Chief of Army Staff Purna Chandra Thapa leaves for India on Friday to receive the honorary chief title of the Indian Army.
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind will hand the insignia of the honorary general to Thapa during an investiture ceremony at his official residence in New Delhi on Saturday.
It is customary between Nepal and India to award honorary title to each other’s army chiefs. Thapa will lead a seven-member team that includes Maj Gen Jhankar Bahadur Kadayat, the chief of the Military Intelligence Directorate.
Invited by Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat to visit the southern neighbour, Thapa is scheduled to meet Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitaraman and Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, among others.
According Nepal Army Spokesperson Brig Gen Yam Dhakal, Gen Thapa will also visit Indian Army’s Jaipur-based South-western Command and the Lucknow-based Central Command. The team will return on January 16.
There is a tradition in the Nepal Army that its chiefs make New Delhi their first foreign destination after taking command of the defence force.
In July last year, Rawat was in Nepal to receive similar honour from President Bidya Devi Bhandari. The practice of exchanging the title of honorary chief has been going on since 1950.
The Nepal Army said in a statement that the visit would strengthen the military ties between the two neighbours. The Indian side had expressed displeasure at Nepal’s decision to pull out of the first-ever BIMSTEC-level military drill held in Pune in September.
Nepal Army’s participation in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation event was cancelled in the eleventh hour after the government directed the force to roll back its earlier decision to participate in the regional military exercise initiated by India.
The KP Sharma Oli-led administration took the decision following fierce criticism from several quarters, including influential leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP). Only three Army officers participated in the exercise as observers following the government’s directive.
Thapa’s visit, according to Army sources, is an opportunity to clear the confusion created by Nepal’s staying out of the exercise. The Indian side has released its signs of a thaw by inviting the retired chiefs of Nepal Army to its 71st Army day scheduled for January 15. Around half a dozen former chiefs are participating in the event.
US Army admiral meets General Thapa
Admiral Philip S Davidson, commander of the US Army’s Indo-Pacific Command, arrived in Kathmandu on Thursday. Davidson, who is on a two-day official Nepal visit, met with Chief of Army Staff General Purna Chandra Thapa and discussed ways to further cooperation between two armies. According to the Nepal Army Directorate of Public Relations, Davidson will also hold separate meetings with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Defence Minister Ishwor Pokharel during his stay.