The Nepal Army (NA) has conceded that it wrote to America for participation in the State Partnership Program (SPP).
NS Spokesperson Narayan Silwal said Thursday night that the NA wrote to SPP not for military partnership but for cooperation in disaster management after the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015. "This letter was written in the context of 2015. There was a huge loss of life and properties due to the great earthquake. Normal life was chaotic. Nepal had urged international institutions and agencies for rescue," Silwal told Setopati. "Army had arrived from dozens of friendly nations including China, India, Pakistan, America and Britain for rescue works. The NA had done all coordination."
He explained that the process for participation in SPP was initiated with permission of the government after national cognizance of the fact that the NA was weak in resources and expertise deeming that it would be difficult to carry out relief and rescue works if a bigger disaster were to strike Nepal.
"It is the National Gurad that is deployed for disaster management in America. It has networks across America and has capacity and resources. The regular army is not mobilized for disaster management and mostly deployed abroad," he elaborated. "We didn't write the letter to join any military alliance, and have not signed any written agreement, and not complied with any preconditions."
He claimed that the four points in the letter did not mention about military training with the first point talking about disaster management, the second about helicopter, cargo and military logistics, the third about protection of airports, helipads and other infrastructure, and the fourth about making the army mobilized for disaster management well-resourced.
He reiterated that the first letter was sent in 2015 with permission of the then government (led by KP Sharma Oli) and was followed up in 2017, and added that cooperation with the US Army is done now and will be done in the future accordingly.
The NA, earlier, had not acknowledged that it had applied to participate in SPP. It issued a statement Wednesday evening claiming that no agreement or understanding has been signed about the SPP.
"The Nepal Army has not signed any agreement or understanding about the SPP with the US Army or government, and there is no process toward signing such agreement," the NA statement says. "The Nepal Army is always clear about the objective fact about not doing military partnership in the future with anyone in a way that can adversely affect the non-aligned foreign policy adopted by Nepal and Nepal's special geopolitical location and strategic sensitivities."
The NA statement mentioned that no agreement or understanding had been signed about the SPP but it did not speak about the claims of the US Embassy that it had first applied for participation in 2015 and then again in 2017.