan border with China and open boarder with India. It’s of vital strategic and security interests to Indian’s military assistance to Nepal. Nepal location is in a strategic geographical cross road between India and China. Nepali shares a border of 1,751 kilometers with India (open and porous border in east, west and south) and 1414.5

kilometers with China in the North.

India thinks Nepal as a special national security matter and is deeply concerned with China’s activity in Nepal. India has special concern in Nepal and military relation has been boosted. Indian New Prime minister Narendra Modi also puts Nepal in his topmost priority.

Nepal Army: strength, Weapons and modernization

Nepal, despite having a population 26 million population and being one of the world’s poorest countries, has the largest standing army of 96,000 with 6 divisions. During the decade long conflict, the ranks of Nepal Army doubled from some 46,000 to 96,000. During the insurgency, Nepal government established the para-military Armed Police Force (APF) to fight the Maoists. The current size of the APF stands at 36,000. The size of Nepal Police is currently 67,287 while the number of intelligence is 2,000. There have been voices in recent times to downsize the number, budget, role of the security forces.

The Nepal Army never has disclosed the amount of arms but well-known sources inside the NA reveal that during the armed insurgency, Nepal received 20,000 M-16 rifles from the U.S. (nearly 25 percent of the total rifles). However, NA has more than 45 percent worn-out and traditional rifles. It has replaced them by 47,000 modern assaults rifles. NA has several hundred other modern weapons imported from several countries.

Nepal Army Special Forces & Counter Terrorism unit have equipped several hundred Colt Commando assault rifles. During the insurgency period, Nepal Army replaced INSAS & SLR to modern M16 rifles. Nepal Army faced several hurdles from the Indian side during the shipment.

Nepal Army has 40 thousand

India-made INSAS assault rifles, which was bought in a 70 % subsidy rate. Similarly, Nepal Army have used UK-made Sterling submachine gun SMG. NA has around 22,000 SMGs. Likewise, Nepal army Squad has around 5000 Belgium made M249 Light Machine Guns, Paratroopers No.10 Brigade have Israel made IMI Galil, Special Forces & VIP protection units also have Israel-made Uzi Submachine guns. Similarly, Nepal Army Sniper Units, Special Forces and Nepal Army Rangers have been using Germany-made Heckler & Koch Rifle (among MSG90 Military Sniper Rifle, Heckler & Koch G36, MP5).

NA also has several hundred UK-made Bren light machine guns and Belgium-made Minimi and FN MAG Machine Guns. Nepal Army has also different kinds of supported weapons and artillery system like several dozen of UK-made QF 3.7 inch AA gun, Russia-made SPG-9 Rocket-propelled grenade system, India-made 25 mm gun, different types of mortars, among others. Nepal Army Air Wing has different variety of UK, Russia, France, Poland, cargo, VIP flight and Troop Transport & Cargo Aircrafts but does not have fighter jet attack helicopter. NA is also equipped with several India-made light helicopters like HAL Dhruv and Cheetah. Several NA aircraft have been grounded due to lack of proper maintenance. Nepal Army has no air force. However, it is trying to strengthen its air mobility. Recently, Nepal Government decided to purchase two Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to act as a gunship at a cost of Rs 3 billion (96 Nepali rupee equivalent to 1 US dollar) for NA .

Nepal Army has also different types of tanks, APCs, Small air defense cells and other variety of weapons. As a troop contributing country, Nepal ranks fifth in the world. Nepalese Army has some 4,096 soldiers serving in 13 different missions around the world and has committed about 5000 army personnel for UN operations.

 

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