When Prime Minister K P Oli was asked recently about the link road that India inaugurated through Nepal’s territory in the Kalapani region, his answer was a point blank: “I didn’t know.”
That was quite surprising because as chief executive he should know what is going on in the country – especially if the information in question can easily be gleaned from Google Earth.
The Indian Border Roads Organisation was working in full daylight on the road to the Chinese border through Nepal for years. The Company Commander at the army base in Darchula had reported seeing Indian Army mule trains on the other side of the Kali. That is how minutely the military network reports even relatively minor matters up the chain of command to HQ.
Lines on a map, Editorial
Untangling the Kalapani knot, Prabhakar Sharma
It is then up to the analysts in the intelligence branches in the capital to connect the dots. Based on this analysis, all intelligence chiefs regularly brief their respective Service Chiefs and they in turn meet the prime minister in the National Security Council (NSC).
The secretariat of the NSC has inputs from all the intelligence branches in the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and the National Investigation Bureau (NIB). The coordinator briefs the prime minister.
The NIB was a professional outfit during the Panchayat when its main job was to keep an eye on banned political parties in Nepal and abroad. But after 1990, it became an employment agency for party aparatchiks.
The India-Nepal-China geopolitical tri-junction, Kunda Dixit
The Nepal Army also had its budget slashed by successive governments after 1990 and this hampered its modernisation, training and logistics. The Department of Military Intelligence also suffered budget cuts, as was painfully evident in the early days of the Royal Nepal Army’s deployment against the Maoists.
The Kalapani encroachment of Nepal’s territory is a good opportunity to make up for past neglect and take steps in restructuring the intelligence branches through proper recruitment, training and technology.
There is precedent to settling Kalapani, Prabhakar Sharma
The Nepali state must define its national interest, and then deploy all its instruments of power to safeguard it. Diplomacy, intelligence, the economy and the military are tools in furthering the national interest.
It is the lack of proper intelligence that has endangered our territorial integrity, and the government now has to fall back on diplomacy to address the situation. The political parties are embroiled in a chronic internal power struggle, and have abandoned important functions of the state. For example, Nepal did not have an ambassador in India for over a year.
The current lockdown will adversely affect the economy which in turn will hurt our national interest because it will endanger Nepal’s sovereignty. Once again, information is of vital importance. It is this feedback loop that keeps a government functioning efficiently, so it knows about the extent and spread of the virus and can mobilise the solutions (testing, PPEs quarantine centres, ICUs, logistics).
Trained personnel are in short supply, not just in the health system but also in the military. The Army, Police and the APF are doing a commendable job teaming up with their civilian counterparts in battle against the pandemic with limited manpower.
The Army had adequate trained medical personnel to look after its 45,000-strong force till 2002, but once it was mobilised to fight the insurgency its troop strength doubled. However, there was never a proportionate increase in the number of medical units.
The Army has deployed an Infantry Division in each of the seven provinces, and there is a provision of a military hospital in each division. And each Infantry Brigade has its own Field Ambulance. Army also has a mobile hospital which travels to all parts of the country to look after ex-servicemen. Each battalion has a doctor and staff.
Upgrading the army’s medical infrastructure will benefit the whole country, especially during natural disasters or emergencies like the one now.
The government must immediately make the National Security Council fully functional so that it helps in intelligence gathering and dissemination. And enhancing the medical capacity of the security forces will significantly improve the country’s emergency response in future crises.