Who does Nepal’s border security ? A widely raised question as India continues encroachment in Nepal’s land

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Purnachandra Thapa had said at a program organized at the Army Headquarters, Jangi Adda on June 7 on the occasion of 1000 days of his tenure regarding border security.

To make his point, he also brought forward the new structure of the Nepal Army, which is being implemented towards the end of his three-year tenure. “The new structure put forward by the army addresses the strategic aspect and development in terms of the country’s security,” Thapa said. He said that he could not agree with anyone who believed that the Nepal Nation and the Nepal Army were small, we were weak and therefore the country could not be defended.

The army has set up a new structure in the style of three plus one, i.e. three plus one, since July. According to the structure, the Eastern Command (based on the flow of the Koshi River), the Central Command (based on the flow of the Gandaki River) and the Western Command (based on the flow of the Karnali River) have been tightened. In addition, the Valley Command has also been set up, giving importance to security in the Valley.

For the first time in Thapa’s time, the organization has set up a ‘Directorate of Survey and Border Security’ at the Army Headquarters to focus on border security. The directorate, which was set up last year, is said to be tasked with reviewing old documents and gathering information on boundaries.

Speaking to media persons and senior army officials at the battlefield, Thapa said that it was an international practice not to cross the border under normal circumstances. ‘In times of war or crisis, the army is deployed at the border when needed. But under normal circumstances, the army does not go to the border to provide security, ”he said.

While Chief of Army Staff Thapa said that his organization was capable of border security, encroachments were taking place in various parts of Nepal from its neighbors. If the border area is being encroached, the Prime Minister, ministers and high security officials are demanding that encroachment be allowed at the center. Complaints have already started at the level of the general public. Where and what are the army and other security agencies doing when there is border crossing and various activities? The question has also been raised.

There have been two major incidents at the border in the past one year. First, while India was constructing a road across the Mahakali River, rocks and soil fell on the hill and the road to Nepal was closed. Second, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh thanked his Border Road Organization (BRO) for constructing the road from Dharchula in India to Mansarovar, a religious site in Tibet, via Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura in Nepal. As a result, Nepal’s border security has once again been questioned.

Under normal circumstances, the paramilitary security organization Armed Police Force (APF) has been protecting the border area in Nepal. One of the main responsibilities of the APF is border security. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, there are currently 217 APF BOPs (Border Outdoor Posts) on the Indian side and 7 on the Chinese side for border security. The government plans to add 120 BOPs to the border areas between India and China in the coming fiscal year.

Armed Police Force (APF) Nepal

Even if an APF team is deployed at the border, encroachment on Nepali territory does not seem to have stopped. Infrastructures are being built in the Nepali border area every year. The APF, which is based in the border area, has not been able to do anything about it. Although the APF informed the Home Ministry about the ongoing infrastructure construction in the border area through its mechanism, the Home Ministry does not seem to take it seriously.

But Binoj Basnyat, a retired superintendent and security informant, argues that the current APF should not be used to strengthen Nepal’s border security. He suggests the need for a separate border security organization. “If border security had been successful in the current situation, the country’s borders would not have been encroached upon. I have seen the need for a separate mechanism for border security as there is no existing mechanism, “he said.” If there was an existing mechanism, why would there be such a problem? ”

Like Basnyat, a seminar organized by the National Security Council with the active participation of the Nepal Army on February 7 and 8, 2021 to strengthen the border security and management of the security forces at the battlefield and APF’s Halchowk proposed to the Government of Nepal to set up a ‘separate mechanism’. The proposal was submitted by the then co-coordinator of the council secretariat and army chief Sahadev Khadka to the concerned Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office.

According to sources, the secretariat of the council has not yet received a clear answer to the proposal. During the conference, four security agencies, including the Army, APF, Nepal Police and the National Investigation Commission, were present.

The seminar concluded that although 19 different bodies of the country have played a role in border security and management, it has not been effective. Speaking at the closing ceremony of the second and final day of the seminar, Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa and Inspector General of APF Shailendra Khanal stressed on the need to develop the Armed Police Force as a ‘dedicated force’ for border security and management. This was different from the proposal made by the National Security Council Secretariat, which has armed officials, to create a “separate joint mechanism with authority”. Due to this issue, there is no good relationship between the army and the APF regarding border security.

Security expert Geja Sharma Wagle, on the other hand, said that the responsibility of border security has been handed over to the APF as per the law of Nepal. ‘Since the responsibility for national security falls on the Nepal Army, it is natural for the army to be interested in border security. But the army must cooperate and coordinate with the APF to secure the border and national security. For that, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Home Affairs also have to play an effective role, ‘he said.

Rabiraj Thapa, a retired AIG of the Armed Police Force and a security expert, said that the first thing that needs to be done in the current situation is for the Nepali side to respond from the same level as the Indian border. ‘Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made a statement about the construction of roads in Nepali territory, where our Prime Minister and Ministers have disappeared. Did they miss the answer to Singh? ‘He asked. Thapa suggests that when the road is closed on Nepali land and the road on Nepali land is closed, the APF chief should immediately go and make an on-site observation. He said it was not important to set up a new mechanism for border security or a dedicated APF team. “The main thing here is how freely the security personnel deployed for border security are allowed to carry out their responsibilities. If the security personnel are not able to work properly, it is the same even if a mechanism is set up, ‘he said.

At present, the Center seems to have paid attention to only a few of the many incidents coming from the border areas. The Ministry of Home Affairs, which is in charge of national peace and security, seems to have little focus on border security. The House should address the issue through diplomatic initiatives in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not seem to be able to act effectively. “Our foreign minister and the ministry have not spoken on such a sensitive issue,” said AIG Thapa, a retired APF member. Why didn’t anyone speak? ‘

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