Monday, February 28, 2005

STUDY: Nepal - Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency Part 1

Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal - Part1
Prakash Nepali and Phanindra Subba
From: Small Wars and Insurgencies, Volume 16, Number 1 (March, 2005)

This article examines the role of the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) in the current Maoist insurgency in Nepal. The RNA has largely escaped public gaze until recently when it has come to play an increasingly important part in the Nepalese national life. The authors examine its structure and doctrines and argue that the army can only provide a structure of security while more basic political reforms are pursued in order to take the heat out of the insurgency.


Nepal's political systems have been to some extent a product of the prevailing international environment of each particular period. Major political changes in Nepal, both in 1951 and 1990, began with exogenous shocks. The passing of the British Indian Empire was the major factor for political change in Nepal in 1951. In 1989 India imposed an economic blockade on Nepal to punish the Nepalese government for importing arms from China. Fortuitously for India its blockade coincided with the third wave of democratization underway all over the world and India sought to advance its security objectives in the guise of democracy promotion in Nepal. Political changes, however, were not the product of exogenous factors alone. The internal dynamics of the country also made a key contribution to these developments.

Re-distributive policies, the setting of import-substituting enterprises and the growth of civil service and quasi-government public sector had enabled the one-party Panchayat regime established by King Mahendra in 1960 to co-opt many newly educated segments of the population. The adoption of nationalistic policies also provided the regime with a certain ideological orientation and enabled it to rally support from important sections of the society. Furthermore, the growth of foreign aid in the 1970s also helped the political system to keep a step ahead of its internal contradictions. However, the very process of modernization began to create cracks within the closed political system. By the early 1980s the option of migration to the Terai plains of Nepal for the rural people of the hills had been drastically reduced and the public sector, a major employer of the educated middle-class, was in deep economic trouble. The safety valve provided by these mediums to the Panchayat system was fast being constricted and corruption was increasing. The growing middle class, the beneficiaries of the developmental gains of this period, began to demand a more meaningful political role and pressure began to grow for increased political liberalization of the system. The Nepali Congress party and the United Left Front launched the movement for the restoration of multi-party democracy in February 1990.The urban-based movement gradually gained momentum and after a large demonstration in Kathmandu on 6 April 1990 ended in violence when it tried to move towards the palace, King Birendra lifted the ban on political parties after 30 years.

Nepal has always been an inequitable society. The vital difference from the past was that the change of 1990 expanded the political rights and loosened the constraints on ordinary people. The old ways of doing things began to be perceived as unacceptable. The people had positive and to a large extent unrealistic expectations of the new political establishment. These expectations were further fuelled by expansive promises made by the leaders in the hopeful early days of the new era and during the ensuing election campaign. The ability of a soft state like Nepal to manage both socio-economic and political transition simultaneously without severe dislocations had always been suspect. A smooth transformation would have required leadership of the higher order but at this critical juncture the Nepalese establishment was found wanting. The launch of the `people's war' was not, however, the result of only an opportunistic response to the evolving situation but the product of a rational and considered decision. Some of the more radical offspring of the leftist movement in Nepal had always believed in a violent revolution. A generation of cadres had worked towards this goal but their aspirations had never been fully realized. An attempt in 1971 by some youthful communists in Jhapa, inspired by the Naxalite movement in neighbouring West Bengal in India, to spark an armed uprising was swiftly crushed by the police force.

Although the international situation was not favourable, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) had discerned the weaknesses of the internal system and they believed the moment of opportunity they had been waiting for so long had arrived. On 13 February 1996 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) formally launched the `people's war'. The Maoist insurgency has brought the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) (henceforth referred to also as the army/the military), an institution that was largely shielded from public glare and criticism in the past, under close scrutiny due to its re-emergence as an important factor in national life. The RNA is now passing through one of the most crucial phase of its history and the issue of civil-military relations has generated interest and concern. Samuel Huntington has stated that `the most important causes of military intervention in politics are not military but political and reflect not the social and organizational characteristics of the military establishment, but the political and institutional structure of society'.[1] Although the situation in Nepal is more complicated due to the role of the monarchy and its reciprocally empowering ties with the army, the basic premise of this observation still holds true.

If loyalty to the central authority, in the person of the king or ruler, is the most primitive of the centripetal forces in bringing about the unification of a country, the loyalty of the military in Nepal was the strongest expression of the force.[2] Although the Nepalese society has grown more complex since then, the army had continued to be constant in its loyalty to the crown. The traditional reverence for the monarchy and its symbolic role as locus of people's allegiance was, however, weakened after the political changes of 1991 and further compromised by the massacre of King Birendra and his family in a domestic feud in the palace on 1 June 2000.The failure of the civilian political institutions to gain the confidence and the loyalty of the army at this juncture might lead to the development of the army as a political force in its own right and further complicate the dynamics of the Nepalese polity.

STUDY: Nepal - Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency Part 2

Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal - Part 2

Prakash Nepali and Phanindra Subba
From: Small Wars and Insurgencies, Volume 16, Number 1 (March, 2005)

The Army During The Panchayat Era

King Mahendra took power after dismissing the first popularly elected government of the Nepali Congress headed by B. P. Koirala in 1960 and introduced the party-less Panchayat system. He quickly moved to centralize power and tighten personal control of the military by taking a number of steps. Following in his father's footsteps as supreme Commander-in-Chief of the army, King Mahendra carefully weeded out overly ambitious officers and cultivated loyalties by taking a personal interest in the careers of those in the senior ranks. Moreover, he ensured that the army continued to be well-paid.[3] Some senior army officers were retined from active military service and appointed in the civil administration. Former army officials went on to become the bureaucratic heads of the crucial Home and Defence Ministries and enabled the palace to tighten its grip of the civil administration.

The process of broadening the ethnic and social base of the officer corps that started with the military reforms of 1952, which opened recruitment in the army to all eligible Nepalese citizens, also gathered pace. (This is discussed in more detail later.) A career in the army remained a socially prestigious profession because of the monarchy's identification with it and the continued prospects it offered for social mobility as a result of the royal patronage. This development enabled the monarchy to accommodate and co-opt newly educated members of underrepresented groups such as the Hill Ethnic groups into the system and widen its support base as well as balancethe different caste and ethnic groups. These policies were successful for the palace also to the extent that it helped bring about political restraint among sections of the growing middle class. Along with these moves King Mahendra, in order to show his appreciation for the military's support and his empathy towards it, sought to symbolically enhance the army's importance by granting it the right to use the prefix `Royal' before its designation in 1965.

King Mahendra wooed the army while simultaneously emasculating it as a political force.[4] The Military Secretariat, which was established in the palace in 1954/55 (B.S.2011), was the principal mechanism by which the King sought to keep the army under close control and prevent any ambitious generals from establishing an independent power base. The Panchayat system was a party-less system with the monarchy at the apex and real power was vested in the king and not the council of ministers. Thus the Secretariat vetted the list of promotions and postings forwarded by the military headquarters and the Defence Ministry had little say in it. This enabled the palace to influence the command structure of the army. The posting of junior officers on deputation to the palace as adjutants to the King and members of the Royal Family also helped to socialize officers, who were likely to rise to key positions in the future, in elite values. The Military Secretaries and senior military aides to the King, because of their direct and regular access to the King, became very powerful during the more institutionalized but bureaucratic style of governance adopted by King Birendra during his reign. The emergence of key actors, who functioned in many ways as more powerful alternative power centres to the formal command structure, distorted the chain of command and caused resentment within the regular army circles. However, care was taken to provide the army chiefs with the adequate status. Almost all retired chiefs of staff during this period were rewarded with honours/diplomatic postings after their retirement.

Nepal's ability to avoid becoming entangled in any potential conflict between its neighbours during the Cold War, especially after the Sino-Indian war in 1962 tilted the balance of power between these two countries towards China, hinged on the credibility of its efforts to reassure both the neighbours that no security vacuum would develop within its territory. Therefore, even though diplomacy was considered the main line of defence and military security was never given the pre-eminent position among the country's priorities during this era, the army was provided with an adequate budget, although modest, to increase its force level. During the early 1980s Nepal spent less than 1 per cent of her GNP on defence (US $30.353 million in 1983–84).[5] Even though the strength of the army was increased, the army was never given an explicitly political orientation or role and was kept aloof from the political process. As many as 56 per cent of the independent Third World countries experienced military rule at least once by 1974.[6] However, in Nepal as the army was used very sparingly in internal conflicts during this period and since the police force was used to deal with political disturbances the army did not become politicized.[7] But as postings and promotions for key posts largely continued to be dependent on personal connections, the prevalent culture discouraged individual innovation and initiative. The army also continued to put inordinate stress on pomp and pageantry and in some cases the rank and file were used for private benefit. As part of this trend a significant percentage of the trained manpower began to be used for orderly duties in the officer's homes. The quality of the army units was also uneven as over the years the combat arms of the army had also begun to see erosion in its status as the more qualified and well-connected officers tended to opt to serve in the support units based in Kathmandu. These factors hindered the development of professionalism in the army to the desired extent.

Socialization of Civil and Military Elites

The socialization in the socialist ethos of the key leaders of the Nepali Congress during their formative years in India made/makes them uncomfortable with the country's military origin. This unease with the military was further reinforced by their memories of the Royal takeover of 1960 in which the military had played a key role. `Is the democratic system in Nepal compatible with the preponderance of the Nepalese Army?' B. P. Koirala asked in his posthumously published Jail Journal. There is a lack of empathy for the military among key segments of the Nepalese political establishment, media and the academic circle. Many influential actors, in the euphoric and hopeful early days of the restoration of the multi-party system, questioned the necessity of maintaining an army in the absence of concrete danger to the nation in the horizon and the disparity in force level and military power between her and the colossal neighbours.

Different historical narratives can suggest different ways for nations to act in the present.[8] This is true for national institutions as well and when key institutions subscribe to different narratives it makes it hard to formulate mutually acceptable prescriptions for the present problems and develop a common vision for the future. The different formative experience and early socialization process of the elites of the civil and military institutions and their divergent interpretation of the country's past have created some discrepancy in the core values and worldviews of the military and civilian establishments. This has led to mounting distrust and miscomprehension on both sides. Since the Nepalese Army has never been seriously indoctrinated in the concept of the supremacy of the civilian authority this sort of intra-elite clash of self-interest and perspective is bound to have a grave implication for civil-military relations in a transitional democracy such as Nepal's. Every military system has an ethos which embodies, especially for the officer corps, the principles on which that system is based. War, revolution, defeat or political change may on occasions produce an historic re-examination of the ethos.[9] But since major changes came to Nepal through negotiated settlements, the military continues to be taught to understand the country's history in a very different way than the civilian leadership. The army derives much of its mythology and legitimacy from its role during the birth of the nation. The army was central to the ambitious goals that Prithivi Narayan Shah, the founder of modern Nepal and the ruler of the tiny principality of Gorkha, had set out for himself more than two centuries ago. Prithivi Narayan Shah conceived of the state as resting on two sturdy pillars, a contented peasantry and a loyal army.[10] It was the resolute performance put up by the Gorkha (Nepalese) Army in the Nepal-China (1792) and Nepal-Britain War (1814–16) that convinced them that the long-term occupation of Nepal would be a costly affair. The Nepalese troops impressed the British more than any native troops the British had faced on the field of battle in India.[11] The basis of the formidable reputation that the term `Gorkha' came to subsequently acquire in military circles was thus initially laid during this phase of Nepal's history. This `self-image' subsequently came to play an important role in the identity of a segment of the population. The military thus takes pride in the role it played in the creation and consolidation of the Nepalese state and sees itself as the ultimate defender of the country. This belief and outlook is inculcated in the officers in army training institutions throughout their careers and the task is made easier by the culture of conformism prevalent in the army.

Many civilian leaders, belonging to the two major political parties, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), on the other hand, do not identify with the role of army in the country's history as their parties were formed to represent the interests of those constituencies that were not part of the original establishment. They have shown little interest in
national security issues, and due to different historical memories strongly identified themselves only with the history of the struggles conducted under the leadership of their respective parties. On the other hand, army publications still continue to refer to the armed struggles carried out by the NC party as a movement conducted by `anti-national elements'.[12] The interconnection between the
leadership of these two institutions is also very weak as almost none of the key leaders of the major parties have had experience of military life and are not conversant with military ethos and security affairs. However, all of the army's chiefs so far have come from families with an aristocratic/military family background that have traditional links to the monarchy. These senior officers have exerted a disproportionate influence and have given a conservative bearing to the military as well as a strong sense of historical continuity.

The ethnic and caste composition of the leadership structure between these institutions also differs to a significant extent and is an important element in the power equation. For historical and religious reasons (Hindu caste-based division of roles), Ranas, Thakuris, Chhetris and hill ethnic groups who have a tradition of valuing military attributes, dominate the military leadership structure. On the other hand, the top leadership of both major parties consists almost exclusively of hill Brahmins, especially from Eastern Nepal, whose caste-based occupation being priests and astrologers did not largely have a dominant role in the original military-class dominated power structure of Nepal. The top three ranks in the army are at present held by a Chhetri, a Gurung and a Chhetri while the Acting Military Secretary to the King comes from the Limbu community. There was only one non-Brahmin among the top 10 positions (i.e. Sher Bahadur Deuba, No.8) in the Central Working Committee (CWC) of the NC (formed on 1 July 1999).[13] Within the main opposition party, the CPN (UML), it (Brahmin domination) is even stronger than in the NC, even though there is slightly more democracy in the election of the central organs and top officials of the party.[14]

In a rigidly structured and caste/ethnicity conscious society such as Nepal's, where personal connection is very important and forms the basis of group fealty, this difference in composition indicates that there are few familial and marital links between the elites of these two institutions. This has contributed to the fragmentation of the potent informal power structures. The relative lack of kinship networks across this divide and the uneasiness of the old elites (Thakuris, Ranas and certain Chhetri clans) that still dominated the military's top ranks with their subservient status to the new governing elites (especially some Brahmin groups from Eastern Nepal) that occurred with the substantial readjustment of the elite structure in the new dispensation had an impact on institutional relationship. This may be one of the factors that might explain the dearth of supportive climate among key elements of the military establishment for the political class.

Multi-party Era (Post-Panchyat)

There are clear indications that it had not been King Birendra's intention to merely remain a titular head of state in the post-1990 Nepal and cede total control of the army. The army suggested to the Constitution Recommendation Commission headed by Bishwanath Upadhyaya that `both the army and the police must remain under the king's control'.[15] The palace thus sought to retain certain prerogatives concerning the army in the new constitution, but international pressure and street protests tilted the relative power balance towards the proponents of the multi-party camp. The palace then agreed to comply with the provisions concerning the army incorporated in the constitution drafted by the Commission. The issue of control over the army was resolved by providing the king with the authority to mobilize the army, but on the recommendation of a Security Council, comprising the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the Army Chief (which, theoretically, gave the civilian government the upper-hand).[16] However `… according to the `Act on the Right, Duty, Function and Terms of the Service of Commander-in-Chief (1969)', the Commander-in-Chief is responsible to His Majesty rather than the government'.[17] This arrangement enabled the monarchy to retain its hold on the military, one of its vital sources of power, by requiring the consent of the monarchy on key issues pertaining to the army. As a result the Defence Minister in the multi-party system became more powerful than in the Panchyat era, but did not enjoy the sort of control and leverage the Home Minister came to acquire over the police force in the post-1991 Nepal. The ambiguity of this clause (Article 118), drafted to reflect the compromise between the two sides, and the fact that the army continued to function under the Army Act (1959) was to prove controversial as the Maoist insurgency intensified in 1999–2000.

The parties that led the movement for the restoration of democracy had been in the wilderness for 30 years and had been untainted by ties to the establishment. Their persistent refusal to compromise with the Panchayat system and their clean image was the key source of their legitimacy and strength. Flush with confidence after the election victory in 1991 and invigorated by an international environment conducive to new democracies, the newly formed government led by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala initiated large-scale changes in the leadership structure of the civil administration and the police force. The Ministry of Defence in the initial years of the Koirala administration was also able to exert considerable control over the army and reduce its autonomy. There were, however, obvious limits on how far Koirala could go in redefining the role of the army and restructuring its officer corps given the army's history and close relations with the palace. The fact that the movement for the restoration of the multi-party system in 1990 had ended through a negotiated settlement also meant that compromises were inevitable. Therefore, he sought to curtail the military's institutional powers through indirect means.

During the Panchayat era, the military had been given a dual role. Its primary mission was to defend the country from external invasion and its secondary role was to act to stabilize the internal security situation when required. The Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) of the RNA functioned as the chairman of the Central Security Co-ordination Committee and the army was represented in the Security Committees set up at the zonal and district levels. But after 1990 the army was not given representation in the security committee at any level, either at the centre or in the districts; it was only kept as `invitee member'.[18] The post-Panchayat government thus sought to reduce the army's part in internal security.

The government also sought to modify the army's role by giving more thrust to its developmental activities. Militaries as institutions, like all large bureaucracies, are very resistant to change but the army was agreeable to a certain re-orientation in priorities. Thus more focus on such as `non-military tasks' was acceptable to the army, although not beyond a certain point. But as the government manoeuvred to manipulate promotions to fill the top ranks with its preferred candidates and strengthen its grip over the army, it ran into resistance from the palace and a significant segment of the army hierarchy. Prithivi Narayan's own exploits had been sufficient to allow his direct descendents to live in reflected glory and this is one reason for the loyalty of the army during the years of internal crisis (in the mid-nineteenth century).[19] The constitution had given shared prerogatives on defence issues to the king and government, but it was largely the still resilient informal powers derived from the historical links between the Shah dynasty and the army and the personal relationships cultivated with the senior officers during the Panchayat era that King Birendra utilized to block the government's moves in this regard. The tussle for the control of the army exposed clear limits on the civilian government's power and authority. It is not that the King enjoyed exclusive control over the military thereafter. The civilian government's Finance Minister's control of the national budgetary appropriation process meant that annual budget estimates had to be submitted to the Ministry of Finance (through the Ministry of Defence, which usually is a mere formality), and all plans that had major financial implications had to be cleared by it. This provided the government with powerful leverage and it used this lever to contain the army.

Although there was some alteration in emphasis with the rapid changes in governments in the ensuing years, in most respects the army was largely left alone with its internal autonomy intact.[20] This was also partly because the mainstream politicians did not provide consistently strong political leadership because they became preoccupied with political survival as political instability increased after the mid-term polls for the parliament of 1994 yielded a hung parliament.[21] Political life, under the cover of multi-party politics, in many ways, began to resemble the extreme individualism that had characterized party-less politics in the Panchyat era, as many of the basic societal circumstances remained the same. In this context the insecure politicians considered national security issues peripheral to their core interests and the defence portfolio was low in the list of the priorities of the more powerful politicians. It is widely believed that those portfolios with the highest money-making potential are assigned to the most influential political leaders, regardless of their expertise in the subject.[22] The circumscribed power of the Defence Minister and the tight budget in the defence sector also meant that this portfolio did not have the same allure as some other ministries. It thus took the government 11 years after the new constitution was promulgated, to set up the secretariat of the National Security Council in January 2002.

STUDY: Nepal - Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency Part 3

Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal - Part 3
Prakash Nepali and Phanindra Subba
From: Small Wars and Insurgencies, Volume 16, Number 1 (March, 2005)

Army's Response to the Insurgency
5.1 Initial Stage

Avoidance of contact with superior forces is of critical importance at the incipient stage of any insurgency because of the danger that it might be crushed even before it has managed to grow deep roots. The Maoists managed to do this by scrupulously avoiding targeting military installations and personnel. The Maoists proved themselves to be adept in the political game and gained valuable time and space as they astutely played off one political party/faction and power centres against the other by manipulating their ambitions and desire for power. Resolution of the conflict would yield political dividends and the establishment politicians tried to ensure that it took place only when they were in power. At the same time, some elements close to the palace and in the army, at least in the early days of the insurgency, had also been ambivalent about the Maoist threat and saw some benefits in the weakening of the civil government and the police force.

The civil government's attempt to project and build up the police force, the first line of internal defence, as a bulwark against the Maoists threat was natural. Because `… it has usually been the police that have borne the initial brunt of most insurgency campaigns worldwide'.[23] However, even when it had become clear that the government's initial assessment had gravely underestimated the true nature of the threat and the police were incapable of meeting the challenge, the civilian government's mistrust of the army made it reluctant to deploy it. The army had prepared and submitted a plan to the government under which the army would be deployed along with a development package at an estimated cost of Rs 6.3/6.5 million rupees.[24] The government at the time had rejected the operational plans submitted by the army on the grounds that the budget sought was too high and instead opted to continue using the police force.[25] This decision was largely motivated by the desire to maintain the leading role of civilian authorities as the Congress establishment had doubts about the army's ultimate loyalty and was reluctant to strengthen its power.

5.2 Countervailing Force

Due to the army's non-cooperative attitude, the then Home Minister, Govinda Raj Joshi, resigned after Dunai incident of 29 September 2000. In events reminiscent of the Army-Rakchhya Dal (paramilitary force) tussle of the early 1950s Joshi accused 'the army command of not providing modern arms to the police even after being paid in full'.[26] The persistence of this issue suggests that the social trend that sustained the underlying political and social tensions that lay behind such tussles had still not been fully resolved even after almost half a century had elapsed. After the Dunai incident the government gave up the belief that the Maoist movement was a law and order problem and sought to deploy the army. G. P. Koirala had headed the government five times since 1991 but had always kept the defence portfolio for himself. In a bid to tighten control over the army and prepare the ground for its mobilization Koirala for the first time appointed his confidante Mahesh Acharya as Defence Minister in his Cabinet on 2 October 2000.This gave the government the crucial majority in the National Security Council but there was no unanimity on the issue of the deployment of the army among the major parties. Furthermore, the decline in the moral authority and the public standing of the government as reflected in the results of a public opinion survey published by the Himal magazine in 2001 made the task of the administration even more difficult. While 41.32 per cent of the respondents felt that the King should be responsible for mobilizing the army only 20.7 per cent of the respondents believed that the government should have the authority to do so.[27] The history of a lack of mutual confidence between Koirala and the army high command also made the army, with the tacit backing from the monarchy, reluctant to strengthen Koirala's position. The army did not show signs of direct insubordination, but sought to evade implementing any such order given by the civilian government. The army consistently sought the declaration of the state of emergency, all party consensus and the labelling of Maoists as `terrorists' as preconditions for their involvement in the insurgency.

Partly in response to these developments, the government decided to set up an `armed police force' from scratch in the midst of growing insurgency in January 2001. However, when the budget allocations for the newly set up force and the civil police began to increase and surpass the amount allocated to the army, the perception in the military that not only was the new force being set up to combat the Maoists but also as a counterweight to it got stronger. Taking the 10-year period (1990–2000), the total police budget was increased by 800 per cent.

The police force's relationship with the army had always been uneasy. Its leadership positions had for a long time been dominated by hill-ethnic officers, who had their formative experience in the more liberal environs of British Indian Army. Many of them had been members of the Mukti Sena (Liberation Army), an armed wing of the Nepali Congress Party, that had been set up to overthrow the Rana regime in 1951.The Nepali Congress Party was suspicious of the long association the Nepalese Army had with the Ranas and once the Rana Regime collapsed the Mukti Sena was converted into the Rakchhya Dal. The establishment of a powerful parallel military type structure, commanded by ideologically motivated officer corps, alarmed the army. The army only very reluctantly provided 1,000 rifles for the newly set up force demanded by the Home Ministry under Bisheshwar Prasad (B.P.) Koirala.[29] However, after the Rakchhya Dal's failed revolt in 1952, which the army put down, it was disbanded and absorbed into the police and some sections into the Home Guard Brigade of the regular army. Although the Rakchhya Dal had a short existence, the implication of the constitution of such forces for the army's corporate interest seems to have been deeply etched in the army's institutional memory.

The political parties were more comfortable with the historical antecedents of the police force and after 1990 it quickly emerged as the favoured institution and the institutional rivalry between the army and police intensified. The army, already feeling insecure under the impact of budget freeze and the police force's attempt to improve its status vis-à-vis the army, feared the emergence of a
countervailing force similar to the Rakchhya Dal of the early 1950s under the Home Ministry. The army felt this would undermine its monopoly of coercive power and threaten its core institutional interest. There seems to be some basis for the army's suspicion. Some time before the paramilitary force was established a former Home Minister from the Nepali Congress Party had told Himal magazine that even though the Maoist movement was being portrayed as the cause for setting up of the new force, there was also another purpose, which was: `to build an alternate force to balance the military force, which leaned towards the palace due to both constitutional and practical reasons, so that it would put an end to the situation where unseen threats would keep emanating from the army. And also the government would be able to immediately deploy the paramilitary force when required'.[30] This further increased the mistrust between the government and the army. Not long after, Koirala quit the Prime Minister's post when his position became untenable after the Holeri (Rolpa District) fiasco in July 2001 made it clear that he did not have the army's support. Within the span of less than a year the military contributed to the downfall of two powerful politicians. After the Maoists attacked the army installation in Dang the army was fully deployed on 26 November 2001 under the state of emergency declared by the government of Sher Bahadur Deuba.

Configuration and Deployment of the Army

The Nepalese Army was poorly configured and deployed to face the challenge posed by the Maoists. Many kings throughout the ages had always coveted Kathmandu, the cultural, religious and economic centre of the central Himalayas. Once Prithivi Narayan Shah conquered it, he made its defence the key part of his security strategy because of the riches and legitimacy it conferred on whoever controlled it. In situating the forts, the primary concern was the protection of Valley (Kathmandu), with four of the seven forts being in the hills surrounding the valley. The other three were located in such areas that they could protect the approaches to the valley.[31] Later in successive wars with Imperial China in 1792 and British India in 1814–16, Nepal agreed to negotiate or to the terms of the treaties set by these powers only when the defences of Kathmandu were gravely threatened or about to be breached.

In the early 1980s, India began to pursue a more muscular regional foreign policy. In the book India's Northern Security (1986), Indian security experts argued that like Belgium, Nepal is unable to protect its own security and hence militarily becomes a porous frontier between India and China.[32] These trends seem to have led to a renewed emphasis on Nepal's traditional defence posture. According to knowledgeable sources after friction began to develop with India in the mid-1980s, the army, keeping in mind the possibility of an attack from the south, established the No. 6 and 7 Brigades in Baireni and Chanwon (to the west and south-east of Kathmandu in Dhading and Makwanpur districts).[33] The army was strategically oriented towards protecting Kathmandu and its best equipped and most battle ready troops such as the Special Forces Brigade were stationed within the valley. When the Maoist rebellion broke out in the rural hinterlands of the mid-hills of Mid-Western Nepal, the bulk of the army's strength (three out of the seven infantry brigades plus the Royal Guards Brigade and the Special Forces Brigade) was thus deployed in and around Kathmandu (see Figure 2). The army was thinly spread throughout the rest of the country.

Prithivi Narayan Shah had exhorted: `Do not go down to the plains to fight. Withdraw to the hills to fight'.[34] Thus `no part of the regular army is permanently stationed within the limits of the Terai'.[35] It was only after 1951 and the shelving of the isolationist policy that the army was deployed on a regular basis along key points of the newly built East-West highway. Independent
infantry companies continued to be deployed along strategic or administratively important locations. Although the army had divided the country into eight geographical regions for defensive purposes and different brigades given responsibility for it,[36] most of the units deployed outside Kathmandu were basically on garrison duty and were not very mobile and lacked adequate logistic support. They were delegated limited authority and kept on a tight leash by the army headquarters in the capital. Furthermore, the budget crunch had affected the military's training and operational readiness and even the best units were not fully equipped.

5.4 Military Doctrine and Training

Military planning and training, at least theoretically, was largely focused towards defending the country from potential foreign invasion. In the absence of a comprehensive national security doctrine, large portions of the course of study in the Royal Nepalese Army Command and Staff College established on 30 December 1990 is essentially an adaptation and synthesis of materials taught in several foreign military academies, especially of India, Pakistan and the UK. Considerable time was devoted to studying histories of large unit actions that had limited relevance to Nepalese realities. It was only after the insurgency intensified that more stress was put on learning/teaching about different aspects of insurgencies. The first division level exercise Chakrabyu held by the army at the beginning of 1998 (B.S.2054) in the West and Mid-West regions sought to test the operational readiness of a division in a counter-insurgency role.

The army then had a strength of 46,000 personnel and consisted of 1 Royal Guard Brigade, 7 infantry brigades, 44 independent infantry companies, 1 Special Force brigade, 1 artillery brigade and 1 engineering brigade. The small air force consisted of one Bae-748, 2 Skyvans and 11 helicopters (of various makes).[37] It was an army with such force structure and training that moved against the Maoists after the Dang incident. Many analysts believed that it would be a short and decisive campaign that would end within months. The influential Nepal Times in its editorial had written: `…This campaign must be brought to a swift and effective conclusion with the least amount of Nepali blood shed'.[38] But such expectations were soon belied. After the political change of 1990, the increased social and political freedom helped create rural societies that were more willing to question age-old practices and was less deferential to those in authority. Although the political parties had succeeded in weakening many of the edifices that had enabled the traditional power structure to establish social control in rural areas, especially the mystique of the monarchy, they had been largely unable to successfully take the logical next step of filling in the void with new concepts and values. Thus by the time the army was mobilized the insurgency had already gained enough strength and adherents and the balance of power in the countryside had already shifted.

5.5 Diffusion of Power

The army was perceived to be more disciplined and effective in comparison to the police before its mobilization, but later the frustration and stress of prolonged deployment began to show in its more brutal tactics. To quantify the success of its operations the military is also putting undue stress on body counts. Conventional armies are geared towards using disproportionate force and find the
concept of minimum force and the subtleties of counter-insurgency operations with its political-military dimensions hard to internalize.

This war is being fought primarily at the company and battalion level by soldiers of peasant stock, under the leadership of junior and middle-ranking officers mostly from middle-class and lower-middle class backgrounds. Unless the officers at these levels show leadership skills by instilling traits such as self-restraint, discipline and the ability to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate military goals in the men they lead, any gains they achieve will only be fleeting. It will also have little bearing in the political arena. The Nepalese Army has relied on strict hierarchical discipline, with its excessive stress on respect for rank, to maintain order in the peacetime army. The army had essentially been geared to implement orders from the top. This has spawned a risk-averse culture, but power now is increasingly being diffused towards the younger officers and to those deployed in the field. The army is not monolithic and cannot remain totally immune from social and ethnic fault-lines affecting the society at large. What impact this has on the army as an organization will be clearer only in the future, but if the conflict becomes protracted the pressure for reforms within the institution are bound to grow.

Ethnic Makeup

The army's officer corps was dominated by Chhetris and Thakuris (including the Shahs, the ruling dynasty of Nepal) since it was created under the active military leadership of Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1762–63 as the army preferred to recruit from the Chhetri, Thakuri, Magar and Gurung communities. During the Rana period (1846–1951) only Ranas (a Chhetri clan that became the aristocracy after Jung Bahadur Rana seized power and married into the royal family) were allowed to become generals. Of the 14 generals who have occupied the post of Chief of the Army Staff of RNA since the fall of the Ranas, 11 have belonged to the Rana (nine) and Shah (Thakuri) families and three were Chhetris. Statistics are unavailable, but it is thought that even though the Chhetris continue to be the largest group among other ranks, the ethnic profile of the rank and file is becoming more

Although the Nepalese Army, especially the officer corps, is not at present entirely representative of the country at large, its social and ethnic profile has been changing over the years. Ironically, it is in the army, the most tradition-bound among all the state institutions, that some segments of the underrepresented groups havw made the most progress. There has been a significant increase in the numbers of officers in the upper echelons of the army from hill ethnic groups. However, these officers mostly come from those groups which have had a long tradition of military service (Magar, Gurung, Rai and Limbu). The hill ethnic groups currently account for 38.10 per cent of the officers of the rank of Brigadier General and above (see Table 1 below). This level of representation is unlikely to be sustained in the future as the caste and ethnic breakdown of the officers graduating from the Royal Nepalese Army Command and Staff College shows (see Table 2 below). Nevertheless, even these changes have already brought about a subtle but significant alteration in the traditional mindset of the army by contributing to broadening its perspective. In a historically intriguing co-incidence this development, coming after a long lapse, is occurring at a time when the Nepalese Army is once more actively engaged in military operations.[39] The increasingly representative nature of the officer corps in the army is in stark contrast to the civil bureaucratic structure. In 1999, out of 721 top level (special and first class gazetted officials), 717 (99.45 per cent) were still occupied by Brahmins, Chhetris and Newars.[40] In mid-2004, 75 per cent of the special class officers (secretaries) in the civil service were Brahmins, 10.4 per cent Chhetris, 10.4 per cent Newars and 4.2 per cent of Terai origin.[41]

Table 1. Caste an ethnic breakdown of the senior officers (Generals) in the Royal Nepalese Army, March 2004

Caste/ethnic groups National % RNA%

Note: Only castes and ethnic groups above 1.5 per cent of national
population are included. Shah-Rana totals 11.1 per cent only and 17.5
per cent if other clans of Thakuris are added.
Source: Jana Aastha National Weekly, 13 August 2003; Ekaishaun
Shatabdi (fortnightly), 7 September 2003, and various other sources.

1. Chhetri (including Ranas) 15.80 38.10
2. Brahmin (Hill) 12.74 7.90
3. Magar (Hill Ethnic) 7.14 7.90
4. Tharu (Terai ethnic) 6.75 0.00
5. Tamang (Hill Ethnic) 5.64 1.60
6. Newar 5.48 6.30
7. Muslim 4.27
8. Kami (Dalit caste) 3.94
9. Yadav (Terai caste) 3.94
10. Rai (Hill Ethnic) 2.79 3.20
11. Gurung (Hill Ethnic) 2.39 15.90
12. Damai/Dholi (Dalit caste) 1.72
13. Limbu (Hill Ethnic) 1.58 9.50
14. Thakuri 1.47 9.50

Table 2. Caste and ethnic breakdown of the officers (graduates of RNA Command & Staff College) 1994–2004

Caste/ethnic group National pop. % RNA CSC %
Source: Shivapuri, annual journal of RNA Command & Staff College
(1994–2004), RNA Command & Staff College, Tokha, Kathmandu.
Chhetri (including Ranas) 15.8 54.13
Brahmin (Hill) 12.74 19.80
Thakuri 1.47 8.91
Gurung 2.39 5.28
Newar 5.48 5.28
Magar 7.14 3.63
Limbu 1.58 1.32
Tamang 5.64 0.99
Rajbanshi (Terai Ethnic) 0.42 0.33
Sunuwar (Hill Ethnic) 0.42 0.33
Total (Batch 1–11) 52.80 100.00

The army has received criticism from the regionally based Nepal Sadbhavana Party on the grounds that there is lack of adequate representation of Terai people in the military (Terai – plains in Southern Nepal that form the border with India). This is due to the legacy of the past. Although recruitment to the Nepalese Army has been opened to all ethnic groups with the end of the Rana regime, there was lingering prejudice against people from `non-martial groups'. In an insurgency an unrepresentative army will have operational (particularly intelligence) as well as political implications because underrepresented ethnic groups might come to see the army as basically a foreign force. There is no system of reservation in the army but the increase in the intake of officer cadets and soldiers in the rapidly expanding army can help widen the recruitment base of the army and accelerate the ongoing process of change in its class structure and ethnic composition. Many of the old practices and customs are in discordance with a more educated and sophisticated army. These challenges will require the army to overcome its traditional conservatism and undertake a shift from its peacetime practices and military culture.

5.7 Counter-ideology

In the words of Samuel Huntington `Objective' control is exercised by legitimate civilian elite, which respects and encourages the difference between it and the military professionals. While `subjective control' is brought about through the merger of civilian and military values: the armed forces are controlled because they share dominant civilian values and their distinctiveness is blurred.42 The Nepalese Army's basic credo has historically been based on loyalty to the king and country, and the defence of a political system was not part of its core mission. Although army officers have recently sought to portray the army's fight against the Maoists as a fight to defend the democratic way of life, adherence to the principle of an apolitical army inhibits the indoctrination of the army in counter-ideology. But in a protracted insurgency, besides material resources, psychological commitment becomes very important. Armies patterned on the British model have not relied on ideological commitment but on discipline, tradition, unit pride, honour and cohesion to motivate their troops to accept sacrifices in the battlefield. This requires paying adequate attention to the welfare of the troops in the field and in making promotions, postings and financial transactions scrupulously fair and transparent to prevent the build-up of resentment and frustration among the troops. It still remains to be seen how the high command of the army, who were socialized during a different era and have different life experiences and perceptions than the young men they lead, face up to these challenges.[43] The internal cohesion, discipline and the morale of the army will depend on their response.

5.8 Divergence of Interest

In what ways the changing character of the officer corps will impact on the orientation of the army in terms of its relationship with the monarchy and the wider society remains to be seen. It should be mentioned here that John J. Johnson and other modernists had high hopes for the rise of the middle class in Latin American and the military's middle-class recruitment base. They assumed that the rise of the middle-class officers in Latin American Armed Forces could contribute to the democratization of these countries' civil-military relations.[44] However, this might not always be the case in all Third World countries. In the past the army, by the very nature of its work (the army was kept busy in ceremonial duties and training and unlike the police did not have deal with the people on a day-to-day basis) and as a matter of policy did not have much interaction with the local people. Prolonged deployment in counter-insurgency duties, however, could lead to creeping politicization of the army as it comes into close contact with the political and socio-economic realities of the country. Some in the army already feel alienated, as they believe that they are being made to bear the brunt of troubles contrived by others. The Chief of the Army Staff, in a highly unusual address in the RNA Command and Staff College on 27 March 2002, made pointed references to the lack of effective governance and implicitly laid the blame on the political forces for the emergence of the Maoist crisis. He rhetorically asked, `Who is responsible for the present state of the country? Was it mal-governance (kushasan) or was it the army? How just is it to burden the army with this difficult situation created for political reasons?' [45] The speech brought to the surface the underlying tensions as the army does not usually comment on political issues. It was a clear intrusion into the civilian sphere of policy-making and a challenge to their authority but only drew a mild reprimand (`caution') from the government.

In times of trouble, a country's military needs widespread popular support to accomplish its mission.[46] Countries all over the world seek to compensate for the occupational hazards of military life by providing it with a special status. However, this becomes difficult when an army is engaged in an internal, divisive conflict. In Nepal some believe that the army is not receiving adequate backing from the leaders of political parties and its sacrifices and concerns are not being given due recognition. Signs of this are beginning to appear within sections of the army.[47] Since the establishment of multi-party democracy, successive governments had tried to undermine the importance of the army, perceiving it as the King's Praetorian Guard.[48] This perception about the army among the major political parties has further strengthened since King Gyanendra's dismissal of the Deuba government on 2 October 2002 and large sections of them believe that the strengthening of the army is leading the countrytowards militarization.

If the lack of trust and the divergence of interest between the major political parties and the army widens, at a time when the army has emerged as one of the main pillar of the entrenched political and social order, it will further complicate the task of expanding civilian control. The army might then develop a siege mentality and the probability that its sense of corporate identity might come to be defined in more exclusive terms will increase. A territorial command structure, with a nation-wide presence, (the army is well on the way to meet its goal of stationing at least an independent company in each of the 75 districts) backed by a military-intelligence apparatus with an internal orientation will give the military the potential ability to shape the flow of political events. However, given the complexity of the problem that the country is facing, the geopolitical reality, and the close relationship the top brass in the army has with the monarchy, it is unlikely that the army will want to take direct charge of the country. The senior leadership in the army realizes that it does not have the expertise to deal with the complex socio-economic problems facing the country and is also aware that the donor countries would look unfavourably at any attempt by the army to seize power. However, if the present instability continues and the army's level of casualties remains at a tolerable level, the army will increasingly acquire a taste for power and the steady accretion of authority and resources by the army will enable it to exercise influence on policy matters from behind the scene.[49

STUDY: Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal Part 4

Civil-Military Relations and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal - Part 4
Prakash Nepali and Phanindra Subba
From: Small Wars and Insurgencies, Volume 16, Number 1 (March, 2005)

Maoist Military Wing

To a considerable extent it is the strength of the Maoist armed wing which has given a degree of credibility to the parallel structure set up by them and has enabled the party leadership, after years in the margin, to emerge as pivotal actors in the national political scene. The Maoists are `a body that in its formative stages consciously modelled itself on Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)'.[50] However, even though some modifications have been made, the military doctrine of the Maoists has drawn its basic tenets extensively from Mao's military theories. They have sought to put into practice his dictum that `the party must command the gun'. Political commissars have been used to indoctrinate the fighters and keep the armed wing subservient to the party.

The Maoists military wing is kept under a fairly tight control by the political leadership. At the top of this structure sits the Central Military Commission. Fighting units are authorized to make tactical decisions but the Central Military Commission takes all major strategic decisions. The Commission appropriates funds for operations on the basis of plans submitted by local units. Some officials have been switched from the military to the political wing and vice versa at the higher levels but on the whole there is not much mobility between these two wings. The caste and ethnic composition of the Maoist Army differs to some extent from its political wing. Although the Maoists have sought to make the leadership structure more diversified, ethnically and regionally the top leaders in the political wing belong primarily to the upper-castes. On the other hand, the armed wing has a significant number of people belonging to the lower-castes and ethnic groups. The most effective Maoist main force units have a preponderance of Kham Magars from Rolpa and Rukum. They have gained extensive battlefield experience in the course of the last eight years. At present the Magar youths have gained nation-wide leadership of the `People's Army'.[51] Barsha Man Pun alias `Ananta', who led the Bhojpur attack and the son of a British Army lahure (those who enlist in foreign armies), Nanda Kishore Pun alias `Pasang', who led the attack on Beni, are new, rising military commanders within the Maoists (Figure 3).[52]

In cases where government response becomes more effective,insurgencies find it hard to survive without sanctuaries. The Maoists have also made use of limited cross-border sanctuaries in India. Protecting the leadership is important but prolonged absence from the country carries the risk of erosion of nationalist credibility and loss of support among important constituencies. This will also hinder the leaders from closely interacting with their fighters on a regular basis and might lead to the absentee leadership losing control over the direction of the movement. The dynamics of power within the group is thus likely to change and real authority will gradually come to be wielded by commanders in the field, who are prepared to share the risks with the combatants. Field commanders have established strong ties with the rank and file fighters and there are indications that the power and influence of key commanders is increasing. Although Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias `Prachanda' is the supreme commander of the Maoists, Nanda Kishore Pun `Pasang' coordinates and commands all the major attacks.[53]

Odom's model – clearly based on totalitarian theories – asserts that since both civilians and military leaders share allegiance to the same ideological system, conflict should be minimal.[54] However, in ethnically complex countries, the validity of this theory is likely to be put to the test. The Maoists policy does not allow any ethnic group to form armed groups and to raise weapons.[55] The Maoists have successfully exploited internal class differentiation among the different ethnic groups and conflict so far is not taking place along inter-ethnic lines. Although the vertical party hierarchy and the stress placed in communist political culture on adhering to the party line makes the public airing of differences rare, reports of friction between the party and the armed wing have surfaced periodically (these reports however have been strongly denied by the Maoists). The small and relatively closely-knit party has grown into a huge organization and if the political and the military wing are increasingly drawn apart by the number of casualties incurred and the amount of sacrifice made, the rift between the two branches might take an ethnic or regional colour.

Military Balance

To retain and increase support it becomes necessary to periodically demonstrate potency to generate and sustain the belief that the insurgency is gaining ground and will achieve its goals. Since the second cease-fire, between January and August 2003, improvised explosive devices have become the insurgent's weapon of choice and account for 35 per cent of the RNA's fatalities and 50 per cent of their injuries.[56] Although the nature of the war has changed somewhat with the improvement in the perimeter defences of the security force's bases, at critical stages of the campaign and at key psychological moments the Maoists have displayed a willingness to incur heavy casualties in pursuit of their objective. The have showed the tactical ability to conduct large-scale co-coordinated attack (brigade-sized) that are meticulously planned, as in the assault on Beni on 20 March 2004. Apart from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam, internationally organized insurgent groups usually demonstrate a poor applied knowledge of infantry skills, whereas the Nepalese Maoists excel in this field.[57] Although the Maoists claim that they have reached the stage of strategic equilibrium from the military point of view, the type of casualties the army is incurring clearly shows that they have not yet acquired the ability to fight large positional battles and to hold any territorial gains they make. To win the final phase of the guerrilla war, the conventional phase, there has to be a quantum leap in the quality and quantity of arms available to the insurgents or a major faction of the army has to defect. There is little likelihood of the Maoists being able to gain access to arms supplies of such magnitude and the prospect of a major split in the armed forces is virtually non-existent in the near future.

On the other hand, `some experts believe that RNA will have to raise its manpower threefold, at least 150,000, before it can be confident of taking on the Maoists'.[58] In a mountainous terrain, which has a tendency to absorb large number of troops, even this numerical advantage may not be enough. India, for example, maintains several hundred thousand paramilitary, police and army forces to suppress the estimated 3,500 militants fighting in Jammu and Kashmir.59 Despite the fact that Nepal's situation is not comparable to that of Kashmir in terms of external support provided to an insurgent movement, even a scaled down version of this approach is an expensive proposition. The country will find it hard to come up with the resources of such magnitude.


8.1 Political Leadership

The current problems that Nepal is facing are not merely due to transitional difficulties. The Maoist insurgency is a new phenomenon in the country's history in the sense that it is rooted largely in the peasants residing in the countryside and exogenous factors have played a relatively minor part in its inception. The disequilibrium that the insurgency has created has unleashed forces that are now committed to the redistribution of power. Undue emphasis on military action clouds the key political realities, which can result in a military-dominated campaign plan that misses the real focus of an insurgency.[60] At best the army can help create a situation conducive for the implementation of reforms and eventual political settlement by stabilizing the security situation. `In the end an insurgency is only defeated by good government, which attracts voluntary popular support'.[61]

Given such dynamics, the establishment forces do not have the option of keeping to the status quo and facilitating structural changes is the only way to protect their long-term interest. Fundamental change, however, will not be easy given the fact that the problem is also a social one, deeply entrenched in the cultural values of the core, dominant groups that have been ruling Nepal with periodic changes in the configuration of the narrow elite coalitions. In many respects the political parties have also actively promoted changes only to the extent that it impinged on the power and privileges of the preceding elites. The vertical solidarity that underpins Nepalese elite society greatly inhibits social mobility and the development of a merit-based society and democratic culture. Any move towards real change will ultimately undermine the position of the establishment in the power structure. How much headway the reform process makes will therefore depend largely on the vision and commitment of the political leadership who, by force of example, must show they are incorruptible and must be able to give the people a sense of sharing the same fate and destiny. But judging by their past record, to expect such a dramatic transformation in the behavioural pattern of the establishment forces in the short term is being more optimistic than realistic.

One of the major political parties, the Nepali Congress, has made proposals to bring the army firmly under civilian control and further curb the influence of the monarchy by `effecting desired changes in the laws and constitutional clauses governing the army'.62 The notion and application of the principle of civilian control, however, needs to be governed by certain consensual norms. If the military is to become comfortable with civilian leadership there will also need to be direct steps to limit the ability of elected leaders to use the police or armed forces for partisan activities.[63] Furthermore, had the civilian governments formed after the restoration of multi-party democracy been able to provide broad-based economic growth and political stability, they would have been able to take on the army as well as any challenges from the monarchy from a commanding position. Therefore, the success of such efforts and the long-term resolution of the conflict will also thus ultimately depend on the quality and the representative nature of the political leadership.


---1. Samuel Huntington (1957) The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations (Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press).
---2. Ludwig F. Stiller, S. J. (1995) The Rise of the House of Gorkha (Kathmandu: Human Resources Development Research Center), p. 233.
---3. Holly Gayley (2002) Gyanendra's test, Nepal's monarchy in theera of democracy, Harvard Asia Quarterly, Winter, Endnotes No. 20.
---4. Holly Gayley (2002) Gyanendra's test, Nepal's monarchy in the
era of democracy, Harvard Asia Quarterly, Winter, Endnotes No. 20. p. 4.
---5. Pervaiz Iqbal Cheema (1987) Growing defence expenditures and its implications for economic development in South Asia, in: Sridhar K. Khatri (Ed.) Regional Security in South Asia (Kritipur, Kathmandu: Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies, Tribhuvan University), p. 116.
---6. Muhammad A. Hakim (1998) Bangladesh: the beginning of the end of the militarised politics? Contemporary South Asia, 7(3), November, p. 283.
---7. The army was used against armed cadres of the Nepali Congress during the early 1960s and in Okhaldhunga district in 1973–74 (2031). It also disarmed the Khampas (Tibetan rebels), who used bases inside Nepal to mount raids into Tibet, in 1974.
---8. Dalia Dassa Kaye (2002–03) The Israeli decision to withdraw from Southern Lebanon: political leadership and security policy, Political Science Quarterly, 117(4), p. 575.
---9. Stephen P. Cohen (2002) The Indian Army, Its Contribution to the Development of a Nation (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), p. 161. ---10. Stiller (note 2) p. 216.
---11. Ludwig F. Stiller, S. J. (1993) Nepal Growth of a Nation (Kathmandu: Human Resources Development Research Center), p. 57.
---12. Sipahi, RNA Yearly Magazine, 2058, (2001) (Kathmandu: RNA HQ),
p. 78.
---13. Karl Heinz Kramer (2003) Resistance and the state in Nepal: how representative is the Nepali state? in: David N. Gellner (Ed.) Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences (New Delhi: Social Science Press), p. 184.
---14. Karl Heinz Kramer (2003) Resistance and the state in Nepal: how representative is the Nepali state? in: David N. Gellner (Ed.) Resistance and the State: Nepalese Experiences (New Delhi: Social Science Press). p. 185.
---15. India Today, 15 August 1990, p. 87.
---16. Deepak Thapa & Bandita Sijapati (2003) A Kingdom Under Siege: Nepal's Maoist Insurgency (1996 to 2003) (Kathmandu: Print House), p. 35.
---17. Stephen J. Keeling (Ed.) (2001) Pro-Poor Governance Assessment NEPAL (Enabling State Programme (ESP)), p. 178.
---18. Nepal (national weekly) 17 November–1 December 2003, p. 22.The same article further states: `In early 2001, while drafting laws pertaining to the armed police force and regional administrators this format was again changed. Then provisions were made to give the army representation in the central, regional and district level security
---19. John Whelpton (1991) Kings, Soldiers and Priests, Nepalese Politics 1830–1857 (New Delhi: Manohar Publications), p. 14.

---20. For the first time in Nepal's history the Chief of the Army Staff tendered his resignation on 5 May 1995 on moral grounds because of a corruption scandal in the Department of the Master General of Ordnance. This case was handled internally by the army. The Major
General, heading the department at the time, who had reportedly been a contender for the post of the Chief of Army Staff of RNA, was sentenced to a four-year prison term.
---21. Fourteen governments have been formed since the restoration of democracy in 1990.
---22. Keeling (note 17) p. 198.
---23. F. A. Godfrey (1985) The Latin American experience: the Tupamaros campaign in Uruguay, 1963–1973, in: Ian F. W. Beckett & John Pimlott (Eds) Armed Forces & Modern Counter-Insurgency (New York: St. Martin's Press), p. 119.
---24. Spacetime Dainik (national daily), 20 August 2002.
---25. Himal Khabarpatrika (national fortnightly), 1–15 December 2001, p. 29.
---26. The Kathmandu Post, 3 October 2000.
---27. Himal Khabarpatrika, 14–28 April 2001, p. 45.
---28. Spacetime Dainik, 20 August 2002.
---29. Ganesh Raj Sharma (1988–99) Bisheshwar Prasad Koirala Ko Atmabritanta, Jagadamba Press (2055), p. 152
---30. Himal, 28 April–13 May 2000, p. 29.
---31. L. F. Stiller, S. J. (1968) Prithwinarayan Shah in the Light
of Dibya Upadesh (Ranchi, India), p. 68–69.
---32. The Kathmandu Post, 3 December 2003.
---33. Samaya (National Weekly) 17 September 2004, pp. 23–24.
---34. Stiller (note 31) p. 68.
---35. Perceval Landon (1987 edition) NEPAL, Vol. II (New Delhi: Cosmo Publications), p.189 (first published 1928).
---36. Military History of Nepal (Nepalko Sainak Ithihas), Royal Nepalese Army Headquarters, Kathmandu, 1992, p. 587. `Brigade in the Nepali context has its own features. The uniqueness of our (RNA) organization is characterized by the presence of independent rifle
companies, directly under command of infantry brigades. Similarly one infantry battalion might be deployed with rifle companies spread over a large area' (A Policy Brief presented by the Director General of Military Operations of the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) to the visiting US Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, at the RNA Headquarters, Bhadrakali, Kathmandu, 17 December 2003).
---37. The Military Balance 1999–2000 (1999). The International Institute for Strategic Studies (London: Oxford University Press), p. 165. The current total strength of RNA is 78,000.
---38. Nepali Times, 30 November–6 December 2001, p. 2.
---39. Magars, in particular, and Gurungs constituted an important part of the Gorkha Army since its inception. A number of them rose to become Bhardars (senior officials, both military and civilian) during the expansionary phase of Nepal's history that came to an end with the
Anglo-Nepal war of 1814–1816.Rais and Limbus began to be recruited into the army only since 1847.
---40. Shesh Narayan Manandhar (1999) Nationalities Among Officer Level Civil Servants: A Report. A study submitted to NCDN, (2056).
---41. Nepal Gazette (2001–2004) (Nepal: Department of Printing, His Majesty's Government of Nepal).
---42. Huntington (1957), See Note 1.
---43. According reliable sources the present generation of soldiers is more aware of `national events' and less tolerant of abuses within the army. They are more liable to file anonymous complaints against officers.
---44. Bhuian Md. Monoar Kabir (1999) Politics of Military Rule and the Dilemmas of Democratization in Bangladesh (New Delhi: South Asian Publishers), p. 17.
---45. Thapa & Sijapati (note 16) p. 249.
--46. Robert Pringle (1999) The Russian people & their army: a negative example for America, in: Lloyd J. Matthews (Ed.) Population Diversity & the U.S. Army, June (Strategic Studies Institute: U.S. Army War College), p. 32.
---47. Jana Astha National Weekly, 30 July and 17 September 2003, Anonymous letters to the editor under the pseudonym of `sufferers' and `suffering soldiers'.
---48. India Today, 1 July 2002, p. 33.
---49. `Some within the RNA are willing to press what they feel will be a clear military advantage once they can both expand their ranks to some 70,000 and augment their capabilities with new western arms and training ' as quoted in the Nepal Backgrounder: Ceasefire – Soft Landing or Strategic Pause (2003), P. 20, International Crisis Group
(ICG) Asia Report No. 50, 10 April Kathmandu/Brussels (ICG). There is also a school of thought that believes that the army deliberately staged the Doramba incident, in which a number of Maoists were killed, on 17 August 2003 to sabotage the Nepalgunj peace talks in order to protect its vested interests in the form of status and budgetary gains that the expanding army has provided. Although the odd timing of this operation fuels suspicion about the army's intention, there is yet no conclusive evidence to support this premise.
---50. Thomas A. Marks (2003) Insurgency in Nepal, p. 4.Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) monograph (Carlisle, PA: US Army War College.
---51. Nepal, 1–17 August 2003, p. 31.
---52. Jana Aastha National Weekly, 24 March 2004.
---53. Himal Khabarpatrika, 31 July–16 August 2004, p. 14.
---54. Laura V. Swartz (1997/1998) Russian civil-military relations, Political Science Quarterly, 112(4), Winter, p. 708.
---55. Sudheer Sharma (2002) The Ethnic Dimension of the Maoist Insurgency, May (Unpublished manuscript), p. 25.
---56. Royal Nepalese Army adapts to counter-insurgency role, Jane's Intelligence Review, 1 July 2004.
---57. John Mackinlay (2002) A military assessment of the Nepalese Maoist Movement, Jane's Intelligence Review, December.
---58. S. D. Muni Maoist Insurgency in Nepal: The Challenges and the Response, (2003) (New Delhi: Rupa & Co.), p. 72.
---59. Daniel Byman, Peter Chalk, Bruce Hoffman, William Rosenav and David Branan (2001) Trends in Outside Support for Insurgent Movements (California: RAND), p. 32.
---60. Gavin Bulloch (1996) Military doctrine and counter-insurgency: a British perspective, Parameters (US Army War College Quarterly), Summer, p. 4.
---61. Ashok Krishna (1997) State response to insurgency, Asian Strategic Review, 1996–97 (New Delhi: Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses), p. 152.
---62. The Kathmandu Post, 24 June 2003.
---63. Nepal: Obstacles to Peace (2003) International Crisis Group
(ICG) Asia Report No. 57, June (Kathmandu/ Brussels, ICG).

BANGLADESH: Reining in the Radicals

The government's delay in taking action has also raised concern that violence and radical Islam may already have become entrenched in Bangladesh. In the northern town of Rangpur, police told local reporters that two arrested militants claimed to be part of a 15,000-strong militia aiming to "bring about an Islamic revolution." And talking to reporters while in custody, the Arabic professor Al Galib who denies links with extremists- warned that any campaign to rein in fundamentalism would fail. "Whether we are hanged or jailed, our movement will continue," he declared. Until last week, that seemed guaranteed. Now, finally, Bangladesh can ho that he is wrong.

Reining in the Radicals
Bangladesh is finally starting to crack down on Islamic extremism. But is it doing enough?

For three years, a wave of bombings, assassinations and religious violence has swept Bangladesh. Members of the militant Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (J.M.J.B.) in the north have claimed responsibility for the bombings of cinemas and cultural shows, and for the killing of scores of Hindus and Buddhists as well as Muslims they considered too lax. A campaign of assassinations by bombs saw failed attempts last year on British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury and opposition leader Sheikh Hasina, and a successful bid on Jan. 27 to kill senior opposition figure Shah Abu Mohammed Shamsul Kibria. Meanwhile, Western intelligence agencies are increasingly concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism. "We were blind on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia," says a South Asia-based Western intelligence official. "We don't want to miss the signs this time around."

Yet until very recently, Bangladeshi officials flatly denied that the country was a hotbed of militancy and violence. "We have no official knowledge of the existence of J.M.J.B.," State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfozzaman Babar told reporters on Jan. 26. "Certain so-called newspapers have been running reports on it, [but] we have no record that any such group has formed."

Last week, however, the government dramatically changed its strategy. Police announced the arrest of scores of suspected militants in two days; they allegedly included several in possession of explosives and bomb-making equipment, as well as a professor of Arabic named Mohammed Asadullah Al Galib whom Bangladeshi authorities have accused of having ties to militants in the Middle East and Asia. Officials also banned Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (J.M.B.) and the suddenly acknowledged J.M.J.B., accusing these two organizations of "a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts," and of "trying to create social unrest by misleading a group of youths and abusing their religious sentiments." Police are still looking for Azizur Rahman (also known as "Bangla Bhai" or "Bangla brother"), the man they claim is the J.M.J.B.'s leader. Reflecting the authorities' new attitude, State Minister Babar publicly lamented the failure to apprehend him, saying: "We feel very disturbed and embarrassed about this." The security services announced a border alert for 20 fugitives, including Rahman.

There are several reasons for the change of heart. Law and order, never good in Bangladesh, has deteriorated to frightening levels. Last month, India forced the cancellation of the annual South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, citing poor security in the host city, Dhaka. Islamic violence is also awkward for ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party Prime Minister Khaleda Zia because her coalition includes two conservative Islamic parties. But the catalyst for the crackdown appears to have been a donor meeting in Washington last week, attended by representatives from the U.S., the United Nations, the European Union and the World Bank, at which the rising tide of violence and Islamic militancy in Bangladesh and ways to end it, possibly by suspending funding to the aid-dependent nation topped the agenda. Bangladesh's donors "are very dissatisfied with the way things are heading with respect to security, the economy, corruption and governance," observed Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, president of the Bangladesh Economic Association, an independent Dhaka-based group.

Critics of the government aren't convinced that it's truly committed to curbing militancy and prosecuting radicals who have been arrested. Hasina spokesman Saber Hossain Chowdhury, who quickly dismissed the government's actions as "too little, too late," voices concerns that Zia's alliance with Islamic fundamentalist groups might make it too difficult for her to control the forces of extremism. "The root of the problem ... lies with the ruling alliance itself," he says.

The government's delay in taking action has also raised concern that violence and radical Islam may already have become entrenched in Bangladesh. In the northern town of Rangpur, police told local reporters that two arrested militants claimed to be part of a 15,000-strong militia aiming to "bring about an Islamic revolution." And talking to reporters while in custody, the Arabic professor Al Galib who denies links with extremists- warned that any campaign to rein in fundamentalism would fail. "Whether we are hanged or jailed, our movement will continue," he declared. Until last week, that seemed guaranteed. Now, finally, Bangladesh can hope that he is wrong.

With reporting by Saleem Samad

BANGLADESH: From Denial to Tentative Confrontation

Despite the intensity of external pressure, the early 'positive' signs could be deceptive. Amidst the Prime Minister and the President's call for strong concerted action against Islamist fundamentalism in the country, there are already indications that the current phase of activism might not last long. The Daily Star on February 26, 2005, reported that, on February 24, a day after the Government ban on the JMJB, 50 cadres of the outfit gathered in a meeting at the house of an Islamist fundamentalist leader in Bhabaniganj Bazar. In Bagmara, JMJB leaders in many areas continued to organise their fellow workers. Among them were JMJB Bagmara unit president, Lutfar Rahman, a Professor at Atrai Mollah Azad Memorial College; Sakoa college teacher Shahidullah; Bhabaniganj college teachers Abed Ali, Abdur Razzak and Kalimuddin; Ibrahim of Jhikra and Akkas of Goalkandi. Similarly, even three days after the arrest of the AHAB amir (chief) Dr. Muhammad Asadullah Al Galib and his three top aides, police had not arrested any of Galib's known associates. Galib is the suspected kingpin of Islamist militants in the western region, and a large number of documents in his office and the various AHAB-run madrasas were left untouched by the Government at the time of, and after, his arrest. On another front, the Independent reported on February 26 that all the accused in the April 2, 2004 Chittagong arms recovery case, billed as the biggest in the country's history, had been released on bail.

From Denial to Tentative Confrontation
Bibhu Prasad Routray
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On February 24, 2005, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia instructed the Home Ministry and the intelligence agencies to 'root out' Islamist militants, their hideouts and subversive activities. She also decided in principle to set up an additional bench at the High Court to ensure speedy trial of cases of subversive acts. The orders came after the Government decided to ban the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh (JMJB) and Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), accusing them of a large number of bomb attacks and killings in recent times. A press note to the effect read: "The Government notices with concern that two organisations called Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Mujahideen have been carrying out a series of murders, robberies, bomb attacks, threats and various kinds of terrorist acts causing deaths to peace-loving people and destruction of property. Under the circumstances, the government announces enforcement of ban on all activities of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jama'atul Muhjahideen."

The Daily Star, on February 24, described the Government decision to proscribe the JMJB as "Eating own words". Only a month earlier, State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar, had emphatically denied the existence of the JMJB and had said on January 26, "We don't know officially about the existence of the JMJB. Only some so-called newspapers are publishing reports on it. We don't have their constitution in our record." Babar was reacting to a spate of reports documenting the activities of the JMJB and evidence of its linkages with at least a section of the political establishment and administration.

The past week has witnessed several raids on the JMJB and JMB establishments across the country and arrests of key leaders and activists. Police personnel arrested a Professor of Arabic at Rajshahi University, Dr. Muhammad Asadullah al-Ghalib, chief of the Islamist organisation, Ahle Hadith Andolon Bangladesh (AHAB), and three of his close associates on February 23. On the same day, three JMB operatives in Gaibandha and two in Rangpur, as well as two JMJB activists in Rajshahi were also arrested in a police crackdown in the northern parts of the country. Eleven JMB activists were arrested from different places in the Dinajpur and Thakurgaon districts on February 24. On February 25, two JMB cadres Qaree Nazrul, a teacher at the Shibganj Hajardighi Islamia Madrassa, and Nurul Islam, a teacher at Chandpur Dakhil Madrassa, were arrested from Shibganj in the Chapai Nawabganj district.

The current flurry of Governmental activism (the present regime has largely been seen as a benefactor or at least a mute spectator to the steady growth of Islamist radicalism in the country) was preceded by a well documented publication by the opposition Awami League (AL), titled Growing fanaticism and extremism in Bangladesh: Shades of Taliban. Released on February 13, 2005, the 74-page document,(Check Link) apart from its inherent political import, was significant on three grounds.

1. It marked a widening of the divide in the polarized politics of the two primary political parties in the country. The AL has now taken its 'war' with the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to the international audience.

2. The AL has enormously increased pressure on the BNP-led regime to respond to mounting Islamist extremist activities in the country.

3. It is one of the first detailed documentation by an 'internal' source in Bangladesh, of systemic acts of State-tolerated terror, which have been repeatedly highlighted by a number of foreign news agencies and organisations, including SAIR, over the past years.

The AL report documents at least 34 bomb blasts between 1999 and February 2005, in which 164 persons have been killed and 1,735 people have been injured. While the magnitude of attacks and casualties recorded would count for little in a country with Bangladesh's profile, a pattern appears to be developing. The bomb attacks have mixed in with a much wider campaign of intimidation, violence and terror, even as the number of bombings demonstrates rising trends. An analysis of the bombing incidents in the AL report shows that, while there were just 13 bomb attacks between 1999 and 2003, the year 2004 alone witnessed 13 such attacks, and there have been another eight within the first two months of 2005.

With implicit patronage from the current regime, or a benign disregard of their activities, the Islamist forces in the country, have systematically targeted Opposition political parties like the AL, as well as minorities such as the Ahmadiyyas and Hindus, progressives and intellectuals. The January 27, 2005, grenade attack at Boidder Bazar in Habiganj district, in which former Finance Minister and AL Parliamentarian, S.A.M.S. Kibria was killed, appears to have breached the limits of the AL's patience, provoking the new report. The AL had witnessed a similar attack at a rally addressed by its Chief and former Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, on August 21, 2004 in Dhaka. Eight of the 34 bomb attacks documented by the AL Report have targeted the AL; nine were detonated during cultural functions such as jatras and fairs; and five occurred at religious shrines, including the one in the shrine of Hazrat Shahjalal in Sylhet on May 21, 2004, in which the British High Commissioner was injured. The AL Report notes, "The selective and deliberate targeting of AL and the like-minded secular and progressive forces, cultural organisations, religious minority groups and entertainment places such as movie halls or local fairs indicates a clear pattern that clearly unmasks the identity of perpetrators of such crimes and their ideology."

Does recent action by the Government mean that Bangladesh is now on a changed track? There has been wide speculation that the Government's steps were precipitated by pressure from Western donor agencies and diplomatic circles, provoking the State Minister for Home, Lutfozzaman Babar, to deny any foreign pressure. Babar told the British Broadcasting Corporation's Bangla service on February 23, 2005, "We did not receive any international pressure to ban them. The Government has done it out of its sense of responsibility." Nevertheless, this sudden 'sense of responsibility' does appear to have been excited by mounting external pressures and perceptions, including the hard stand taken by the European Union on the regime's 'apathy in tackling the situation' and the belief that Bangladesh's slide towards a fundamentalist regime continues unabated. Although the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) appear to have taken a softer stand, lauding Bangladesh for its 'impressive performance' in many social sectors, the overall impression is that the situation in the country has been deteriorating fast and the Government has failed to improve governance. Bangladesh's development partners rounded off a meeting at the Watergate Hotel in Washington on February 25, 2003, with an expression of concern regarding deteriorating governance, and deciding to keep a close watch on how the Government tackles the rise of fundamentalist militancy and improves the overall scenario of governance. A joint statement issued at the end of the meet stated, "The participants, by consensus, expressed serious concern at the deterioration of the governance situation in Bangladesh, especially the situation of law and order, political violence including recent bombings, and the climate of impunity."

Despite the intensity of external pressure, the early 'positive' signs could be deceptive. Amidst the Prime Minister and the President's call for strong concerted action against Islamist fundamentalism in the country, there are already indications that the current phase of activism might not last long. The Daily Star on February 26, 2005, reported that, on February 24, a day after the Government ban on the JMJB, 50 cadres of the outfit gathered in a meeting at the house of an Islamist fundamentalist leader in Bhabaniganj Bazar. In Bagmara, JMJB leaders in many areas continued to organise their fellow workers. Among them were JMJB Bagmara unit president, Lutfar Rahman, a Professor at Atrai Mollah Azad Memorial College; Sakoa college teacher Shahidullah; Bhabaniganj college teachers Abed Ali, Abdur Razzak and Kalimuddin; Ibrahim of Jhikra and Akkas of Goalkandi. Similarly, even three days after the arrest of the AHAB amir (chief) Dr. Muhammad Asadullah Al Galib and his three top aides, police had not arrested any of Galib's known associates. Galib is the suspected kingpin of Islamist militants in the western region, and a large number of documents in his office and the various AHAB-run madrasas were left untouched by the Government at the time of, and after, his arrest. On another front, the Independent reported on February 26 that all the accused in the April 2, 2004 Chittagong arms recovery case, billed as the biggest in the country's history, had been released on bail.

The BNP is bound to find itself in an unenviable position once its Islamist alliance partners in the coalition Government begin to act to protect their 'interests'. On February 24, Fazlul Haque Amini, Chairman of a faction of the Islami Oikyo Jote (IOJ), warned at a public meeting in Mymensingh, "We'll sharply react if any Islamic leader falls victim to the ongoing operation." He also said that there was a conspiracy to prevent Islamic revolution in the name of taming the Islamist militants, "But the conspirators will not succeed." On the same day, Maulana Abdur Rob Yousufi, Secretary General of another faction of the IOJ, opposed the ban on the JMJB and JMB, declaring, "There's no Islamic militant organisation in the country". It is a matter of time before such statements are translated into political action. It remains to be seen whether the BNP chooses to alienate its alliance partners to secure greater appreciation and support from the outside world.

South Asian Security Headlines [26-28 FEBRUARY 2005]


US-led coalition continues to support Afghan warlords
Afghanistan gives major land to U.S.
Fraud discovery leads to suspension of disarmament in west Afghanistan
Sri Lanka to welcome Afghanistan, but not Iran, to SAARC
Dutch to send commandos to Afghanistan
US Fears Upsurge in Taleban Violence


Army seizes AK-22, SMC after gunfight with CHT gang
35 hurt as land grabbers evict 250 families in Satkhira
12 sued for sedition, their leaders spared
Kushtia madrasa closed after Shibir-JCD clash injures 20
30 AL men hurt as cops club procession
Crossfire kills 3 more in Kushtia
BDR, BSF agree to a cease-fire after daylong border clash


SAM Test-fired
India ready for talks on Baglihar if Pak withdraws complaint
Maoist dalam chief killed in encounter
Hospital ransacked after college girl's death
India, France launch joint naval exercises
Man held with forged passport
Gang held on extortion charge; pipe bombs, knives seized
Two naxalites killed in encounter
Naxalites operating from Bangalore?
Legal hurdles cleared for Monica Bedi's extradition
Larsen and Toubro Limited told to quit Assam by ULFA
Joint operations against militants
ULFA activists killed in encounter


Maoist shoot dead DSP, his body guard in Butwal
Maoists torch vehicles, ambush security forces in Bara
10 security men killed, 10 injured in separate incidents
Seven Maoists killed in clashes
Maoists call off indefinite blockade, strike of educational institutions
10 security men killed, 10 injured in separate incidents
17 NC protestors detained across Nepal
Five political parties form alliance
Army says dozens of Maoists dead, rebels raid TV station in Nepal violence


Police arrests 20, seizes weapons in Quetta
Two blasts hit Quetta
4 robbers held
Balochis not terrorists, but fighting for rights: Bugti
40 Pakistanis deported from Libya
Indian fishermen arrested
Many SNP workers injured in police baton-charge
Four Nigerians arrested