Nepal set to skip BIMSTEC joint military drill in India

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n a shocking turn of events, the Nepal army has decided to skip the BIMSTEC anti-terror drill to be held in Pune from September 10-16. The proposal for the joint military drill was first forwarded by the Indian Army in June, followed by an initial meeting of BIMSTEC senior army officials in New Delhi.

While the Nepalese Army will not participate in the military exercise, sources said that Nepal will be represented by a three-member observer team. Apart from the military drill, the Indian Army chief will hold a conference at the conclusion of the exercise with all the army chiefs of BIMSTEC nations.

Kundan Aryal, press advisor to Prime Minister of Nepal Khadga Prasad Oli, told PTI that Nepal will not join the week-long joint military drill to be held in Pune from September 10. “Nepal will not take part in the BIMSTEC joint military exercise. This is the official decision of the government,” he said.

Aryal, however, did not give any details but indicated that the concerned ministry may issue a formal statement soon. The government’s decision came after strong criticism from different quarters, including influential leaders from the ruling Nepal Communist Party.

What is BIMSTEC? 

The Bay of Bengal Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Co-operation is a regional arrangement between India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Srilanka and Thailand. The group came into existence in 1997 during a special ministerial meeting in Bangkok with five initial members. Nepal and Bhutan were later inducted in the group in February 2004. Its recent meet was held in August 2018 in Nepal.

The BIMSTEC region is home to around 1.5 billion people which constitute around 22% of the global population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 2.7 trillion economy. In the last five years, BIMSTEC member states have been able to sustain an average 6.5% economic growth trajectory despite global financial meltdown.