Using weapons-trained youths to serve Nepal (Part II)
Private Royal Guards in the UAE are not the nucleus of the defense forces. There are private companies involved in providing protection and security to the VIPs and important installations in coordination with national defense or the UAE police forces. For example, a specialized and high-tech defense solution company, the International Golden Group, has been supplying human resources to the UAE armed forces, ministry of interior and other defense-security authorities. Nepalis are part of the Royal Guard Abu-Dhabi and Royal Guard Dubai, but their numbers are hard to get. The civil security in the UAE has a troop strength exceeding 100,000, with approximately 1000 employed as armed guards.
There are many private international and national contracting involved in recruiting armed guards in different parts of the world to lower the costs of war. The personnel needed for long-drawn-out military involvements in troubled nation states like Afghanistan are outsourced to countries whose GDP relies heavily on remittances from labor migration like Nepal.
Repercussions on stability
Nepal has a population of around 30m, and it is expected to reach 35.32m by 2050. It is a young country with 20.8 percent of the national population aged 16-25 years and 40.68 percent aged 16-40 years, pointing at a population surplus or a youth bulge.
But the downside is that the unemployment rate for youths aged 15-29 is 19.2 percent compared to 2.7 per cent of the whole population. According to estimates, over 500,000 Nepali youths enter the labor force every year. These figures indicate the quantitative dimension of the employment challenge, something which the state, including political leadership, needs to deal with.
Pensions and salaries are received in large amounts when a nation relies heavily on remittance. There are 125,000 Nepali retirees from the British, Indian and Singapore security forces, who received a total of Rs 61.9bn in pensions in 2021.
Over the years, the government of Nepal, along with the international community, has demonstrated commitment to addressing the root causes of violence and terrorism, focusing on economic development, political inclusivity and social harmony while dealing with armed outfits.
Initially a rebel group, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) waged a decade-long (1996-2006) insurgency but transitioned into mainstream democratic politics after a peace agreement with the government.
Some other outfits include the Janatantrik Tarai Mukti Morcha (JTMM) that advocates for the rights of the Madhesi community and the Nepal Defense Army (NDA), a splinter of the Maoists that opposed the peace process and resumed armed activities in the mid-2000s.
Historically, Nepalis have become part of the defense forces of other nations through treaties or agreements. Contractors and agents have been part of the warfare mostly visible after the Gulf War. Of late, Nepali youths’ vulnerability to unwanted recruitment and undesired migration has become a matter of serious concern. This situation has arisen due to the lack of relevant domestic policies, lack of political accountability and domestic governance priorities, in the wake of Russia’s offense in Ukraine ignoring the obligations as one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (P5).
Given this context, the government should take immediate action and implement measures to prevent Nepali citizens from joining the armed forces or forces that are not part of treaties and/or bilateral agreements reached through memorandums of understanding or agreements.
Nepali citizens becoming part of the Russian armed forces is contrary to the spirit of the position that Nepal took at the UN Security Council meeting in March 2022. Such participation goes against Nepal’s foreign policy of neutrality and non-alignment.
Nepali citizens being part of Russian defense forces has four facets in the international geopolitical situation. It leads to the loss of international political trust as well as diplomatic unease and apprehension; contradicts Nepal’s non-aligned foreign policy as well as long-held stance at the UN, gives rise to political unaccountability and increases the risk of terrorist organizations, political parties or non-state actors using trained personnel.
So, the government of Nepal and the Parliament need to keep a close watch on the activities of the citizens and circumstances surrounding them within the country and abroad. First, the government should revisit the rules and regulations regarding migration by adhering to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 10 Dec 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217A). Secondly, it should ensure the repatriation of Nepali citizens if they are part of any contradicting treaty or bilateral arrangement, entered particularly through agencies and contractors. Thirdly, for the country to effectively benefit from weapons-trained youths, a number of measures can be taken.
They include the formulation of a clear transition and reintegration plan for the weapons-trained youths; implementation of a dedicated program for utilizing their skills in service of the country; their mobilization for strengthening intelligence cooperation; amendment in recruitment policies and procedures for assimilation; induction into reserve forces with attractive compensation packages; career progression opportunities and partnerships and collaborations with foreign armed forces where Nepali individuals are serving to exchange knowledge, training methodologies, and best practices. This can contribute to the overall professional development of Nepal’s security forces and help in leveraging the skills of weapons-trained individuals.
Overall, a comprehensive approach is required to address the social, economic, and psychological aspects of the reintegration process to maximize the benefits of weapons-trained Nepali youths for Nepal’s security. Such measures can contribute to a strong and capable security apparatus, ensuring the safety and well-being of the nation and its citizens.
The author is a Strategic Analyst, Major General (Retd) of the Nepali Army, and is associated with Rangsit University, Thailand
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