Country Listing

Nepal Table of Contents




Figure 11. Nepal: Organization of the Armed Forces, 1991

The organizational structure of the Nepalese defense establishment reflected the country's indigenous military traditions, its long association with the British military, and reforms introduced by Indian military advisers in the 1950s and 1960s. There was strong reason to suspect that the basic changes introduced by the constitution as a result of the success of the prodemocracy movement would, in time, lead to new organizational arrangements and changes in command and control in line with the political realities that emerged in the early 1990s.

Following the British pattern, there was a Ministry of Defence, which, in conjunction with the king and the Parliament, was responsible for overseeing the military establishment. As with other government ministers, the minister of defense (a portfolio assumed by Prime Minister G.P. Koirala upon his government's assumption of office on May 29, 1991) was a cabinet official appointed by the prime minister. Under previous constitutions, the king ordinarily assumed the role of minister of defense, although routine oversight of the ministry was performed by a civilian bureaucrat or army officer who served at the pleasure of the king. The Ministry of Defence, located in Kathmandu, was responsible for overseeing routine matters such as pay, budget, and procurement, although the army high command retained broad discretion in matters relating to promotions and recruitment. Real command authority over military operations was generally reserved for the king, who acted in accordance with the wishes of the National Defence Council and the elected civilian government. As of mid-1991, the degree of influence these newly chartered organizations had over military affairs could not be determined.

The nation's sole regular armed force was the Royal Nepal Army, also headquartered in Kathmandu. There was no separate air force. The army, however, operated a small air wing, primarily to transport troops within the country and to aid the civilian population during natural disasters. Because Nepal is landlocked, the country had no naval capabilities beyond a few small launches used by the army to patrol lakes and ford rivers (see Geography , ch. 2).

The Royal Nepal Army headquarters was patterned after the British and Indian systems. The highest post in army headquarters was that of chief of army staff, the only four-star billet in 1991. Directly below the chief were five staff sections: inspector general, quartermaster general, adjutant general, major general of ordnance, and the general staff general (see fig. 11). All sections were headed by major generals, a two-star billet. Of the five sections, the most important was the general staff general, as all army field echelons reported to army headquarters through him. This office also controlled functional directorates dealing with military operations, training, military intelligence, infantry brigades, and support units.

Data as of September 1991