Nepal Army plays a sterling role

One of the immediately visible outcomes of the unfortunate earthquake in Nepal is the performance of its Army and the sliver of respect that it has earned in the aftermath of this catastrophe. This is a far cry from the time when the army was under the intense scrutiny of the local media. The stock of any army tends to fall while employed in any counter-insurgency task as a lot of vicious rumours are spread about its role. In Nepal too the scenario was no different, with a lot of fabricated human rights violations cases slapped on the Nepal Army, thus somewhat distancing it from the common man.  An Army that has high moral fibre and uses minimum force wins the hearts and the minds of the people. 

The process of reconciliation and healing in Nepal is being established with the recent government order forming a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and a Commission to Investigate Enforced Disappearances (CIED). After the shaky peace accord, the Nepal Army has gone through a lot of <g data-gr-id="95">turbulence,</g> since it began absorbing erstwhile members of the Maoist cadres. Currently as per reports emerging from the ground, the Nepal Army is diligently involved in the earthquake relief operations. According to neutral observers and visitors, one of the institutions that <g data-gr-id="94">has</g> grown from strength to strength during this time of immense calamity is its army. In a country, where two constituent assemblies have not been able to promulgate a constitution the army is showing signs of “order in disorder”, a trait usually associated with the cavalryman in battle.

Let us recall the events, circa 2009 and see the long evolution and journey of the Nepal Army. The Maoist cadres abhorred the Nepal Army as it stood like the Great Wall of China on their marauding path. The next best course for gaining power for the Maoists was to induct a large number of their cadres in the army to undermine it and establish a parallel organisation from within. This was subversive to say the least. It is at this juncture that the army played a pivotal role. A very frustrated Prachanda sacked the Army Chief Katawal after a bitter month-long turf war. The President then reinstated the Chief of Army, creating a crisis out of thin air and, forcing Prachanda to resign.  A large number of watchers keenly observed this battle because the future of this fine institution would lie in the handling of this rocky crisis. Needless to say, the army came out as a fine institution. Today the only institution that the people of Nepal trust is the army, and the Nepalese Army Wives Association (NAWA), which is performing a yeomanry service for its people. 

A group of civil society activists belonging to Gorkha Sudhar Subha, Dehra Dun, have till date taken around fourteen truck loads of material amounting to around fifty-eight lakhs worth of aid, collected by kind and through donations. To aid its relief efforts, the organisation has been interacting with the army and the NAWA. The modus operandi is quite simple. The affected villages are identified based on local information available here through kith and kin, usually in Gorkha-dominated districts, which have been the worst affected by the earthquake. At the border, customs clearance is taken and aid sent to the worst affected areas. 

As per the activists who have just returned from Kathmandu the entire Nepal Army is living in tents, as the minor aftershocks are many. The NAWA representatives met them and spoke to them at length. The NAWA through the Nepal Army sent people for verification to the affected villages. Thereafter it issued a coupon and ensured that the loads reach the correct villages. As time was short and dispatch was taking long, these people handed over the loads to the NAWA, which  continues to send regular updates to the donors. Thus, with the army and the NAWA are working hand and glove, the team of donors felt confident that they would be able to deliver. The NAWA is doing a commendable job.

The people of Nepal today also find that the Nepal Army, which has close affiliations with  its Indian counterparts, is living up to their expectations unlike members of the political class, who are still bickering with one another. The behaviour of the political class has demoralized the people, who anyway see little hope from it. Law and order problems for aid delivery have already started occurring. <g data-gr-id="61">Aid</g> vehicles are now escorted for security reasons. With the monsoons around the corner, the people of Nepal can almost feel the curse of God on them. The army, therefore, has emerged as the only strong institution in Nepal.

The Nepal Army has a well-defined role in disaster relief especially for a small nation, as they do not have forces specifically earmarked for such events. The army played a vital role in the earthquake of 1934 and again during 1988 when an intense earthquake hit Nepal with <g data-gr-id="62">Udaypur</g> as its epicentre. Besides such work, the army has been active in flood relief too. They have also done some spectacular rescue operations from Mount Everest. A large number of officers of the Nepal Army are trained in the Indian Army.

The role of the NAWA is most heartening too. The NAWA was founded in 1983 and lays stress on welfare along with aiming to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of natural calamities and its vision is at the national level. A dynamic organisation it works on a need basis. The NAWA did think of providing humanitarian assistance to victims of natural disasters.  Let’s hope that once Nepal promulgates a constitution the role of the NAWA is not distanced from providing humanitarian aid.

The author is a retired Brigadier

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