Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baton for Nepal guest



New Delhi, Dec. 10: India has decided to bestow on the visiting chief of the Nepal Army the honorary rank of general, a unique but traditional privilege that Kathmandu was unable to reciprocate for the last Indian Army chief.

General Rookmangud Katawal, Nepal’s army chief, began a seven-day tour to India today, starting with a visit to the Indian Military Academy of which he is an alumnus. The IMA is celebrating its platinum jubilee.

The Indian establishment had been worried over whether or not to confer the title on Katawal till it decided at the last minute to schedule an investiture ceremony on Wednesday in which he will be presented with a ceremonial baton.

The event highlights the unique relationship between the Indian and Nepalese armies. The tradition was broken during the tenure of General Joginder Jaswant Singh who retired in October.

For Nepal to confer the title of honorary general, the Indian Army chief is required to visit Kathmandu. Singh was the first Indian Army chief since the 1950s who did not visit Nepal after the ministry of external affairs twice shot down requests.

A visit to Nepal, till Singh’s term, was usually the first foreign tour taken by the Indian Army chief on assuming office.

Singh’s tenure also coincided with the tumult in Nepal. For much of his term, New Delhi’s Nepal policy was confused between supporting the monarchy and the democracy movement, till it resolved to back the parliamentary parties. India also suspended arms supplies to the Royal Nepal Army, whose officer cadre is almost entirely trained in Indian military institutions.

Katawal’s predecessor, General (now retired) Pyar Jung Thapa, was conferred the rank of honorary general of the Indian Army when General S. Padmanabhan was chief of army staff. Padmanabhan was also given the honour by Nepal as was his successor General Nirmal Chandra Vij.

Whether General Deepak Kapoor, who has taken over from Singh, will be going to Nepal in the short term is not yet known. One of the reasons is a perceived security threat.

During his visit, Katawal is expected to brief the Indian military top brass on the security situation in the Himalayan nation and an assessment of what the Maoists may be planning after pulling out of the government in Kathmandu.

Source: telegraphindia


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