NEW DELHI: India on Thursday played down Nepal’s refusal to join the military exercise being hosted in India under the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical & Economic Cooperation) banner.
In what was widely seen as a direct snub to New Delhi, after earlier declining to take part in the anti-terror drill now underway in Pune, Nepal’s newly appointed Army Chief Purna Chandra Thapa cited other engagements to excuse himself from the army chiefs’ conclave at the conclusion of the exercise. Reports that Nepal would take part in Sagarmatha Friendship-2, another scheduled joint anti-terror military exercise with China from September 17 to 28 in Chengdu added further fuel to the controversy.
“It is not a snub, only recently a person has taken charge (as Army Chief). There are some protocol and non-protocol customary things that I am told they do before they get into nitty-gritties and these are all fixed. As a result of that, he has legitimately excused himself,” defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told a daily in an interview printed Thursday.
Another official pointed out that BIMSTEC worked on a consensus basis, and Nepal had every right to refuse “for whatever reason it sees as relevant, and one should not turn into a needless controversy.”