The Nepali Army has begun the procurement process of acquiring weapons from a Chinese company that has been accused of providing inexpensive arms to South Asian and African nations, reported e-Pardafas. The report adds that the army will procure the arms from North Industries Corporation (NORINCO) without conducting any competitive bidding. The army has made the decision to purchase around USD 6 billion worth of weapons.
The purchasing procedure has begun once a formal agreement was signed. Progress was achieved in obtaining 26 APCs, 72 tactical vehicles, and ammunition from China while Sher Bahadur Deuba was the former prime minister. Defence Minister Purna Bahadur Khadka seems uninformed of this development and is denying any involvement in the decision-making process on social media.
There have been shortages of weaponry and equipment that other nations, including Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Pakistan, had previously purchased from China. For instance, Bangladesh realised that the tank engines it had purchased from China in the years 2012-2013 were of substandard quality, e-Pardafas reported.
The F-22P, which Pakistan’s Navy purchased from China, has also caused issues. Even Nepal has experienced difficulties, as the Nepal Airlines Corporation lost a lot of money because of issues with the planes it bought from China. According to reports, Lokendra Karki, a Nepali agent, is serving as a middleman to import weapons from China at a premium over the going rate. Lokendra Karki is the brother of Nepali Congress leader and former minister Gyanendra Bahadur Karki.
Some senior Nepali Army officers are under suspicion for potential mismanagement and dishonesty in the acquisition of weapons in the context of the country’s unsteady political climate and the current period of transition. Military sources, cited by e-Pardafas, said that the Nepali Army is planning to purchase armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from China after being lured by the significant commission being provided by the Chinese government. The Nepali Army had previously procured weapons from Korea, but issues with the equipment led to their search for China. Notably, the Chinese company had earlier been represented in Nepal by Umesh Shrestha and Roshan Shrestha before Karki took over their role upon their expiration.
Umesh Shrestha, the Nepali representative of the Norinco Company, has reportedly filed a complaint with the military headquarters, Bhadrakali, alleging that he was forced to resign from his position. Meanwhile, Karki, who was involved in the Nepali Army’s previous purchase of weapons from South Korea, has been holding secretive meetings with high-ranking officials such as Chief of Army Staff Prabhuram Sharma, Defense Minister Khadka, and representatives of Chinese arms companies, according to e-Pardafas. Sources mentioned by e-Pardafas indicate that Karki is actively involved in the procurement process and has been negotiating on Nepali Army’s behalf.
Attempts to sell weapons to the Nepali Army have also been made by the South Korean business S&T Motive, but they have been unsuccessful in getting the military officials to agree to a commission of up to 50 per cent in exchange for buying their weaponry and arranging payment through a third country. The Nepali government has not yet decided whether or not to buy any weapons. Rekha Sharma, the minister of communication and information technology, said at a regular press conference that the Council of Ministers had not been informed of any decision to purchase guns from China and that no proposal had been made in this respect by the Ministry of Defence, e-Pardafas reported.
The purchase procedure has advanced, and the Nepali Army has begun the second phase after completing the first phase’s payment process, despite Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’s interest in this matter. According to sources, Prabhuram Sharma, the chief of army staff, will soon travel to China. Additionally, Purna Bahadur Khadka, Nepal’s defence minister, and the Chinese ambassador to Nepal met last week.
The Chief of Army Staff, according to reports, is in favour of an open procurement procedure, but other military officers are pressuring it to move forward, e-Pardafas reported. The army intends to buy additional Chinese weapons in the future; this is simply the first stage of the acquisition process. In terms of both military and economic cooperation with the Nepali Army, China seems to have made substantial advancements. Sources quoted by the e-Pardafas claim that after the Fast Track deal, a Major General in the Nepali Army who is connected to the former Chief of Army Staff, Purnachandra Thapa, bought the property in Dubai and Thailand. Furthermore, according to insiders, there are concerns over China’s expanding influence in the Nepalese army.
According to sources, a letter was issued to the Military Welfare Fund to set up payment for the recent contract with the Chinese firm Norinco. The agreement involves the purchase of 26 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) at a rate of USD 538,000 per unit, 94 tactical vehicles at USD 250,000 per unit, and thousands of 12.7 mm bullets. According to sources, a letter was sent to the Army Welfare Fund last week to arrange the contract amount with the Chinese company for the purchase of Chinese weapons. It is believed that the fund is exploring the possibility of arranging payment through Himalayan Bank or Rashtra Bank and is preparing to make the payment for the purchase of weapons this week, e-Pardafas reported.