6. Civil Military Relations
The Civil Military Relationship (CMR) is a political concept. It was developed in western democratic nations and permeated throughout the world with the spread of democracy. The prime cannon of civil supremacy is that the armed forces are controlled and accountable to the elected civilian authority. Samuel P. Huntington writes that the ‘slogan of civilian control’ over the military was the invention of parliamentarians as a way of increasing their power vis-a-vis the British Crown during the 17th and 18th centuries31. Reviewing the global literature, there are several forms of civil-military relations, which can be summarized as follows. First, civil supremacy over armed forces; second, a direct coup in which military officers hold power; third, a silent coup in which military officers control or manipulate the politicians who formally hold power; and last, a politically trained military of a specific political party but under civil control. Except “civil supremacy over armed forces” all forms create an asymmetrical relationship between civil and military institutions.
The long history of the civil- military relations seems asymmetrical in Nepal. For more than 240 years the Nepal Army (formerly the Royal Nepal Army) has been under the control of the Rana ruling family and monarchy in turn. Indra Adhikari writes-
“The Nepali military has been invariably used for personal interest of the rulers rather than for national interest…. [as] The capacity of military in Nepal began to decrease…. Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa … became commander-in-chief (C-in-C) General in 1806-37… recruited all his brothers into the main posts of the army. He consolidated power of the state by taking the army under his control and sidelined all his opponents by using it. …similarly Jung Bahadur Kunwar…. highly centralized the army in the Rana family…. He distributed all
major posts of the army to their brothers, sons and relatives, and promoted them for consolidation of power as well for [preserving] his and his family’s rule”.
The long history shows that the Army institution is viewed as protecting the interests of the king rather than security and the interests of the nation and people or democratic government. The current debate on the civilian supremacy is part of it. In fact; the NA has had a controversial history; having been loyal to the monarchy in the past. According to veteran security analyst Dhurba Kumar “The army-monarchy relationships was further consolidated by king Mahendra with the adoption of the Military Act 1959, and deepened further when the ‘Act on Right, Duty, Function and Terms of the service of the Commander-in Chief 1969’ made the Chief of the Army Staff (CoAS) responsible and accountable to his majesty rather than the Government”33. Thus, the previous Nepal Army formally converted into Royal Nepal Army under the Mahendra’s active regime. Military strength thus shifted from Singha Darbar to Narayanhity Darbar.
It is generally considered that the Nepal Army as an institution has not been influenced by the popular will, due to 1960 royal coup and continued attachment with the king and his courtiers. Even during democratic movements, the army has supported autocratic regimes. The army suppressed popular uprisings, killing the NC rebels in the post-sixty period. During the drafting of the constitution in 1990, the then Royal Nepal Army implicitly put pressure on the interim prime minister to retain the “sovereignty” of the king, because for the army, the king remained “the sole personification of the State34.” During the 30-year Panchayat era (1960-90), the entire security system including the military was staffed by confidants of king. The slogan “Rajbhakti, Hamro Shakti”(loyalty to the king is the power of the army) laid plain the feudal culture of the army. The then Chief of Army Staff, Pyar Jung Thapa, gave a key note speech to the graduate officer cadets at the 11th convocation of the Command and Staff College of the RNA on 14 May 2004. The keynote speech reads:
“The crown is the symbol of our identity and the Kinships is the progenitor and guardian of the Royal Nepal Army along with the unalterable symbol of Nepali nationalism and national unity. The faith devotion and the trust of the people towards the Crown have remained the essence of Nepali nationalism since time immemorial. All Nepalese should therefore be united towards preserving the symbol of our identity along with the fundamentals of our national interests (CoAS 2004).”
The popular democratic movement 1990 has changed the political landscape; Nepal became a multiparty democracy with a constitutional parliamentary monarchy and power was transferred from the king to political parties. However, national security was still the exclusive domain of the palace. Rather than bringing the army under civilian control, politicians of the post-1990 multi-party eras opted for it’s neglect37. The post-1990 democratic government could not democratize the Nepal Army, but stopped further recruitment and tried to restrict the RNA, encouraging the Nepal Police by allocating more resources to them for seven years. A likely result of this policy was PM Koirala’s resignation when the army could not be mobilized against the Maoists in Holeri in July of 2001.
Recently, civilian supremacy versus military supremacy has become the most confrontational issue since Nepal began the peace process. When the NA did not accept the orders of the Puspa Kamal Dhal (Maoist) led government, with the support of the other 22-parties in the Constituent Assembly (CA) and president, the Maoists were furious with all of them. It resulted in the disruption of the CA meetings continuously, likely delaying the formation of the New Constitution. Without a timely constitution drafting, Nepal will likely suffer from insecurity, which promotes a culture of impurity. The Maoists had four options available to them: withdraw from their stand on sacking the CoAS citing international and national pressure; sack the CoAS due to his refusal of the decisions of the civilian government; sack him on the grounds of his nearly launching a coup against civilian authority; and resign from the government. Unwilling, to follow the first, and having exhausted the second and third, the party took the last option. Thereafter, Nepal has remained in a new confrontation leading to further uncertainty of the peace process.
This article continues here.