Nepal to host Int’l Military Helicopter Conference in Jan
Nepal will be hosting an International Military Helicopter Conference, come January next. Rather tellingly, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) will not be participating. A senior Nepalese army official has been quoted by Defence IQ, a website devoted to defence industry news, that his forces need choppers of all categories, beginning light, medium and heavy lift varieties.
There was a time that Nepal used to procure all its military equipments from and through India, under the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship. But the current foray by Nepal is a clear repudiation of the treaty like never before.
Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) caught the attention of Indian public in the 1990s by first seeking an abrogation of the treaty, which they considered ‘unequal’ and impinging on the sovereignty of the country. Its leader, Pushp Kamal Dahal had vowed to scrap the treaty during his short first tenure as prime minister. But he later fell silent.
There have been periodic demands since, that the treaty be renegotiated. But no progress have been made on the issue. While the Indian defence ministry refused to comment on the issue, it is clear that the latest move by Nepalese Army is an assertion of its autonomy by seeking to hold the conference and being its parimary patron as a potential buyer of a fairly large number of helicopters.
The plan that has been enunciated by the senior military official of Nepal is that all this while the helicopters base was in Kathmandu, at about a height of 60 nautical miles above the sea level. But now the army plans to base these choppers at forward operating bases in upper reaches of the Himalayan republic.
Ostensibly, these forward deployments are meant to be a hedge against any natural disasters like last year’s big earthquake. But the Nepalese official says that the country also needs its fixed wing military aircrafts – a sure sign that Nepal is seeking an air force.
The fact that New Delhi is in denial could be a sign that it has either acceded to Nepal’s move already or it has realised it could do very little change the decision taken by the Kathmandu establishment.
One can recall that Dahal, the incumbent PM had a chance trilateral meeting during the BRICS-BIMSTEC summit at Goa, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the hotel where all of them were present at that point in time.
Dahal had described it to be a ‘chance’ meeting. An increasing Chinese footprint in the country signals the advent of the PLA on this side of the Himalayan barrier.