New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said that Nepal had explained its absence from the recent BIMSTEC military drill and that India had “no reason to disbelieve it”.
She stressed that contrary to reports in a “section of media”, Nepal had not boycotted the India-proposed military exercise and participated as an “observer”.
“The reason why they (Nepal) did not come here — and this is something which I don’t have reason to distrust — I have been told very clearly that the (Army) chief was appointed recently and there were some customary engagements which they take very seriously,” Sitharaman said in response to a question at a press briefing here.
“It may be something religious, something social, but these commitments were already made and it was for him (Nepal Army chief) to attend all this before he started fully taking up his assignments,” she added.
A joint military exercise of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) nations was conducted between September 10-16 at Aundh Military Station near Pune in Maharashtra.
While contingents of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Sri Lanka participated in the exercise, Nepal and Thailand skipped it and sent observers instead.
“This explanation was given from their side to our people. And none of us had reasons to disbelieve it. And therefore they did not come in full capacity but they did have a participation as an observer. I respect their feelings,” Sitharaman said.
“It was not any sort of boycott as projected in some section of media,” she added.
Some of the observers have interpreted Nepal’s absence as an indication of Nepal’s growing proximity with China and distancing from India.