New Delhi, Sept 9: In what is being seen as a major snub to India, considered as the "natural ally" of Nepal, the government of KP Sharma Oli has decided not to participate in Milex 2018, the first-ever BIMSTEC anti-terror drill, which is scheduled to be held in Pune between September 10-16.
Kundan Aryal, press secretary of Prime Minister Oli, confirmed to reporters in Kathmandu on Saturday that Nepal would not be a participatory in the multilateral exercise. This is the official decision of the government," he said.
Kathmandu would be sending only three non-military "observers" at the event. Earlier, Nepal had indicated that their army chief, General Purna Chandra Thapa, would be attending the closing ceremony of the drill. However, Aryal clarified that Gen Thapa would not be going to India due to prior commitments".
The Miex 2018 will feature the participation of 30-soldier platoons from Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, along with India, which is hosting the event. Among those BIMSTEC nations which would not be participating in the exercise include Thailand, apart from Nepal.
Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing the 4th BIMSTEC summit in Kathmandu on August 31, had reiterated the importance of the joint military drill among the member-nations.
Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali had, however, marked apprehensions saying BIMSTEC is a forum to promote regional development, "which does not prioritises military exercises".
He further quipped that India was "free to float the agenda" of their choice, but other BIMSTEC members are free to endorse it or not.
Nepal's abeyance from Milex 2018 comes a day after the country finalised an agreement with China to use its ports for sending and receiving shipments. The deal has ended decades of Kathmandu's sole-dependence on India for offshore trade.