14 May 2015 1:56 PM AEST: Nearly a week since the Government of Nepal angered the public by not allowing three British Army helicopters to cross into its borders, a national broadsheet in Kathmandu has revealed the real reasons behind the controversial decision of the quake-ravaged Himalayan nation.
Annapurna Dainik, a Nepali-language newspaper, has claimed the government took the ‘informal decision’ of not allowing the three Chinook helicopters to enter the Nepali airspace because of the arrest and prosecution of Nepalese Army’s Colonel Kumar Lama as well as for the relationship that existed between a senior British Army officer (now retired) and the Maoist guerrillas while they were still in war with the state.
The 47 year old Colonel was arrested in the UK in 2013 for his alleged involvement in the torture of two Maoist rebels 10 years ago.
Citing ‘a high level government source’, the newspaper made the revelation in an article published today, May 14. The British Embassy in Kathmandu and ‘its donor agencies’ have been putting ‘direct and indirect pressure’ on the Government of Nepal in this regard, it claims.
“Although high-level officials of the embassy have been urging non-governmental organisations and the civil society, to whom they have been providing financial and other assistance, to put pressure on the government but so far that sort of pressure has not been successful,” the newspaper states.
The three helicopters at the centre of the controversy are still parked in New Delhi and continue to wait for the Nepali government’s permission to enter Nepal, a devastated nation badly in need of extra helicopters to transport relief materials and medicine to many hard-hit villages, some of which are located in extremely difficult and challenging terrains.
The British government maintains it sent these helicopters because they are capable of carrying larger freights and are best suited for the high altitude regions.
“It is disappointing they are not yet operational and discussions with the Nepalese authorities are ongoing,” a British government spokesperson told Daily Mail this week.
The Royal Air Force flew the helicopters in a transporter aircraft on April 30. It is understood they were originally planned to be flown straight to Kathmandu for reassembly but the aircraft carrying them was diverted to New Delhi when the Tribhuvan International Airport became clogged with relief flights due to the limited number of runways.