NEPALI ARMY SERIES-I: Breakdown Of Traditional Loyalty

By Ameet Dhakal
News Editor, the Kathmandu Post

KATHMANDU, Aug 22 – The Nepali Army (NA) may appear the same old “royal” army from outside but the changes that have taken place within are immense, especially in the way it thinks. Interestingly, what has changed the most is precisely what has been asked about umpteenth times about the army on the street and in the House of Representatives since the April Revolution: it’s loyalty toward the monarch. “It [loyalty] completely broke down after Janaandolan,” said a major who has served 16 years in the army.

Half a dozen army personnel of different ranks whom this scribe interviewed said the king’s hold on the army was over. When asked what would happen if the parties and the Maoists failed to sort out issues in time, giving way to frustration, and in the meantime the king decided on a takeover once again, another major said, “He can’t do it”. After a pause, he added, “Tara usle teso nagarla [But he won’t do that]”. The confidence in their tone and lack of respect for the king in their language are striking. During their entire careers they were taught to use “Maharajdhiraj sarkar and baksinchha” while referring to the king. In about 100 days since the Janaandolan they have comfortably dropped such honorifics and have learnt to speak their mind.

What should be the future of monarchy? Not a single interviewee advocated a republic. Two of them favored some “space” for monarchy. But everyone said if there was a referendum on monarchy its result should be acceptable to all.

“The army is well aware that in the 21st century it can defend monarchy only if the people want it,” said a captain.

All those interviewed, however, showed strong objection to writing off the monarchy in the interim constitution. “The political parties or the Maoists or parliament have no right to decide on the future of an institution that has been around for 238 years,” said C B Gurung, a retired lieutenant general. But he added, “It should be left to the people and the verdict of the sovereign people should be acceptable to all.” The army somehow believes that removing monarchy without the verdict of the people is tantamount to a Maoist victory and the army’s defeat.

What led to this sea change in the army, vis-à-vis its relations with and perception of monarchy is a complex matter. For there are a number of factors at play.

The most striking of these is the elimination of the Shah-Rana clan from the army’s top leadership. By coincidence, among the top seventeen incumbent army generals (those above Brigadier General) none is a Shah or a Rana. That has cut off the monarchy’s flesh-and-blood kinship with the army at the very top.

The monarchy’s links with the army at the lower rungs is far weaker. The pull of globalization and pressure of insurgency have radically changed the profile of the bottom-heavy Nepali Army within a decade. Since immigration to the West became easier in the 90s and life in the army riskier after the insurgency began in 1996, recruitment from the elite class took a nosedive. Almost 50,000 out of the 92,000 currently serving in the NA are not only young but were also recruited after the insurgency began. “This young crowd is somewhat indifferent toward monarchy. The army leadership cannot thrust loyalty to the king upon them even if it wants to,” said another retired general.

The army’s exposure to Nepali society after the insurgency and to the outside world, including to other war-ravaged countries, have also greatly influenced perceptions. A major who led many operations in the field said, “People don’t trust us and hardly provide any information. We are seen as someone’s army, not theirs.” Almost all interviewed army personnel made it a point to emphasize that they are a part of the “national army”.

As the insurgency dragged on and the Maoists and the Seven-Party Alliance entered into the 12-point understanding, the delicate relationship between the army and the king was further strained. A senior army general claimed that top generals had advised the king in writing, through outgoing army chief Pyar Jung Thapa and long before the April movement, that the king should rethink his roadmap.

An anecdote a young officer recounted, of a visit by his boss to a museum while accompanying King Gyanendra during the African Safari, is most revealing. “When we were in the museum, which documented the history of a former monarchy, a thought suddenly came to my mind that this was also the destiny of our own king,” the officer quoted his boss as saying. Perhaps the army had sensed what was coming long ago.

Published by UWB

Pioneering blog from Nepal...since 2004.

25 thoughts on “NEPALI ARMY SERIES-I: Breakdown Of Traditional Loyalty

  1. How come you just understood this thing now? Wagleji turn our history you will find manytimes RNA had guided the king in critical moment even in unification. Many people have the feelings that king always instruct the RNA and RNA obey all, but not necessarily. Who knew that Mussaraf in the plane instruct army to take over the country although President was the chief of the army in Pakistan.

    So, keep it in your mind army is not playing game they have guns in their hand and not obey all the things instructed by their boss. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? Just taking the power of the king, these army will obey everything instructed by the Prime minister…not at all…if they feel danger in their sovereignity and their security they might revolt without supporting anyone…so be cool about writing the reports about the army…they are danger but you cannot throw it for your own security…that is what GPK just understood now…

    UWB: Fanta ji,

    Will you please take note that this article is written by Ameet Dhakal, not Wagle ji? We would highly appreciate if you read the article before commenting on it. Thanks!

  2. It is pretty clear that the lower ranked members of (R)NA do not mind whether there is Mr. Gyanendra or Mr. Prachanda . One can easily sense their feelings when you talk to them face to face.Only the top level staffs are loyal towards royal family.
    Only those who are eager to see monarchy getting abolished soon will support a possible coup.
    And Yes! I have read many times that the army might take over. What I don’t understand is what do these people think king had done on February 1, was that not an army coup? And look how long could the army hold against the power of people.

  3. I heard that army generals are more loyal to their positions than to monarchy or republic or any parties. Witness the infighting among army leadership for the top position. The sort of information which is coming out in the public or in the court is insider information. Otherwise, how can you know birthdate of military officers except if it has been provided by someone inside? The generals love their position more than anything else which is more professional than their inclination to government.

  4. My family is very intricately linked to Nepali Army. From the article i came to know that army is basically not supporting the King “now”. Before it was totally different thing.

    Before they were taught to serve the King and only after that the country came in second. Now we hope that Army will understand what is love for one’s country. In the article , the author missed one point which is very important in Nepal i. e. loyalty. Is the army required to be loyal to The PM or to a particular pary in power ? So,

    DO NOT POLITICISE THE ARMY IN PARTY LINES LIKE POLICE AND BUREAUCRACY.That should be the Mantra of today. If they do partiality in the process of promotion or certain lucrative assignments on the basis of money or connections it may invite desaster in the Army.

  5. The structure of Army has long been independent of King. Monarchy never wantonly promoted nepotism or clan based promotions. To those near, it was quite evident and is evident now. The same cannot be said of Political party or for that matter Maoist where nepotism and favoritism abounds. ( Girja’s Sujata and Baburam daughter’s walking the halls of school in Western Univ. etc.,) Now the question is- why was army vilified, made into mafia like organization whereas Maoist who have killed, displaced and by their actions unaccountable comon citizens have disappeared be praised as Joan of Arc. To talk about loss of respect and civilian character in the army is heresy- to expect and to get civilian character from the army is weakness rather than other way around- which the author implies. Its a double edged sword. No wonder certain elitist group think that army should be more civilian rather than what they are and some just outright want to disband the army- I ask these kind what is your REAL intent. A nation without an army is not a nation but a state ( is this where you want to lead us).

    The hope is that even after onslaught after onslaught of salvo against army, they have remained true and committed but if push comes to shove- army as an institution can act in a manner like a cornered tiger.

    The hope is that right sense prevail and see the real picture rather than distorted with intention to malign, create biasness, and pure and pure vindictive. This nation demands and deserves better.

  6. can any one publish me the top 17 list of brigadeer generals ? i am sure that they must be closely associated with royalist

  7. Reign,
    I do not agree with even the first sentence of the post. You said “Structure of the army has long been independent of King”. What does it mean man ? Be reasonable. Then why Ranas and Shahas were only made COAS ?

    Eventhough, RANA SHASHAN has gone away only on the Jestha 4 this year, there is still Rana Shashan is prevalent in the NA. Just Last week, there was Mutiny in Pokhara and some police officers were abducted by Rana officer in the capital and beaten in the army barracks.

  8. Cummon Amitji,
    You must be daydreaming!!!

    Army still is very much loyal to the king. Its only because of the current unity of SPA that army has backed their step. We should all be cautious that this may be one step behind to take two steps ahead in the future.

    I dont trust the current army setup of Nepal at all. This set up is made up for puppets of Royal Family.

    However, all politicians should now once and for all understand that “UNITED IS THE MAIN KEY TO SOLUTION”.

    SPA should in fact Court Martial and give Sever Punishment to all those who were involved in Royal Coup, when the arrested the Peoples elected Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba.
    I am still shocked that SPA has not dared to take action against these armed officers and police officers.
    Why is this high level committe just focusing on 19 days of atrocity. They should focus on what happened since the king Gyanendra first took over the ordering to arrest Elected Prime Minister.

  9. What happened to the armed officers who beat a Nepali Congress MP around a year ago despite him claiming that he was MP of Rastriya Sabha?

    According to news, army officers actually started beating him after he stated that he was member of Rastriya Sabha.

  10. First of all there should be a real leader for the Nepalese people who is impartial, fair and true representation of Nepalese people.

    If Nepal can provide such leadership to head the government, then he/she will definitely be able to command the army, and even command the Maoists.

    However, currently we are having leaders like Girija, Makune and Kaju Kanchha……..and how on earth will they ever expect to provide leadership to army.

    The current leaders are doing nothing but becoming followers of the tyrant and blood thirsty Maoists, headed by KILLER PRACHANDA AND HIS CRONIES.

  11. Judging by all this maybe the government should be cautious of promoting RANAs and THAKURIS to the high ranks ARMY, then only the country can see some change in loyality.

    Otherwise these rascals who have been sucking Nepal in the name of army since unification of Nepal will continue to do so one way or the other.

  12. 123,
    U dont need the list of top 17. Even if you get list of top 170, they will all be loyal to the king no doubt about it.

  13. i try my best to refrain from commenting here, but my incorrigible urge to rant prevails. so, here i go!!

    as some gentleman said above– ‘army brass’ is not loyal to anyone but its position/station.
    very apt observation, i would have to say.

    look at it from the perspective of evolution– genes evolves/mutates in the milieu around it, as it best fits. so, is the loyalty of civil servants, be it in military or civilian institutions.

    you are going to be loyal to someone/something as long as there is something for you. if the ‘army’ were to go under the parliament, loyalty of army at least at the top brass would swiftly shift to the politicians.

    well you can be as incriminating as you want after reading this comment, or may be philosophical on the loyalty since it is driven by your high morals/conscience. but whatever, loyalty is fickle.

    well, if you are faithful to someone for that matter anyone with unquestionable faith—that makes you ‘Dog.’

  14. Yahoo,
    Since we have seen armed forces in Nepal following the same group or Shahs/Ranas with “UNQUESTIONABLE FAITH” since the Unification of Nepal, should we regard them as “Dog” or “Dogs”??

    Unfortunately, it just reminds me of Neitzche’s “Slave Morality”……

    Not only in armed forces but even amonst general people.

    Otherwise why are we following same people like Shahs, Ranas, and now KOIRALAs…..since a long time.

    It just seems as if people are looking for a “Master” one way or other…..either it be in His Majesty the King, His Rt Honorable Prime Minister Girija Prasad, Supreme Commander Late Ganesh Man Singh……..and now…His highness Prachanda………

    We have seen that people in Nepal are more than ready to follow not only the leader but also their incompetent family memebers……as u can see in the case of all those mentioned above whose offsprings are suddenly now the leaders of Nepal……Sujata…..and now we have even witnessed Home Minister of the Government of Nepal escorting wife of His Highness, Mr Prachanda……..goodness gracious……there’s a limit man.

  15. News from INSEC

    NC Democratic Cadre Abducted
    Sindhuli/ August 22

    Maoists have abducted Nepali Congress Democratic cadre Bir Bhadra Raut, 39, of Tallo Ranibas in Ranibas VDC-5 from his house on August 21.

    According to district leader of Maoist Narayan Bhattarai, the local committee might have called him for general inquiry. However, he said that the district contact office of the Maoist had not received any formal information on the case.

    The Maoists had abducted the victim back on May 17, 2003 and released him after taking donation of rupees one lakh.

    Locals say that the victim was abducted by local Maoist leader Hemlal and released today afternoon.

  16. Escorting business has been criticised in higher circle in kathmandu. Well guys, that’s the destiny of aman born in Jhapa some 50 years ago and who had the profession of a poor lawyer without client.Once he himself was a radical communist because he was under 20.

    What he can do ? His country is ravaged by the rabies by the maoists and he has to make the talks successful. If you read the whole 26 point code of conduct, 12 point agreement and another 8 point understanding and finally 5 point agreement sent to UN, nowhere you will find the desrmament of Maoists. So we are creating confusion over confusion. If you can create greatest confusion in Nepal, you are the biggest leader like Girija Koiralo.

    We nepalese particularly so called have become more like rumour mongers and confusion makers.We are not precise and to the point.So our problem will multiply in a couple of days and our Dahsai can become a Dasha. It has become already dasha because of soaring of prices. iam convinced that Girija will give us good gift before he departs for his heavenly abode.

  17. It is 25 point code of conduct. If you add all points it will be 50. We need another 50 points to have complete peace in Nepal.For the people, your business is to add the points of the Agreement.At last, you will be confused about which point to which point. Ha ha ha ha ha

  18. Great Limbu,
    Simply great !!!

    You just painted the exact picture.

    Dont take it as flattery, but you should have been a political critic…

    BTW, you pointed the point issue in the best expressable way!!!

    I hope everybody will see a point!!

    Keep it up mate.

  19. No wonder the song “Kanchhi lai ghumaunla Kathmandu Sahara” is so popular in rural Nepal.

    Chairman Prachanda kept his promise to Mrs Prachanda, thats all guys… need to be so excited about it. Otherwise…..oooh I’m scared man.

    No no I fully support the inclusion of Mrs Prachanda in his visits to Kathmandu, India etc. I even supporter of inclusion of his son in law as leader of Party’s Prabasi (Diaspora) Committee.
    What difference would have been made if Ram Bahadur Thapa “Badal” , Hisila Yami or Pamfa Bhusal would have been included…….. nothing……and its even doubtful if they are fully Prachandapathbad……so inclusion of Mrs Prachanda is a better choice.

  20. Mr. Dhakal,
    I had already said it before and am saying the following again. I’m afraid it has taken people like you too long to realise something which I have insisted on. The problem is no one listens and no one tries to do some proper research into this. I quote myself:

    “The army now and throughout history has represented the power center of the state. If it was the King then they followed his orders, if the parliament then they followed their orders. The fact is the army will follow orders, and in the 1990’s the way the constitution was made, they had two bosses – the King and the PM representing the parliament. If these two did not agree, the army could do nothing. Both had to agree with matters regarding the army. This is not the fault of the army, it was in the constituion. If the army was all for the King then what the hell were they doing for 104 years when Jung Bahadur a simple soldier took over and established the Rana sashan after which the army was following only the orders of Prime Ministers? The fact of the matter is, the army will support whoever is in the modern context the defacto head of state, and in the older context whoever gave Nepal it’s stability. This showed their commitment to a stable Nepal. Of course, the army is always suspicious of weak governments, as this makes them nervous with regard to the stability of the nation – who would’nt be?
    But the bottom line is they follow orders. So it is time the PM and parliament behaved like they are representing the people and showed us the strength and drive for stability which not only institutions like the army but the entire nation is looking for.”

  21. United,

    I’m afraid army officers should be promoted according to their ability not caste or creed and so goes for all professions. It’s easy to generalise populist and politically loaded notions, but do you also know the greatest republicans from the Rana days and beyond were people like Bharat Shumshere Rana, Jagdish Shumshere Rana and Shanta Sumshere Rana (not to mention Ranas who were democrats and supported the Congress – eg. Subharna Shumshere (founded and funded the Congress party). These Ranas were commanding a militia of their own with the backing of Indians to chuck our King Mahendra and establish a republican order well before any other party or person thought of the term, – the plan fell through when the Sino-Indian war broke out. Even people like Baburam Bhattarai has said that he was inspired to take up “his” cause after reading a book written by Bharat Shumshere on socialism. Shanta Shumshere in later years also attempted a failed assasination attempt on King Mahendra. They all lived in exile in India. No one talks much of them these days because they are (you guessed it) Ranas. And by the way, they were not Ranas without power to boot or Ranas sidelined in any way, they were very much in the core during the Rana sashan,(Shanta Shumshere’s father was PM Juddha Shumshere and Bharat and Jagdish were grandsons of the powerful Babar Shumshere, son of PM Chandra, they even rebelled against their own fathers), they could have easily kicked back and enjoyed the ride.
    I urge people not to genralise these issues. I agree that the Ranas or Shahs who made it to the top in tha past may have had loyalties to the palace, but who is counting the Ranas and Shahs who were damned capable but did not make it to the top because they were not into chakari of the palace or the parties for that matter.

  22. Scoop you are quite right. Army just follow the instruction of th boss and which is existing till now.

    My question is if boss become weak then what they will do is the real problem of today. SPA might be out of scenario after October like king now. Hisila already announced it in the public, either follow their guidelines otherwise they will go for October revolution. Till now no SPA has given the answer to it because they worried. The situation of today is maoist just threatening and threatening and SPA is just listening and obeying without intereacting. How long this government go in this way…the day might come Mr. Sitaula might surrender himself to maoist…whereas general people are almost ready to face for maoist rule in the country..that is why they are arraning their properties and low income groups are expecting good in future…UML low level candidates are almost in the process of merging with maoist and some middle and high level are also ready..congress are almost ready to settle their things…how come in this situation people talk and expect about full democracy, all are confused even congress hardcore activists…

  23. In real- Maoist have total control of the country sides- they used to say 75 % was under Maoist rule 2 years ago but now Maoist control more than 90%. Just ask anyone coming from villages. SPA is non existent, its like dog strapped to a post- only barks whereas Maoist run the affairs from land to tenders and governance.

    In context of army- the way the SPA has disparaged Army the likelihood is when time comes- army will leave them high and dry. And it will be understandable. And to those who think Army is fiefdom of Ranas and Shahs- you are just trying to incite unwarranted action, a provocation in the line of Maoist strategy. Reverse discrimination and a case of inferiority complex and a class envy.

  24. Nepal may end up like the fate of Iraq with no unifying force if the Monarchy is removed. The institution of the Monarchy must remain constitutional and protected if Nepal is to survive as a nation, not forgeting the very same institution founded and kept Nepal soverign and safe through the centuries.

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