M A I N   N E W S

India, Nepal to ink defence pact
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 21
In a move that may further strengthen New Delhi’s strategic reach in the region, India and Nepal are closing in to arrive at a formal defence cooperation framework between the two countries.

Well placed sources in the governmnet confirmed the move, saying this would take the relationship to a new level as both the countries already had a friendhip pact. The defence cooperation framework would be within that friendship treaty, which is due for renewal.

Talks, said sources, had been held with the Nepalese on the matter earlier this month and the progress was “good”. Officials from the ministries of external affairs, home and defence, besides from the security agencies, were part of the talks.

According to sources, India is looking to quantify the military aid its gives to Nepal, including the cost of training and employing Gurkhas. Notably, there are 11 Gurkha regiments -- some 35,000 men -- in the Indian Army, who after retiring also get pension from India.

Besides, India is racing against time as China and Nepal last week entered into an agreement for aspects of training and militray aid running upto Rs 220 million. The fight is to get a bigger “toe hold” in the Himalyan nation that is sandwiched between the two powers, said sources.

India is ready to offer military training, which includes some 100 odd courses for Army officers. Supply of weapons like the INSAS rifles could be restored to Nepal. Besides, both the nations would also have in place an information sharing system under the defence framework. The Nepalese also want more medical facilities in addition to the existing set up by the Army near Pokhra. In turn, Nepal would have to give a surety that weapons like the INSAS rifles did not find their way to Maoists.

As part of the pact, India is likely to extend to Nepal all help as it aims to establish a good security mechanism and provide training to enhance capability of the Nepalese army. India has made it clear that it does not want any Maoist elments in the Nepal army, as New Delhi sees them “more inclined towards China”. And in turn, Nepal wants that India should restore the supply of weapons to the amount it was a decade ago. India started scaling down its military aid in 2001 when Maoist insurgency picked up in the neighbouring nation.



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