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National Defense University plans delayed by lack of funds

The project to establish the National Defense University, started eight years ago and to be managed by the Nepal Army, is still in limbo due to lack of infrastructure and enforceable law.

The concept of Defense University, the first of its kind in Nepal, only started to take shape after the then KP Oli government incorporated the concept into its policies and programs in 2019.

The university is to be built in Sanga of Kavrepalanchok district, but the construction has not started yet due to several obstacles. A bill on the university is under study at the Ministry of Justice.

The university has a website, where it has described its goals and purpose.

“With China’s rise as an economic powerhouse, the United States of America and its allies and partners are also committed to securing our own positions through the Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS). Thus, if transatlantic relations were the key linchpin of international relations (IR) in the 19th and 20th centuries, the Indo-Pacific region, including the Bay of Bengal and the Trans-Himalayas, became the epicenter of political evolution , economic and global economy. strategic importance,” the website said.

Balananda Sharma, a former lieutenant general in the Nepalese army who leads a 12-member task force for the establishment of the defense university, admitted that construction could not begin because the government has not yet approved a budget.

The committee headed by Sharma was tasked with preparing a detailed project report for the university building; ensure the legal, institutional, physical and human resources for its establishment, operation and management; make recommendations for the acquisition of land for the university campus of Sanga, Kavre; and determine the structure and operational framework of the university and college, research centers and academic departments to be formed under the university.

Likewise, the committee has the mandate to regularly inform the government of its work, to develop university programs in accordance with international standards and national needs, and to draft a law for the university. In addition, it is to establish cooperative relationships with national and international defense universities and similar international organizations.

The Nepal Army’s long-standing plan to establish a Defense University has already fueled a new debate among experts as they have raised concerns about its modality, logistics, sustainability, funding and most importantly, if the country really needs it.

“As soon as we had the idea of ​​creating the new defense university, we noticed some concerns from neighbors and major powers,” said a former Defense Ministry official, adding: “There had questions as to whether Nepal needed such a university and questions about its functioning, pedagogy, logistics, curriculum and manpower at the time.

Before deciding to establish the university, the Nepal Army held a series of consultations with various experts, saying that its main objective was to produce manpower on national security and defense issues. Such an academy would also allow the national defense force to expand military and civilian diplomacy by attracting foreigners to the university.

Nepal is currently offering short-term training slots like High Level Command Course at Staff College, Shivapuri and Military Academy. Due to the lack of a dedicated university, Nepal has sent dozens of its military and security officials abroad, including to neighboring countries, for courses related to national security, defense , military cooperation and diplomacy as well as other emerging foreign and security policy issues. .

Officials say that once the university is established, Nepal will have its own facilities to offer masters, masters and doctoral degrees. The army proposed the prime minister as chancellor, the defense minister as co-chancellor, and the army chief as vice-co-chancellor of the university.

As soon as the government’s plan was made public, countries like India, China, the United States, and Pakistan, among others, expressed their interest in helping to establish the university, but the government politely declined the offers, according to another government official.

The government formed a 12-member National Defense University Infrastructure Development Committee in 2020. General Shamra, former Ambassador Shambhu Ram Simkhada and former Attorney General Yubraj Sanroula were appointed as public intellectuals while nine other members have been appointed in various ministries and in the Nepalese army.

Former Ambassador Simkhada leads the academic sub-committee, which is responsible for curriculum development.

Simkhada said he had already prepared the programs.

“Academically, we have formulated the study programs for all majors with the help of professors from various universities and other experts. Initially, we planned to hold the academic session from the end of 2023, but due to lack of budget, we are sure to miss the end of 2023 deadline. Hopefully, we will get the budget and the law after the formation of the new government” , said Simkahada.

Professor Sangroula leads the management sub-committee and works on law for the university. Sitaram Khadka, Major General of the Nepal Army, heads the physical infrastructure sub-committee.

General Sharma said construction of the building could take another two to three years and university studies would not start until then.

Amidst the planning phase, there was a dilemma over the establishment of such a university due to fears that major powers and neighbors would compete for influence over the running of the university.

Nepal has received foreign aid in multiple areas, including security. In 2017, China built the Armed Police Force Academy in Kathmandu. During his visit to China in October 2018, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwar Pokhrel called on the Chinese side to support Nepal in setting up a defense university. The Chinese side has expressed readiness to expand cooperation in Nepal, officials said.

Similarly, during his visit to Nepal in February 2019, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and Southeast Asia, Joe Felter, also expressed interest in extending any kind of support to the establishment of such a university in Nepal. India has already offered such assistance for the construction of the Nepal Police Academy.

Some advise caution in implementing the plan, as it involves a wide range of concerns, especially given the current state of regional and global geopolitics.

“It would be good if we start by establishing a defense college and gradually turn it into a university,” said former Major General Purna Silwal, adding, “Such a university would help produce suitable defense experts to our needs”.

“We need our own experts to discuss pressing global issues, research and reflect on issues of global and regional importance. So we need such an academic institution, but I recommend one step at a time: first establish the college and then the university,” Silwal said.

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