Former Nepal Army generals, experts highlight role of military diplomacy to safeguard national interests

‘Now that the powerful countries are at our doorstep to advance their own interests, military diplomacy can be one tool of the government to safeguard our national interests.’

NL Today

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Kathmandu: Retired Nepal Army generals and experts have stressed on the need to promote military diplomacy to safeguard Nepal’s national interests.

Military diplomacy has been an integral part of Nepal’s foreign policy and a vital tool that could promote Nepal’s national interest in an efficient manner. Nepal finds itself in a delicate geopolitical situation amid the great power rivalry between the US and China. Nepal Army’s role to advance national interest through diplomacy has become evident.  Security officials and experts reinforced this idea while addressing the seminar on ‘Geopolitics and the role of Military Diplomacy’ organized by Centre for Social Inclusion and Federalism (CESIF) in Kathmandu on Thursday.

Former Minister for Defense and Nepali Congress leader, Minendra Rijal stated that the Nepal Army has contributed a lot in peacekeeping through UN Peacekeeping Missions, and it should also use those platforms to further national interests.  “Through peacekeeping through military diplomacy, itself, we can make our presence felt throughout the globe,” he said.

Purna Silwal, major general (retired) of Nepal Army and the author of Nepal’s Instability Conundrum: Navigating Political, Military, Economic and Diplomatic Landscape stated that the political leadership has failed to recognize military diplomacy and that while Nepal’s foreign policy has not included military diplomacy as its component. “Now that the powerful countries are at our doorstep to advance their own interests, military diplomacy can be one tool of the government to safeguard our national interests,” he said,

Likewise, Pawan Bahadur Pandey, another general (retired) of Nepal Army, stressed the importance of joint military exercises, exchanges and cooperation in capacity building among others to enhance Nepal’s overall diplomacy. He maintained that there is a lack of understanding in both bureaucratic and political level regarding military diplomacy. “Nepal Army maintains a cordial relation with the Ministry of Defense as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But lack of coordination has been an issue,” he said.

Another former Nepal Army general Bala Nanda Sharma stated that since Nepal is situated between two major economic and military powers—India and China—it has been incredibly difficult for Nepal to tread the thin line of balance and, therefore, the role of military diplomacy has increased further. But to promote military diplomacy, he said, it is first necessary to be clear about Nepal’s security and geopolitical strategies. “Our policies, and strategies change with a change in government. This partisan proclivity has plagued our diplomacy in general, and military diplomacy too has borne the brunt of it,” he said.

Addressing the seminar, Vijay Kant Karna, Executive Chairperson of CESIF, said that lack of coordination between political institutions and Nepal Army is a major hurdle. “Time and again there has been a newfound tendency to drag the Nepal Army into needless controversies by political parties and leaders in parliament and elsewhere. These controversies surrounding the Nepal Army, particularly in the case of the State Partnership Program, and other challenges pertaining to military diplomacy have brought forth a need to carry out further discussions,” he said.