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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 108

Indian and US pressure defers decision on the fate of army chief

Kosh Raj Koirala – Asian Tribune Correspondent in Nepal

Kathmandu, 23 April, ( Cabinet meeting held on Wednesday could not take any decision on the fate of national army Chief Rookmangud Katawal—thanks largely to the diplomatic pressure exerted by the US and the immediate southern neighbor, India.

Government spokesperson Krishna Bahadur Mahara told reporters after the meeting that a decision whether to relieve the chief of Nepal Army will be taken after making detailed study about the clarification furnished by Katawal in response to the government’s letter.

Ministers representing the fourth largest party in the Constituent Assembly and a key ally in the government, Madhesi People’s Rights Forum -- did not attend the meeting due to the ongoing parliamentary party meeting.

On Monday, the government sought Katawal’s clarification on various three issues, warning him of dismissal if he failed to provide satisfactory response.

The three issues include: the army going ahead with fresh recruitment in the state army despite government orders not to do so, keeping eight Generals at work even after they were retired by the government, and not sending NA players in the events participated by the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army during the national games held in Kathmandu

Keeping in view of the pressure exerted by the US, the India and opposition parties in the Constituent Assembly against the decision, a central secretariat meeting of the Unified CPN (Maoist) held on Wednesday morning had advised Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal not to take decision in haste.

US ambassador to Nepal, Nancy J. Powell, had met Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam on Tuesday to express reservation over the government plan to dismiss army chief. Likewise, Indian ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood, has met Prime Minister Dahal for three times in the last three days.

Senior Maoist leader C P Gajurel said the secretariat meeting pointed out the need to bring all parties into confidence before taking the decision.

The change in the earlier stance came after indications that the Maoists’ biggest ally in the coalition government, the CPN-UML, would not support the government move to dismiss the army chief. Though the CPN-UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal, and deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister initially agreed to support the government decision, other senior leaders in the party have strongly objected the move.

The party is learnt to be waiting for a formal decision from UML after party chairman Jhala Nath Khanal, who returned home on Wednesday by cutting short his visit to China.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dahal held an all-party meeting on Wednesday to bring both opposition and ruling parties into confidence over the move. However, 17 of the 24 parties in the CA protested the government move to sack army chief, alleging that it was planned conspiracy of the Maoists to demoralize and weaken the national army.

There are apprehensions among major political parties that the Maoist is planning to put former guerilla in key positions in the state army, by sacking the army chief Katawal, who has been keeping strong stance of the army.

- Asian Tribune -

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