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date: 25 June 2024

Nepal: The Role of the Military in Politics, 1990–2020locked

Nepal: The Role of the Military in Politics, 1990–2020locked

  • Bishnu Raj UpretiBishnu Raj UpretiNepal Center for Contemporary Research

Summary

Historically, the military in Nepal was closely associated with and loyal to the institution of the monarchy and was intended to operate in the interests of the palace. However, the military was forced to confront political change in 1990 as the power of the king beyond that of the constitution was scrapped and Nepal was limited to a constitutional monarchy. Consequently, the military theoretically came under civilian control with the advent of the end of a partyless political system and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. The palace reluctantly accepted this change but covertly continued consolidating power by using the military. Hence, the already cemented mistrust between political parties and the military mounted. Political parties viewed the military as a royal army and the military perceived political parties as unpatriotic and aligned with foreign powers. This hidden tension remained and was reflected in many instances until the abolition of the institution of the monarchy in May 2008 by the Nepali parliament. From 1990 to 2010, the military endured very difficult periods such as continuous combat (February 1996–November 2006) with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [CPN(M)], the royal massacre (the entire family of King Birendra was assassinated), sharp criticisms of its armed conflict related to human rights violations, a cessation of military support from the international community, the abolition of the monarchy, which had existed in Nepal for 240 years, confinement along with CPN(M) ex-combatants per the provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), tensions with the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) and the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), attempts by the CPN(M) government to politicize the military, and the removal of the military chief. In all these events, the military was indirectly and directly dragged in political maneuvering. In some cases, it fully dragged while in others only partially so, and in some cases, it failed entirely.

Further, in the past three decades, from 1990 to 2020, the military has been sharply criticized for engagements in business beyond its traditional military role and for not respecting civilian supremacy. However, the military has also been highly praised for its acceptance of the republican system. All Nepali citizens have praised the military’s natural disaster relief work during floods, earthquakes, avalanches, fires, landslides, air and other transportation disasters, its search and rescue operations, medical assistance and evacuation efforts, air rescues and mass evacuations, flood control, reconstruction of damaged vital infrastructures, and construction of temporary shelters for homeless citizens. It is clear that the Ministry of Defense and the military require further security sector reforms and better civil–military relations as well as ensuring parliamentary oversight in the spirit of the National Security Policy and Nepal’s constitution.

Subjects

  • Political Behavior
  • Political Institutions

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