Nepal government joins row over Indian rifles
By Sudeshna Sarkar, Indo-Asian News Service
Kathmandu, Aug 15 (IANS) The Nepalese government Monday joined a bitter row over the efficacy of assault rifles supplied by India, calling them outdated and not designed for long battles.
Nepal's state-run media, used extensively since February to defend the royal coup and the new policies of the regime headed by King Gyanendra, Monday cited reports from Indian media, going back to 2001, to prove the Nepalese army's contention that the INSAS rifles were "problem-prone".
"A soldier is only as good as the weapon he carries," the government-owned Rising Nepal daily said in a front-page report. "For soldiers on foot, it is primarily the rifles they carry."
The daily quoted reports in the Times of India, The Asian Age and websites Rediff and defenceindia.com that said Indian troops had faced problems with INSAS rifles, resulting in India deciding to buy 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles from Romania.
The salvo was fired as India celebrated its 59th independence day, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying his country was committed to work with Nepal for promoting development, prosperity and peace in the region.
King Gyanendra's regime has thrown its weight behind the Royal Nepalese Army's allegation that malfunctioning INSAS rifles cost it dearly during a recent battle with Maoist insurgents.
On Friday, army spokesman Brig. Gen. Dipak Gurung had said the army lost 43 soldiers in Kalikot district because they were using INSAS rifles that heated after a couple of hours and had to be allowed to cool before they could be fired again.
"If we had better weapons, the results would have been better," Gurung had said. His statement, widely reported by the media in Nepal and India, stung Indian authorities into issuing a rebuttal.
The Indian embassy here said Saturday that the INSAS rifles had been used by Indian security forces "without any complaint in the most extreme conditions of weather and combat".
Since 2003, India has provided the Royal Nepalese Army with its indigenously manufactured INSAS rifles at a 70 percent subsidy. However, military aid was stopped after the royal coup in February.
--Indo-Asian News Service