Nepal Today

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NEPAL ARMY BEING DEPLOYED IN IRAQ

UML, NC CENTRAL COMMITTEES MEET WEDNESDAY
Kathmandu, 1 June; Central committees of the UML leading the government and main opposition NC begin later Wednesday.
UML central meet resumes Wednesday after it met briefly Tuesday.
The meeting will resume discussions on the implementation of a five-point agreement between the Big Three—Maoists, NC and UML—for formation of a national government, completion of the peace process and constitution drafting.
The committee will also discuss demand of KP Sharma Oli leading a section in the party demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Jhalanath Khanal.
Main opposition NC central committee also meets Wednesday after Sunday’s extension of a constituent assembly by three more months.
The party is leading a campaign for the dismantling of the majority communist Khanal government and formation of a national unity government.
The party central committee meets after the main opposition softened stiff demands for immediate resignation of the government and immediate surrender of Maoist weapons in containers as pre-conditions for assembly term extension.
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OHCHR-N TENURE BEING EXTENDED BY SIX MONTHS
Kathmandu, 1 June: The cabinet Wednesday is discussing a sixth six-month extension of the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR)-Nepal.
The tenure ends this week.
The Geneva-based UN body has sought a two-year extension.
It has already downscaled its operation by closing down regional offices outside the capital.
UNCHR-Nepal and UNMIN entered Nepal after a concerted international campaign to degrade Nepali institutions for the entry of UN into Nepal.
UNMIN returned home 15 January this year after a four-year operation.
National Human Rights Organization Tuesday recommended a one-year extension.
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NEPAL ARMY BEING DEPLOYED IN IRAQ
Kathmandu, 1 June: The Cabinet is set to endorse Nepal Army’s decision to deploy a 176-member peacekeeping unit in Iraq. The troop mobilisation will start in the war ravaged nation once the Cabinet okays the proposal, Phanindra dahalwrites in The Kathmandu Post.
Early this year, UN had sought Nepali soldiers’ presence to protect UN buildings and staff at the Bagdhad based UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). The Defence Ministry has moved Nepal Army’s detail proposal on mobilisation in Iraq at the Cabinet.
Under the agreement with UN, the Nepali peacekeeping squad will be stationed in Basra, a port city situated 549 km southeast of Baghdad and Kirkuk, an-oil province 250 km north of Bagdhad. Soldiers will undertake both static and mobile duties i.e. guarding UN buildings and providing security to UN convoys in Basra and Kirkuk.
“The proposal is under consideration at the Cabinet and likely to be endorsed soon. The deployment procedures will takes place after Cabinet approval,” said Defence Secretary Nabin Kumar Ghimire. In March, the Defence Ministry had expressed reservations over the proposal to deploy soldiers on mobile duty citing it would expose them to greater threats in one of the most dangerous war zones of the world.
A senior military official said that Nepal Army plans to deploy soldiers from its elite Ranger Battalion in Iraq. “They have specialisation in operations based on mobility and counter insurgency operations, so we plan to deploy them in the first phase,” said a two-star general. “We take this offer as an opportunity to show our capability to the world and learn skills in a sophisticated war zone.”
Sources said Nepal Army will provide personal weapons to soldiers to be deployed in Iraq while UN will provide other logistics. The troops to be stationed in Basra and Kirkuk will be divided into two groups - around 50 will be involved in guarding UN installations and around 30 will be responsible for mobile duties in each of the places.
The UN wanted to replace the guard contingent from Fiji, whose deployment under Blue Helmets, was opposed by some powerful countries including Australia following the 2006 coup initiated by Fijian Military leader Frank Bainimarama. Initially, UN Headquarters had demanded 223 soldiers for its Iraq mission. However, the number declined after it decided to retain some Fijian peacekeepers.
Currently, a contingent comprising 205 Fijian peacekeepers provide security to UNAMI. They are supported by two military experts from Denmark and Australia, respectively and one from Nepal, according to the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Nepal Army’s experience in Iraq dates back to 1951 when a 50-member contingent was deployed for peacekeeping operations under the UN Guards Contingent Team in 1991. Four Nepali continents completed their duties by the time the UN mission terminated in mid-90.
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INDIA PROPOSES CHANGE OF KOSI RIVER COURSE


Kathmandu, 1 June: India is putting pressure on Nepal to change the course of the Koshi River, which has shifted toward east after breaching the embankment over two years ago, by constructing a pilot channel that may sweep away a Nepali village development committee (VDC), Prem Dhakal writes in Republica.

India had unilaterally started construction of the pilot channel around two months ago and work was halted after the Saptari District Administration Office issued a directive around seven weeks ago to immediately halt the construction following protests by locals.
A senior officer at the Department of Irrigation (DOI), which monitors the Koshi barrage from the Nepali side, confirmed that the department did not give the pilot channel a go ahead as Gobargada, an island VDC of Saptari with a population of around 1,500 to the south of the barrage, will be swept away if Koshi were brought to the central course. “They did not consult us, as required by the agreement, before starting the pilot channel.

The irrigation department of Bihar contacted us several times after the work was halted. We asked them to use the diplomatic channel in the matter around a month ago,” the officer said.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has himself started to lobby the Indian central government to take up the issue of constructing the pilot channel with the Nepal government.

“The center should immediately take up with Nepal the issue of strengthening and protecting the embankment in the wake of forceful stoppage of work in Nepal and digging of a pilot channel to re-establish the central flow of the river to avoid undue pressure on both the western and the eastern embankments,” the Press Trust of India (PTI) had quoted Kumar as saying on Friday.

If the digging of the channel is not resumed, he would meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and urge them to take up the issue with Nepal, the PTI report added. A local journalist in Saptari said Kumar had even visited the site on Saturday and urged Nepali journalists to stop writing negatively about the pilot channel.

The DOI officer said bringing Koshi to the central course may be even more dangerous for Nepal as Koshi may take the western course and threaten the Hanumannagar area to the south of the barrage if the work were not to go exactly according to plan. There is no Nepali land to the south of the barrage on the eastern side and the river has already been under control on the north side of the barrage.

Current status of Koshi

The DOI officer said there was not any real threat on the Nepali side this year. “There is little threat on the western side as the river has taken eastern course and things are better than 2008 (August) when the embankment was breached even on the eastern side,” the officer added.

The Indian government became serious about Koshi after the breach, the officer claimed, and the Koshi High Level Technical Committee -- that includes the Deputy Director General of DOI and Chairman of the Ganga Flood Control Commission from the Indian side -- has been formed.

“The high-level committee meets every November to decide the course of action for the coming monsoon and India carries out the maintenance work with Nepali approval as per the agreement,” the officer explained. The whole maintenance work is done by India, the officer contended, with India authorized to work up to 32 km north of the barrage on Nepal´s consent as per the agreement.

The spurs are being repaired, porcupines (barriers that reduce velocity of water flow and stop sand) are being placed at different places for the past two years and dredging machines are being used to weaken the obstructions created by silt at banks. The officer attributed the 2008 breach to such obstructions claiming that the water flow was just 178,000 cusec at the time of breach.

“The water level crosses 300,000 cusec on several occasions every year,” the officer revealed.

The barrage was constructed to withstand pressure of 800,000 cusec when it was completed in early 1960s. “But if the water flow were to reach 800,000 cusec, water would overflow from both eastern and western sides of the barrage as the capacity of barrage has been drastically reduced by massive sedimentation,” the officer claimed.

“I am told the level had reached 800,000 cusec just a couple of years after completion of the project but it has not crossed 400,000 cusec after that so we can´t exactly forecast the threshold,” the officer added.
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