Gorkha soldiers from Nepal who have been an integral part of the Indian Army for over six decades could soon become a thing of the past. And a glorious chapter of valour and sacrifice by soldiers of a friendly neighbour would come to an end.
Earlier this month, the Nepal government directed the ministry of foreign affairs and other ministries concerned to implement the recommendations of a parliamentary committee on ending recruitment of Gorkhas in foreign armies.
Last December, the Committee for International Relations and Human Rights of Nepal’s parliament had endorsed a policy paper suggesting the ban.
“Gorkha recruitment gave the youth a small opportunity for employment, but serving foreign military powers has not always allowed the country to hold its head high,” the committee had stated.
The government’s fresh directive will ensure that days of Gorkha soldiers serving in both British and Indian armies are numbered.
Gorkhas were recruited first by the East India Company in 1816 and later by the British Army. After India’s independence, both Britain and India decided on continuing to enlist their services as part of a tripartite agreement with Nepal.
At present, there are 39 battalions in seven Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army. Nearly 30,000 Gorkhas including 120 officers are serving in these regiments. Every year, thousands more join these brave men through recruitment drives conducted in Nepal.
Besides those serving, Nepal has 79,000 Indian Army pensioners, 11,000 widows of ex-servicemen and 17,000 retired Assam Rifles personnel. The Indian Army pays them over Rs 1,200 crore annually in pension and provides other benefits to their families as well.
Understandably, there is opposition to the government move. Organisations of ex-Gorkhas have derided the directive and threatened to launch protests. Many are saying since successive governments have failed to create enough jobs, it has no moral right to stop people from joining Gorkha regiments in Indian and British armies.