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Indian Army Chief to visit Nepal in early September to boost defence ties

Nepali ambassador with Indian Army chief

Indian Army Chief Manoj Pande will be visiting Kathmandu in the first week of September, officials from Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Army said.

This will be the first visit of an Indian Army chief to neighbouring Nepal since his appointment to the post on April 30 this year.

"We have received communication from the Indian side that General Pandey will be here from September 5 to 7," a senior official at Nepal's foreign ministry, told India Narrative on Sunday, requesting anonymity. He added that the government and army are currently making preparations for the visit.

A spokesperson for the Nepali Army, Narayan Silwal, also confirmed that the Indian Army chief is visiting Nepal. "Yes, he is coming. Official announcement will be made at an opportune time," he told India Narrative.

During the visit, the two sides are scheduled to discuss various aspects of bilateral defence cooperation including logistical support to the Nepali Army, according to official’s privy to this development.

"The Nepali Army has already made a request to the Indian Army for logistical support including two military helicopters. We are hopeful that the Indian side will make some announcement during the visit," another official from Nepal's Ministry of Defence told India Narrative.

Pande, who was appointed as the 29th Army Chief of India, will be conferred with the honorary title of Nepali Army by Nepali President Bidhya Devi Bhandari during the visit, according to Nepal Army headquarters.

Conferring the honorary rank of General on each other's Army Chiefs has remained a customary practice between Nepal and India.

In November last year, Chief of the Nepali Army Staff Prabhu Ram Sharma travelled to India at the invitation of his Indian counterpart General Pande. General Sharma was given the honorary title of Chief of the Indian Army by the former Indian President Ram Nath Kovind amid a special function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi.

The tradition has been followed by the two immediate neighbouring countries since 1950.

General KM Cariappa was the first Indian Army Chief who received the honorary rank of Nepali Army chief in Kathmandu in 1950.

Since then, 21 Indian Army chiefs visited Nepal, while 17 Nepali Army chiefs have visited India during the same period.

The Indian and Nepali Army chiefs have continued their engagements formally and informally for years.

Lastly on May 4, the Indian Army Chief held a video conference with Nepali counterpart Sharma with a focus on boosting bilateral defense cooperation.

Nepali ambassador to India, Dr Shanker Prasad Sharma, had also discussed General Pande's planned visit to Nepal during their meeting in New Delhi in June last week.

Experts say that the military-to-military ties have remained the cornerstone of otherwise excellent relations between the two countries for years.

"The relationship between the Nepali Army and the Indian Army is the cornerstone of otherwise excellent relations between these two countries. A large number of officers and men of the Nepal Army undergo professional military courses in India. Further, a large number also have close relations (both serving and retired) with their kith and kin who serve or have served in the Indian Army, "Lt Gen Shokin Chauhan of the Indian Army has said in an article published by the Financial Express newspaper in June 2021.

Nepali and India army personnel have been holding joint military exercises at the platoon level of 30 men each since 2012, focusing primarily on jungle warfare and counter-insurgency operations.

Opportunity to discuss regional security situation amid changing geopolitics

The Indian Army chief's upcoming visit will also be an opportunity for the two militaries to discuss regional security situation amid China's growing assertiveness along the Line of Actual Control between India and China, observers said here.

The visit will also have its geopolitical significance as China and the United States are trying their best to bring Nepal into their fold through economic and military aids in recent times.

Meanwhile, a joint military exercise scheduled to be held between India and the United States in the mid-October at Auli in the Indian State of Uttarakhand, is also being closely observed in Nepal.

The India-US joint exercise, taking place less than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from India's disputed border with China, will focus on high-altitude warfare training, according to reports.

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