From the Nepali press
Editorial in Himal Khabarpatrika, 9-15 April
The Nepal Government is reportedly preparing to award the Rs 112 billion contract for the fast-track highway to the Nepal Army.
It is an open secret that India wants to build this 76km highway – the shortest link between Nepal’s capital and its southern plains. But anti-India sentiment has hit a new high in Nepal after the blockade, and the government may not want to irk the people by awarding the fast-track contract to an Indian company.
By giving the fast track to the army, the Maoist-NC government, arguably backed by New Delhi, may be trying to build a narrative that this national pride project is being built by Nepalis. But the army’s engineering capacity to build a highway that will include two tunnels is being questioned, and military HQ has spilled the beans that it will sub-contract tunnel works to other companies, possibly Indian.
After investigating, we can say that the army is being used as a proxy in the building of the fast track. Kathmandu’s power corridors are abuzz with speculation that awarding the job to the army is a move aimed at easing the involvement of engineers of a foreign military in Nepal’s strategic infrastructure projects. Rumours are swirling in political circles that a plan is afoot to involve India’s intelligence agency, RAW. Such a move would violate our national interests. The army should not ignore the challenges of its involvement in the fast-track project.
The Nepal Army has built roads and bridges before. But the context in which it was encouraged to take on infrastructure projects should not be overlooked. The army shouldered these responsibilities during the Maoist insurgency, when civil contractors could not work in remote areas nor use explosives. Times have changed. But the army is now even more involved in commercial projects. It runs gas stations, medical colleges, party complexes and mineral water plants, and is investing in hydropower as well. An institution whose primary responsibility is to safeguard our sovereignty and integrity is increasingly profit-oriented, prompting accusations that it is deviating from its core duty.
It is time to reorient our army. It must be a professional institution, not a profit-oriented organisation.Go back to previous page