New Delhi: Nepal’s new army chief Purna Chandra Thapa will not attend a conference of South and South-East Asian army chiefs that India is hosting this week, a person familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
Bhutan and Thailand will be sending the deputy chiefs of their armies for the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) army chiefs’ conference in Pune, while Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and hosts India will be represented by the army chiefs, the person mentioned above said.
Nepal’s lack of representation at the conference and its absence from an exercise of BIMSTEC armies underway in Pune has been noticed in India whose army shares a special relationship with its Nepalese counterpart.
The 10-18 September exercises focus on counter terrorism and was planned by India, which is the lead country in BIMSTEC on issues relating to counter-terrorism and narcotics control. The exercises were seen as a means to add substance to the grouping, which was formed in 1997. India’s disappointment was conveyed to Kathmandu, government officials said, adding that New Delhi ascribed Nepal’s absence to internal political bickering in the country.
Thailand too has sent observers and not a complete military contingent to the BIMSTEC exercises. However, India-Thailand military relations are not of the same nature as those of India and Nepal. For one, Nepalese citizens serve in the Indian Army, mainly in the Gorkha Regiment, where “they can rise to 3-star level," said C.U. Bhaskar, director of the New Delhi-based think tank, Society for Policy Studies. Second, the chief of the Indian Army is also the honorary chief of the Nepalese army and vice versa, Bhaskar said noting that this was a “distinctive" feature of the “special" relationship.
At the political level, Nepal and India share an open border, which is a key feature of the overall special relationship that India shares with its northern neighbour.