Nepal likely to close huge arms deal with India

Nepal likely to close huge arms deal with India

The Nepal army is likely to secure a massive military assistance from India, including the supply of lethal weapons for the first time in nine years, when officials of the two countries meet in the capital next week.

The 11th meeting of Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group on Security Issues is taking place in Kathmandu on June 8 and 9, where joint secretaries of respective foreign ministries will take a call on the army's request for the supply of military stores and equipment.

Joint secretary Amrity Rai, who looks after India and South Asia at the foreign ministry, will be leading the Nepali delegation while his Indian counterpart is Abhay Thakur, JS, North at Ministry of External Affairs, India.

"The meeting is expected to discuss the procurement of military equipment for trainings, joint exercises, counter-terrorism action, information sharing between the two armies, the army said in a statement. At a group's meeting last year, the army had requested India for an immediate supply of arms valued at 1.76 billion Nepalese rupee (S$23.3 million).

India resumed the military supplies, constituting non-lethal support, to Nepal last year, following a successful integration of former Maoist combatants into the army. The southern neighbour had imposed restriction on supply of arms to Nepal since former king Gyanendra Shah took over executive powers and restricted democratic and civil liberties in 2005.

According to informed sources, the army is seeking to purchase more than 26,000 weapons of various kinds including several thousand Indian-made Insas rifles; more than 11 million rounds of ammunitions; bomb disposal equipment and explosives for training purpose. Also on the army shopping list are landmines, detonators, safety fuses and time pencils.

India will be providing some of the weapons in grant, while some will be on loan after a down payment of 60 per cent, said army spokesperson Brig Gen Jagadish Pokharel. He said the army is procuring new weapons to replace the current models, which are mostly outdated, for military trainings and joint exercises.

"India has, however, assured us that they would write off the loan, later," said another government official.

Forty-five trucks loaded with bullets, bomb disposal items and explosive devices are reaching Nepal within a week, according to sources at the army establishment.

Under the non-lethal consignment, the army had received several hundred vehicles including 35 armoured, 216 light and 154 heavy vehicles. Among the heavy vehicles were 58 trucks with a capacity of 7.5 tonnes.

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