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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

President Patil to confer general title on Nepal army chief

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s new army chief Gen Chhatraman Singh Gurung will head for India Friday on his first official visit abroad after assuming office at the invitation of the Indian Army chief, Gen Deepak Kapoor.

The highlight of the eight-day visit will be Indian President Pratibha Patil conferring the honorary title of general of the Indian Army on the 57-year-old. Due to their close proximity, the Indian and Nepal armies regard each other’s chiefs as the honorary generals of their own armies.

The Nepali general, who studied at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun before being commissioned, will also attend, as special guest, the passing-out parade of IMA cadets on Saturday. Gurung is the second chief of the Nepal Army to be appointed from the ranks of commoners. He is also the first army chief to come from an ethnic community.

The general’s nomination in August came at a stormy time in Nepal’s history with his predecessor, the controversial Gen Rookmangud Katawal, locking horns with the Maoist government and defying the government’s attempts to integrate the Maoist People’s Liberation Army guerrillas into the state army. Though Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda tried to fire Katawal, he was foiled by the President, Dr Ram Baran Yadav, who re-appointed the general and caused the collapse of the Maoist government.

The effects of the presidential move continues even today with the Maoists, now in opposition, calling a series of obstructive protests to force the government to censure Yadav. They called a general strike Sunday and have announced a three-day general strike from Dec 20.

Gurung’s visit will strengthen ties between the two armies that became slack during deposed king Gyanendra’s attempt four years ago to seize absolute power with an army-backed coup. In retaliation, India suspended military assistance to the Nepal Army, including arms and aircraft provided at a 70 percent subsidiary. After the fall of the royal regime in 2006, India relented to resume non-lethal military supplies.

During his visit, Gurung will host a banquet for the Indian Army chief at the Nepal Embassy as well as meet top Indian security officials, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s national security officer M K Narayanan. 
 

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