Army chief is leaving for China on Sunday, but no confirmation on signing of any agreement yetAssistance for a defence university in Nepal and joint military drill between the two countries are high on General Thapa’s agenda.
Chief of the Nepal Army General Purna Chandra Thapa is leaving on Sunday for China on a weeklong visit, but as of Thursday, there was no confirmation from the Nepal Army about the agreements that he will be signing.
The signing of a protocol agreement on non-lethal assistance to Nepal Army to be provided by China’s People’s Liberation Army, however, is expected.
A protocol agreement on Chinese assistance to Nepal Army was announced during the visit of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence Ishowr Pokhrel to China in October 2018.
This is the second foreign visit of Thapa after he became the chief of the national defence force on September 9, 2018.
Earlier, he paid an official visit to India in the second week of January. In the southern neighbour, he was conferred the title of honorary chief of the Indian Army in line with the tradition of exchanging honorary titles between chiefs of the two armies.
After returning from China, Thapa is preparing to pay an official visit to the United States of America.
Apart from meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Zuocheng, Thapa will also take a tour of several Chinese military installations, according to the Nepal Army.
He is also scheduled to meet with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe.
“As of Thursday, there is no confirmation regarding any agreement related to signing of the protocol,” Brigadier General Bigyan Dev Pandey, spokesperson for the Nepal Army, told the Post.
As per a memorandum of understanding signed between Minister Pokhrel and his Chinese counterpart Wei on military cooperation between the two countries, China is to provide an assistance of RMB 150 million (approximately Rs 2.3 billion) to Nepal over a period of five years for the supply of humanitarian and disaster relief equipment.
During Thapa’s visit, the Chinese side will hand over some logistics related equipment like armoured personnel carriers for Nepali peacekeepers, engineering equipment, logistics related to disaster preparedness, spare parts, medical equipment and some vehicles.
The announcement was made during Pokhrel’s visit but protocols related to them, numbers and ways of delivering assistance were not agreed upon in October last year.
In Beijing, Pokhrel had also requested the Chinese side to support the Nepal Army for its bid to establish a defence university.
Some security and military experts in Kathmandu have expressed concerns over the government’s bid to seek foreign assistance in such a sensitive matter as establishing the defence university.
Increasing the quota of military-related training for Nepal Army officials is also on Thapa’s wish list.
“This is a routine visit, which aims to strengthen bilateral ties as well as military cooperation between Nepal and China. General Thapa will be meeting senior PLA officials,” said Pandey. “He will also visit Chengdu, Beijing, and Dujiangyan before returning home via the Shanxi province.”
There is no information about the announcement of new Chinese assistance during the visit, Pandey added. During the meeting, according to the Defence Ministry sources, details of the joint military exercise between Nepal and China named “Sagarmatha Friendship” will also be discussed.
The third series of Nepal-China joint military drill is expected to be held in August in China. Nepal and China have already conducted two rounds of military drill in the respective countries, mostly focusing on counter-terrorism.
The main feature of the joint military drill is to jointly fight against international terrorism and the main subject is urban counter-terrorism operations.