KATHMANDU, Sept 9: Nepal has refused to participate in the week-long joint military exercise of BIMSTEC members scheduled to begin from September 12 in the city of Pune, India.
The decision comes following widespread criticism from different quarters including the ruling leaders. Widely criticized from within and outside the government, Prime Minister KP Oli has instructed both the Ministry of Defense and Nepal Army Headquarters not to participate in the joint-military exercise.
“Nepal will not participate in the joint-military exercise. The authorities concerned will tell more about it in a couple of days,” said Kundan Aryal, press advisor to PM Oli.
Aryal said the government will send the formal instruction to the authorities concerned to stop the Nepali troop from participating in the joint exercise.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced such joint-military exercise in presence of seven BIMSTEC member states where heads of government from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal were present in Kathmandu to attend the regional conference.
Nepal Army was all prepared to participate in the military exercise. Informed military sources said now they have already made up their mind not to participate in the military exercise which is the first one of its kind. An army troop should have already left for India if it was to participate in the exercise, said highly-placed military sources.
Asked about the matter, Nepal Army Spokesperson Gokul Bhandari, however, said the government has not conveyed anything about the joint-military exercise to the army. “We have not received any formal decision from the government. But our troop is here and they have not moved yet to India,” said Spokesperson Bhandari.
Previously, it was stated that 30 army personnel from each BIMSTEC state members would participate in the joint military parade and Chiefs of Army Staff from all the member states would visit Pune to observe the joint military exercise.
But the Oli-led government was criticized for agreeing to participate in the BIMSTEC joint military exercise, arguing that the move was not in line with Nepal's policy of maintaining a balanced diplomatic relations with its two immediate neighboring countries - India and China. Concerns were raised by various quarters that the move could annoy China.
Speaking in parliament, even lawmakers from the ruling parties and main opposition Nepali Congress had sought clarification over the government's consent to participate in the joint military exercise. They had suggested to the government to stay away from the controversial military exercise.
In his response to the lawmakers' queries, PM Oli had stated the concept of the joint-military exercise was not documented in the BIMESTEC declaration but it was a mere proposal floated by the Indian PM Modi at the regional forum.