Different theories in circulation about its origin
KATHMANDU, FEB 17 - Following controversy over the alleged agreement between the UCPN (Maoist) and the Nepal Army over the integration of combatants, there has been conflicting claims from the key stakeholders over the new 'flexibility' of the Army.
There are two schools of thought on a convergence of minds between the Maoists and the Army regarding the action plan for integration process. First, the reported consensus is a trial balloon thrown by the Maoists and a segment of the Army to see other parties' reaction and the second is that the deal is real give-and-take between the Maoists and the NA leadership.
Earlier this week, Army Chief Chhatra Man Singh Gurung had briefed the prime minister that the Army was ready to integrate 6,500 combatants. He had also pledged that the Army was ready to provide concession on the duration of the bridging course and training.
"I cannot believe in what I have read in newspapers. If the Army's recommendation is true, this is highly objectionable," said Nepali Congress leader and Special Committee member Ram Sharan Mahat. "The Nepal Army has no authority to determine the number of combatants to be integrated. It should limit itself to define the norms of entry and test combatants' eligibility for serving the national army."
"Awarding of total numbers and ranks before testing the combatants' eligibility is like putting the cart before the horse," added Mahat. He said concession on training is against the spirit of the November-1 deal that calls for relaxation only on age, marital status and education.
NA sources claim there is a sharp division inside the Army Headquarters over the recent recommendation made by Gen Gurung. It has been learnt that second-in-command Lt Gen Gaurav Shumsher Rana was not taken into confidence while preparing the recommendations.
The flexibility is the result of Gen Gurung's desire to see the completion of the peace process within his tenure, argued a general close to the Army chief.
"The proposal upholds the bottom line that none of the combatants to be integrated into the Army would get a rank beyond major. We are flexible to shorten training period because many of the combatants have already gained some basic skills," said a general.
The Directorate General of Military Operations led by Maj Gen Daman Ghale drafted the plan to execute integration. Gen Gurung has opted for a flexible stand on combatants to ensure the elevation of Ghale (his brother-in-law) to the rank of lieutenant general, claimed another general.
Gen Gurung's proposal to create two additional positions of lieutenant general is pending at the Defence Ministry. Sources claimed the Army leadership is negotiating with the Maoists to create two additional top ranks within March.
Gen Ghale will be the contender for the rank of lieutenant general after Major General Pradip Jung Thapa retires on March 12. "The creation of additional positions of lieutenant general would be unfortunate. That will breach the line of succession of the military leadership and weaken the Army," said a hard-line general.
Gen Rana will replace Gurung after his retirement. He was a key person to negotiate the post-UNMIN monitoring arrangement and was taken into confidence while submitting an integration roadmap during the tenure of former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal.