Nepal will not participate in the week-long joint military exercise of Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) countries beginning Tuesday in Pune.
The withdrawal of the Nepal Army from the event — a first-of-its-kind in BIMSTEC history which is yet to be announced officially — comes in the wake of stringent criticism from the ruling and opposition parties in the country, warning Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli that the move would go against the country’s history of following a policy of keeping equal distance from its neighbours, without ever being part of a regional bloc militarily.
A senior official in the Nepal Army, who did not want to be identified, said the last minute decision of the army to “cancel” its participation came after an oral instruction from Oli, barely a day before a group of five officials and 30 junior personnel from the country were set to leave for Pune. The contingent was to leave Friday night.
The issue had dominated the discourse in Nepal parliament and media, after PM Narendra Modi at the recent BIMSTEC summit held in Kathmandu had requested the member states to join the joint military exercise.
The field training exercise will be conducted between September 10 and 16 at the Foreign Training Node at Aundh in Pune. Armies of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal were to participate in it.