Army chief India’s best envoy to Nepal in 2010?


Kathmandu: Indian Army chief Gen Vijay Kumar Singh, conferred the honorary rank of general of Nepal Army by President Ram Baran Yadav Wednesday, became the most successful Indian envoy to Nepal in 2010, cementing ties between the two armies as well as two countries.

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Singh, whose three-day official visit ends with the investiture ceremony at the presidential palace as its climax, gave a special boost to India-Nepal ties by choosing to visit the neighbouring country in the same year he assumed office as Indian Army chief.

In the past, his predecessors had mostly chosen to visit Nepal just prior to retirement. The timing of the general’s visit therefore spoke volumes about the priority he had decided to accord Nepal.

Diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu have been frayed of late, with visiting Indian ministers and senior officials suspected of coming with a hidden agenda.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s Nepal visit for instance became controversial after it was revealed that he had pushed for Nepali passports to be printed by an Indian company.

Though the move was impelled by genuine security concerns that affect both India and Nepal, it still came under fierce criticism in Nepal and eventually led to the deal with the Indian company being scrapped.

Even Gen Singh’s immediate predecessor Gen Deepak Kapoor’s visit to Nepal in January this year was preceded by controversy after the latter was reported as saying that the Maoist party’s guerrilla army should not be inducted into the national army.

Gen Singh was perceived as open and accessible in Nepal and his lauding of the Nepali Gorkhas who join the Indian Army drew positive responses in Nepal.

The Indian Army chief, who met Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal and Defence Minister Bidya Bhandari Wednesday, was reportedly urged by Bhandari for the resumption of Indian lethal aid to Nepal, that needs new guns and ammunition to fight new threats like organised poaching and armed gangs mushrooming along the India-Nepal border.

Gen Singh returns to India Thursday.