Nepal: A Debate on Democratization of Nepalese Army

By Adhikari, Indra | Contributions to Nepalese Studies, January 2011 | Go to article overview
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Nepal: A Debate on Democratization of Nepalese Army


Adhikari, Indra, Contributions to Nepalese Studies


The term 'Democratization' indicates a process to make a country, state, system or an institution more democratic. There are some universally accepted norms and values of democratic system and the process of democratization: the institution or system is controlled by representatives, such representatives are elected by the people through periodic elections, electoral system that assure inclusiveness of all diversified social segments and categories, opposition is recognized as real representatives of the people, equality among the citizen to be involved is assured in running the system and multiparty system with pluralism is required to follow such system. But here, the question can be raised whether the term "Democratization" can be used in terms of reforming or restructuring the military institution, since it is not compatible in spirit with the military institution. The term till today is neither used in the literature of military science nor in the civil-military relations in the world. What is the general logic of not using the term is that military institution which by character is hierarchical, runs by the chain of command under the single control and command system, and promotes the ranks and files on the basis of professional qualification in which specialization is mandatory. But, we have no option except to define about what is democratization of army in Nepali context, since it has already been used in the Interim Constitution of Nepal 2007. Thus, the key component of Democratization of Army in the case of Nepal is democratic control of National Army, transparency in internal system of the institution, accountable and responsible on its own actin, respect of human rights and rule of law, etc. With these introductory arguments, the paper tries to contextualize the phrase, "Democratization of Nepal Army", its relation with the past, and impact on the future. It further deal with the existing theory of civil-military relations and its relevance in Nepal where one of the major issues is necessity of military reform for making the National Army compatible with the newly established political system. Primary and secondary sources are used with the adaptation of descriptive and analytical method to substantiate the arguments.

Concept of Democratic Control

The term, 'civil-military relation' defines the relationship between civilians "people without arms", the society at large, and the military "professional with arms", established as a separate armed body in order to protect the society (Rukavishnikov and Pugh 2003:131). The relationship is deeply influenced by the national history, sentiments and traditions. It depends not only on the role of army as a state institution in the particular country, subordination of the military to the political authorities as defined in law and constitutional arrangements etc., but also its relationship on the spheres of power, politics, economy, science and technology, culture and history. It is determined by public opinion towards defence and foreign policy of the regime and certain action of the military for such policy etc. The nature of the problem in civil-military relation is very intricate as both the society and the military are changing in a very complex way.

The central issue in the modern theories of civil-military relation is that of civilian control of the military. The 'civilian control' is used in the sense of "political control" and civilian here indicates as a "pre-eminence of civilian institution, based on popular sovereignty in the decision-making process concerning defence and security matters. Its sole spirit is that control of the instrument of violence should firmly be in the hand of "legitimate civilian authority", but such control of the military should be based on 'democratic principle'. Because democracy means sovereignty of the people, the persons in command, which represents the people only has the authority to exert the power of the state.

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