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National Security, Security System Reform and Civil-Security Relations in Nepal

Seminar organised by Nepal Ex-Police Organisation (NEPO) and Saugat Legal Research Consultancy (SLRC)

Chandra D Bhatta

16 November 2008


Nepal ex-police Organisation and Saugat Legal Research Centre has organised one day seminar on "National Security, Security System Reform and Civil-Security Relations in Nepal". The programme was supported by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German political foundation based in Kathmandu. The programme was attended by the high ranking officials (former and serving) from the civilian police forces (including Inspector General of the Police), armed police forces, Nepal army, secret service agents and civil servants. Similarly, the programme was attended by journalists, NGO members, political leaders, members of Constituent Assembly, high-ranking officials from the Nepal army and also from the armed police forces, academicians, students of Peace, Conflict and Development Studies of the Tribhuvan University and other stake holders of society. By and large, the seminar drew good number of people and was able to reverberate dialogue on national security, civil society which is crucially important for state-building in Nepal. There were altogether 150 participants.

Dr Chuda Bahadur Shrestha of the Saugat Legal Research Centre welcomed the participants and highlighted about the programme. He said that the overarching objective of this seminar is to have a vigorous discussion in order to chart out a future direction of national security which is quintessential particularly in the changed political scenario of the country. Similarly Mr Dev Raj Dahal - Head of the FES in Nepal and a noted Political Scientist, welcoming the participants on behalf of FES emphasised on the fact that how can citizen as a whole contribute or participate in the issues of national security is need of the hour. Civilian oversight is particularly needed to enhance the capacity of security organs well as democratise their modus operandi. He further said that all political parties need to have a common security police despite their ideological differences.

The chief guest of the programme was Home Minister Bam Dev Gautam. Minister Gautam said that we should move towards national security concept that should help to maintain national sovereignty and integrity intact. This should also relate to the ground realities of the nation. National security, for Bam Dev, should be able to strike a balance between internal and external sovereignty by protecting internal diversity of the state. The whole of the security sector needs to be reformed so that people can feel secured on their own without any sort of intervention from security organs. Once this concept becomes mature and gets approval - state and society can move together and we can build a society based on the rule of law. The development of new social contract in every sector of state affairs is required to have a rule of law, said Minister Gautam. The whole idea of this new security doctrine should prevail on the principle of corruption free society with the notion of good governance only then people can feel psychological security. When we talk about 'rule by the citizen' in the country, which is currently missing, what is important is to develop law abiding culture, then only can we establish the notion f civil security, said Minister Gautam.

There were three sessions altogether with papers on Consolidated Comprehensive National Security Guidelines of Nepal by Retd. Brig. Gen Mr Bharat Rayamajhi of Nepal Army which was chaired by Prof. Shridhar Khatri, the second paper was on Civil Society and Security Sector by Dr Gobinda Prasad Thapa, AIGP, (Retd)., Nepal Police (Chaired by former Election Commissioner and Nepalese Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Mr Surya Prasad Shrestha) and the final paper was by Dr. Chuda Bahadur Shrestha, former SSP, on Areas of Security System Reform in Nepal (Chaired by Mr Krishna Narayan sight Thapa, Lt. General Retd. Nepal Army).

Mr. D. B. Lama, former chief of the Nepal Police in the inaugural session, said that peace is important. He highlighted on the fact that the new security doctrine should be able to create an environment where citizens can entertain fundamental rights. The police force (security organs) should be free and there should not be any sort of intervention from the part of the government or political parties for that matter which has been marked frequently in the country in the past years. He emphasized the role of former servants (police, army) in maintaining national sovereignty and integrity. He maintained that their expertise can be of great value in designing polices in the various sectors. Mr. Lama stressed that it would be great if the country utilises skills of this vast (unused) human capital who are spread all over the nation. They could perhaps, contribute towards establishing peace in the country through experiences and expertise said he. He further suggested that it is the right time of developing some sort of 'coordination mechanism' to mobilise former civil servants (police and army) for the broader national cause.

Floor Discussion

Brig. Gen (Retd.) Mr. Bharat Rayamajhi presented a paper on Consolidated Security Guidelines for Nepal. Brig. Rayamajhi provided a background of national security scenario in Nepal. For him, national security is about 'national pride'. There is tendency to treat national security sector 'unproductive' but without having national security 'intact' there is no way that we can have national development said Brig. Rayamajhi.. Had we paid attention to the national security perhaps we wouldn't have lost lives of 15000 persons in the Maoist insurgency said Brig. Gen?

He spoke about the values, resources of national security and security management in different period starting from Prithvi Narayan Shah till today. He highlighted on the fact that 'political competition and brinkmanship' has weakened the national security of Nepal as this has disabled political leaders to forge common consensus on foreign policy, national security, health, education, employment and other areas where policy matters a lot. He established the link between national securities with that of international security and challenges it faces thereof. His paper also mentioned about the role of small states in maintaining national security. Brig. Gen. (Retd) also acknowledged because of the natural resources that exists in the Northern part of the country (he was citing Himalayas) we are facing less security problems from our northern-neighbors compared to the southern. By and large, Brig. Rayamajhi has presented thoughtfully written inclusive paper on national security. His paper generated some key questions.

Col. Prem Singh Basnet, commenting from the floor, said that strategic importance of Nepal cannot be underestimated. He argued that we are a small state does not necessarily mean that it reduces our strategic importance. Strategic importance of Nepal can and should be judged from its strategic location between two emerging superpowers of Asia, namely, China and India, the resources (water) it posses, the increased western presence in the country (the classic example is - the America embassy in Kathmandu is one of the largest in Asia-pacific region) and the excessive number of intelligence personnel working in the Indian and Pakistani Embassy. Strategic importance should also be looked from the cultural point of view. The main strategy of the west (barring few countries) is to attack on our traditional values and impose their ones. In no way, we can say that, for that matter any country, are strategically less important. This fact was also appreciated by the chair of the session Prof. Khatri. There were comments from the floor on the need of having an active National Security Council, which has not been active so far.

Evaluating the first session, Prof. Kahtri said that until 1970s it was even difficult to discuss about foreign policy - which was solely considered the baby of the Royal Palace. Thanks to 'democracy' that today we are able to discuss about the national security issues which we have taken as granted. Prof. Khatri said that the current trend is 'promising' and have some 'silver lining'. Having said this; however, there isn't White Paper neither on security sector nor on foreign policy. The consultation process should start at the political level. The NSC was established in 2046-47 (BS) but in his own words 'it never met'

He said that we have to prioritise and define national security as follows:
1. Territorial security
2. Domestic law and order
3. Preservation of sovereign rights of the people, democratic system and democratic values
4. Preservation as well as exploitation of natural resources for economic development
5. Contribution to international peace and security

He emphasised on the fact that all these activities cannot succeed with foreign government alone, Nepalese participation is vital.

Presenting a paper on the role of civil society in Security Sector Reform (SSR). Dr Gobinda Prasad Thapa said that civil society as an oversight agency could discharge the duty of 'monitoring, advocacy and in providing policy expertise' to the state. Discussing on the importance of SSR he said that it is particularly needed in the context of Nepal to end the culture of impunity, to maintain legitimate authority of the state, to strengthen democratisation process, and overall to protect state and citizens from internal and external threats. A strong and effective SSR strategy and programs, which would include DDR as well as development and democratisation agendas, will greatly reduce the risk of failure of the successive peace agreements. There are four areas of SSR priorities: Defense Reform; Rule of Law; Good Governance and Democratic Oversight; and DDR identified Nepalese CSOs.

There were comments from the floor that neither the security organs nor the oversight agencies are found seriously working towards this end. Moreover, the civil society and media are highly fragmented across political lines and it would be dangerous to be heavily dependent on them.

In the context of Nepal, there is great deal of challenge that how do we develop harmonious relationship between civil society, citizens and police which is so far extraneous. The need of the hour, perhaps, is to change the militarized version of police into the 'civil' which will help to build confidence betweens security organs and citizens at large. There are comments from the floor that there is 'attitudinal' problem on the both side which needs to be bridged through community policing activities.

Mr Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, the former Director General of the Nepal Government, has said that there is an urgent need for border management which is crucial to maintain law and order in the country. Many cases of the crimes in the country take place because of this open border.

Col. Basnet said that Security Organs are only the 'tolls' it's the political parties who should take initiative to reform this sector in order to maintain law and order in the country rather than merely using security agency for their on partisan interests. He said that Nepal Police has been taken as "Guine Pig of Political Parties".

The final paper was presented by Dr. Chuda Bahadur Shrestha. Dr Shrestha had comprehensive paper on Areas of Security System Reform in Nepal. He discussed reform both in hard power (army, police, intelligence, armed police) and soft power (private security system, integrated border management, justice reform, prison reform, civil service reform, introduction of civic culture in civil society and media) as an integrated SSR approach.

There were comments from the floor, again, on the need of having both SSR and DDR to move the peace process to the logical end and national security should address genuine problem of the state. We need to develop congenial relationship between police and public. Col. Tara Bahadur Karki should that there should be regular communication between the persons who are engaged in writing the constitution and personnel involved in security sector.


As said in the beginning, the overarching objective of this seminar was to strengthen national security organs, democratise them in line with changing political context. That said seminar tried to address various facets of national security such as how peace can be restored and who we can strengthen national security organs of the country, at a time, when internal security of the state is being threatened by the flaring up of new conflicts and non-state actors. It has been realised that peace is the prime condition to move forward the peace process and development in the country. From this prism, the seminar has been able to generate the genuine need of the nation which will positively contribute to the peace process. Finally, security is related with life and state should take it seriously.

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