Why did India take a ‘U-Turn’ on its alleged plan to ‘teach Nepal a lesson’ by enforcing an unofficial blockade on the landlocked country? What forced Modi government to change its Nepal policy despite failures of several ministerial visits to New Delhi?
The answer, if a Nepalese media report filed from the Indian capital city is to be believed, lies in the time-tested camaraderie between the national armies of the two neighbours. The friendship between Nepal Army and Indian Army is far more qualitative than the oft-quoted ‘age-old relationship’ between the political leaders across the border, it appears.
Nayapatrika, a vernacular daily published from Kathmandu, revealed last Thursday that the armies of the two South Asian nations played a crucial but secretive role in ending India’s blockade on Nepal which lasted for over four months. The disruption of the transit routes had catapulted the Himalayan nation into serious humanitarian crisis including shortage of life-saving medical supplies. There were instances when patients could not reach hospitals on time simply because there was no transport available on the road, thanks to the acute fuel shortage at the time.
India has since relaxed the ‘unofficial blockade’ and the two nations are currently making conscious attempts to defrost the frozen bilateral relationship. To this end, India is rolling the red carpet to Prime Minister K.P. Oli who is currently on a six day state visit to the world’s biggest democracy.
This process of reconstruction of the Indo-Nepal relationship would not have been possible if the Indian military leadership itself had not sided with Nepal, Nayapatrika said citing its diplomatic and military sources both within Nepal and India.
Thursday’s report further claimed that Director General of Military Operations (DGMO) Major General Himalaya Thapa led a team of of high-ranking army officials following a detailed ‘homework’ on the blockade and its repercussions on Indo-Nepal relations. Major General Thapa, who is regarded as a close confidant of Nepal’s Chief of Army Staff General Rajendra Chhetri, stayed in New Delhi for nearly two weeks along with a Colonel and a Lieutenant Colonel of the Nepal Army.
Given the nature of the mission, only president Bidya Devi Bhandari, Prime Minister Oli, Defence Minister Bhim Rawal and Finance Minister Bishnu Poudel knew about the mission of the army
The Nepal Army had apparently begun carrying out a detailed study of the fall outs of the Indian blockade. The findings of the research were later discussed with the Indian military officials during many rounds of discussions, it said.
The Nepal Army team led by Major General Thapa met with Indian home minister Rajnath Singh, defence minister Manohar Parrikar, national security advisor Ajit Doval and Indian Chief of Army Staff Dalbir Singh.
The daily said that General Singh, who was a commanding officer with the Gorkha Regiment which is manned mainly by Nepalese citizens serving in the Indian Army, was strongly opposed to the blockade and as such, did advise his political bosses against the blockade.