The integration of Maoist combatants into the Nepalese army has become a very contentious issue. The Maoist-led government wants to integrate the Peoples’ Liberation Army into the national army but the opposition Nepali Congress Party and others have raised objections against this move.
A People's Liberation Army soldier stands guard in Kathmandu
Barshaman Pun Ananta, a former deputy commander of the Maoist People’s Liberation Army and now a Maoist MP in Katmandhu, recently made the following announcement:
"The government will soon form a special committee as per the constitution. The committee will decide whether to integrate all of the PLA -- or only those who meet certain requirements into the Nepalese army."
A Monitoring of the Management of Arms and Armies agreement was met between the government and the Maoists in December 2006. Afterwards, the United Nations registered almost 20,000 Maoist combatants. Around 90 percent were farmers from rural areas and did not receive any official military training. Those who object to the integration of members of the PLA want them to receive proper training first.
Opposition is concerned
The opposition Nepali Congress Party is against the integration of the PLA into the Nepalese army, which it says is a professional body. It does not trust the Maoists who were involved in a bloody conflict for years. Minendra Rijal is a senior leader of the Nepali Congress Party:
"The Maoists want to restructure the Nepal Army. Restructure in the sense that there is a unit of PLA and another one is Nepal Army. They want to integrate them. That’s not how integration carried out in the world. They would now like to control all organization so that they can fully capture the state."
It has warned the Maoists that another round of conflict may envelop the country if they try to integrate all the combatants without giving them professional training. But it says it will accept the integration of PLA combatants who meet the requirements of the Nepalese army.
Difficult integration process
Barshaman Pun Ananta thinks this will not be an issue: " We will accept the decision of special committee and the government will look after those who do not meet the given requirements. But basically we think that all the combatants do fulfil the criteria because the United Nations have verified this already."
But some experts think that only some PLA combatants will be integrated into the national army. They say the Maoist leadership will find it difficult to deal with them. Kunda Dixit is a senior journalist in Kathmandu:
"I feel there is already a political understanding. I think the biggest hurdle is for the Maoist leadership led by Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to convince his own guerrilla commander out in the United Nations’ supervise cantonments that there won’t be full integration. That’s the main issue. It’s not about between the army and the Maoists. It’s within the Maoist party how the leadership can solve this idea."
Some defence experts believe the matter will be solved within a few months. They say all the mechanisms are already in place. The comprehensive peace agreement states that a few thousand combatants will be integrated into the army. The others will be rehabilitated into civilian society.