Top US Army official is arriving todayNepal Army could ask for delivery of sky trucks but no agreement likely on rifle supply.
Commanding General of the United States Army Pacific Charles Flynn is arriving in Nepal on Thursday on a four-day visit as Nepal Army chief Prabhu Ram Sharma prepares to embark on his visit to the US.
Flynn is the highest ranking US Army official visiting Nepal in three years. Admiral Philip S Davidson, commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, had arrived in Kathmandu in January 2019.
“This is a regular goodwill visit aimed at further strengthening the relationship between the defence forces of the two countries,” Brig Gen Narayan Silwal, a Nepal Army spokesperson, told the Post. “I have no information regarding any possible deals.”
Flynn will have a meeting with Sharma on Friday. He will also be meeting Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba the same day. Officials at the Ministry of Defence rule out any deal during the visit but Nepal Army could ask the visiting general to supply two sky trucks the US Army had promised to provide six years ago.
The US government had pledged to provide four sky trucks during former Army chief Rajendra Chhetri’s visit to the US in April 2016. Although two of the sky trucks arrived in December 2019, the United States is yet to deliver the remaining two. “I believe Nepal Army will raise the issue during Flynn’s visit,” an official at the ministry told the Post on the condition of anonymity.
As per the proposal sent by the army headquarters to the Defence Ministry for approval, Flynn will be visiting the Birendra Peace Operations Training Centre at Panchkhal in Kavre. The Nepal Army too is planning a mountain flight for Flynn before he wraps up his visit on Sunday.
“The Nepal Army and the US Army have been conducting joint drills for long. Besides, there are other military-to-military ties,” Baburam Adhikari, a joint-secretary at the ministry, told the Post.
Sharma will be in the United States for a week starting June 25. Prior to that, he will be visiting different United Nations peacekeeping missions from June 18 to 24 where the Nepal Army deploys its personnel.
Neither Defence Ministry officials nor the Army confirmed any talks for a requested supply of US-made rifles.
The Nepal Army has long been planning to acquire M4, M-16, and A4 rifles to equip its squads deployed in UN peacekeeping operations in war-torn countries.
The plan to buy over 6,000 rifles has been delayed after the supplier demanded the entire payment in a single tranche, which is not allowed under Nepal’s procurement law. As per the law such payments can be made in three tranches. Though the Ministry Defence had claimed to have cleared the legal hurdles, Nepal is yet to receive the rifles.
The Nepal Army acquired M16 rifles for the first time in 2003 as part of the US government’s support to contain the Maoist insurgency. Washington provided around 17,000 sophisticated rifles as per the deal with the Sher Bahadur Deuba government in 2002. The 5.56mm rifles, which are attached to ammunition belts, can fire 30 rounds within the range of 300 to 350 metres.
“To my knowledge there won’t be any deal regarding the procurement of the rifles,” said Adhikari.