Review Nepal News

Stop To Play The BIMSTEC and SAARC Cards

  Kathmandu, Nepal      September 12 2018


Responding to the widespread criticism from multiple quarters, the government has withdrawn the plan to participate in the first ever Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) level military drill. The controversial military drill, which was scheduled to commence at Pune of India among the armies of the seven BIMSTEC member countries, was surfaced only after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced about the controversial drill while delivering his speech during the recently concluded fourth BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu. As neither any member countries had pronounced it nor was it the agenda during the summit, it was not discussed during the meeting. None of the government officials, who had participated in all three layers of BIMSTEC meetings, have also confirmed that the issue of a joint military exercise did not feature in any of the meetings. Likewise, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) had also not briefed in any of meeting held before or after the summit. It is said that Indian Army had proposed first in June during the initial meeting of BIMSTEC senior army officials in New Delhi. But it is beyond of imagine that Indian Prime Minister would not have made such a statement on the basis of the proposal made earlier from the Indian army.

Since a Nepal Army 30 member squad was set to travel to Pune and three senior officials of the Nepal army had already traveled to help plan the conference, the incident has exposed the juvenile behavior of the incumbent government. Nepal army would not have made such a preparation without taking consent from the ministry of defense.  Likewise, another fact is that making only proposal by the Indian army would not be a base for the preparations. The responsibility has to be taken by the government, particularly the concerned agencies namely the defense ministry. With the cancelation of the trip, nothing harm has occurred. But Nepal has been dragged into controversies unnecessarily as neighboring India has got space to blame Nepal for trying to play SAARC card ostensibly after the BIMSTEC summit at the behest of Pakistan and China. It is not only the matter of blame and shame but a clear example of jubilant characteristic for lacking strategic leadership and coordination among the state agencies.  Though the decision to participate in the joint military exercise was a result of military engagement between Nepal Army and the Indian Army, it had to be dealt at the diplomatic or political level. Not only the officials of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) but also the head of the government should take the responsibility even if the decision to participate in the joint military drill was taken solely by the national defense force. 

As India had long being alleged for intending to use the BIMSTEC as of the alternative of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the proposed military exercise among the BIMSTEC countries was taken as of a target towards any individual country, particularly the Pakistan and the China, thanks to the hostile relationship between the three countries. The prime concern is that Nepal should not be used or misused to fulfill vested interests of any countries. We have no intention to blame casting doubts unnecessarily but the recent remark made by Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal regarding the two regional forums is taken as of an indication that the government head NCP lacks concrete vision to manage the two regional forums to fulfill the better interests of Nepal. As Dahal remarked that Nepal wants to revive SAARC and get its stalled summit convened at the earliest, it is being interoperated that he would not have satisfied not only from the incumbent government led by Oli but also to the BIMSTEC engagement in Nepal. Dahal would have said knowing that the government has to mention better relations with both Delhi and Beijing, because the remarks has come just few days after the BIMSTEC summit. Any act to undermine the BIMSTEC begun just weeks after the Summit not only suit to the government and its head NCP. Being the government head of the chair of the BIMSTEC and SAARC, the NCP has to present responsibly not only fulfill the targeted goals but also to overcome the bitterness among the member states and among the neighboring countries.