Dinesh Wagle, at United We Blog — a blog that found its place in the world after King Gyanendra imposed an emergency in Nepal — is angry with the Indian embassy for having, in his opinion, insulted the Nepalese army. The issue in question is in the wording of a press release by the Indian embassy, defending the Indian-made INSAS rifle that was provided to Nepal at heavily subsidised rates. The Nepalese army had earlier blamed the INSAS rifle for a recent tactical defeat at the hands of Maoist rebels.
This is not the first time that the INSAS rifle has been blamed by the soldiers who have used it — the Indian army itself has registered its complaints. The Nepalese army may have some justification in its complaints over the poor performance of the Indian rifles. This is of serious concern to India, not least because some of its own forces use this rifle. But what of the Nepalese army’s contention that it was for the want of a good rifle that they were defeated?
The Maoists whom the Nepalese army is fighting procured most of their weapons by raiding Nepalese police and army positions. That suggests that a large proportion of the guns that the Maoists use — .303 rifles, country guns, hand grenades and mortars — are not superior to what the Nepalese army has. That leaves AK-47s and self-loading rifles that may have given the Maoists tactical superiority in combat. Even if this were so, the picture is no longer one where the Maoists have a overwhelming superiority over the Nepalese army.
More importantly, the cruel fact is that it cannot be merely due to the Nepalese army’s faulty rifles that the Maoists have seized control over so much territory. Conversely, merely equipping the Nepalese army with better rifles will not change the strategic picture. To prevail over the Maoists, Nepal needs strong, unequivocal military and political support from India and the international community. As long as King Gyanendra continues to demonstrate contempt for democracy and for Nepal’s relations with India, that support will always be found wanting, and not even the best weapons in the world will ensure a victory for the Nepalese army.