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The Military Riddle

The Chief of Army Pyar Jung Thapa’s recent statement that the Maoists could be incorporated in the Nepalese Army has brought an important question to the forefront. What is to be done with the large Army and Armed Police forces, and the Maoists guerillas?

Altogether, a total of almost 125, 000 people are in the national security apparatus. Add to that an estimated 10,000 Maoist foot soldiers. For a country as small as ours, this is indeed an extremely large number. To accommodate this population in the Army and police forces is going to be extremely expensive and perhaps also inefficient. Furthermore, army as an institution should be weakened in power in a country that considers itself a zone of peace. While the numbers have to be reduced, these people cannot just be released of duty – unemployed and without dignity. A viable solution has to be found.

Voluntary Retirement

A very plausible solution is to offer voluntary retirement to the security forces. As it is, many want to leave the forces. If they are provided with a good incentive, they will opt for foreign employment or work for private security firms. Incentives could include monetary help as well as vocational training for alternative professions. However, given the limited number of jobs in both the domestic and foreign markets and the fierce competition, this solution will not in itself provide a total solution, but may greatly help in reducing the numbers.

Demilitarizing the Army

Another option is to keep the forces intact, but instead of gun-totting jobs, to use them in development projects, such as nature conservation projects and reconstruction. The security forces are a disciplined lot and have proved in the past how adept they are at such projects. The Maoists too must be disciplined. They know the forests well, and may prove to be very helpful in conservation efforts. They too should also be assimilated in the forces and then used in similar projects.

Peacekeeping

The Army can also send in increased numbers to international peacekeeping missions, but this is dependent on external factors (the UN), and we cannot possibly send substantially large numbers, enough to solve the problem.

I believe a combination of these proposed solution will help reduce the number and also in a reconstruction process. Also important is the need to diversify the army with a representative numbers on the top brass as in the bottom. Despite the large numbers among the lower ranks, certain ethnicities are barely represented in positions of power. Similarly, some ethnicities are altogether absent in the army due to Panchayat era policies. The army is also one of the most oligarchic institutions with almost all high posts monopolized by a few families.

Without doubt, the security apparatus in Nepal will have to undergo radical changes in the days to come. Diversifying the army, assimilating the Maoists, equal representation, and reducing the numbers are the most pressing. The constituent assembly will have to give careful thought to the military riddle if it to sustain a democratic government without any immediate threat to the sovereignty of the people.

(Please use the comments section to suggest your solutions.)