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Why Nepal Pulled out of MILEX 18 – BIMSTEC First Defence Exercise

Published Sep 11, 2018
Updated Aug 12, 2020

 The Opening Ceremony of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation  (BIMSTEC), first Field Training Military Exercise  (MILEX-18) was held on 10 September 18 at Aundh Military Station.

Nepal Army was however a notable absentee.

Having confirmed participation, Nepal Army (NA) withdrew at the last minute surprising the Indian side given that a detailed preparatory conference was held in Indian Army’s Southern Command in Pune in June in which representative of NA had participated.

“The government directed the NA not to participate in the drill,” Kundan Aryal press advisor to PM Oli told the Kantipur Post.

“There is no point in our Army Chief participating in the exercise which our government

hasn’t approved,” Minister for Law and Justice Bhanu Bhakta Dahal told the Kantipur Post.

In a Press conference immediately after the BIMSTEC Summit held in Kathmandu on August 30-31, Prime Minister Oli clarified that no agreement to conduct a military exercise under the leadership of any particular country was reached during the recent fourth BIMSTEC Summit held on August 30-31.

In the Press briefing by Foreign Minister for the Fourth BIMSTEC Summit, it was stated that the Leaders, “Expressed determination to strengthen cooperation among the law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies; and decide to hold meetings at the level of BIMSTEC Home Ministers as part of promoting cooperation and coordination on counter terrorism and transnational organized crimes”.

MILEX 18 could have assisted in achieving this objective.

Prime Minister Oli however clarified that the objective of the formation of BIMSTEC was not for replacing the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). 

The issue of BIMSTEC and SAARC has also come up for discussion, and the Prime Minister Mr Oli has clarified that these are two different multilateral organisations and Nepal is working for engagement and active participation in both.

As per the Hindustan Times, Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli called the Indian ambassador, Manjeev Singh Puri to convey the inability to participate citing “internal political pressure”.

There were different reasons possibly for the pull out by Kathmandu with pressure from the Chinese expressed through members of the Communist Party of Nepal in the parliament where there was a vociferous resistance with the Nepal Army being blamed for taking a unilateral decision without government approval.

The last-minute pullout could be a deliberate action to slight India’s efforts to create a multilateral forum for joint training for the first time.

Some sources in Nepal claim that the presence of Mr Prachanda, communist colleage and a potential of the Prime Minister Oli may have also led to the decision at least would have been a cumulative factor.

Nepal has its compulsions including the Communist Party of Nepal being dominated by China influenced advisories; the pullout is also seen by some as Nepal’s desire to activate the SAARC which India has been resisting due to Pakistan’s lack commitment to block cross-border terror.