The elite Gorkhas of the Indian Army, renowned for their bravery, may soon disappear if Nepal's Maoists have their way.
The Maoists are strongly opposed to Nepali youth fighting on behalf of foreign countries. "It is totally wrong for our (Nepali) young men to be sacrificing their lives to protect the sovereignty of other countries," Baburam Bhattarai, Nepal's senior Maoist leader, told HT on Tuesday.
Bhattarai said that the Maoists have been opposing the recruitment of Nepali youth into the Indian and British armies since 1996. With Maoists now part of the ruling eight party alliance, they intend to press harder to stop the practice.
There are over 35,000 Gorkha soldiers in the Indian army, 80 to 85 per cent of whom are Nepali nationals.
A senior Army officer told HT in Delhi that despite the provocative statements made by Maoist leaders now and in the past, the rules for recruitment of Gorkhas in the Indian Army remain unchanged.
As for the British Army, Gorkhas have been joining it for the last 191 years, ever since the Anglo-Nepal war ended. They have been awarded 13 Victoria Crosses.
General VP Malik, army chief during the Kargil war, lauded the courage shown by the 1/11 Gorkha Rifles in his book Kargil: From Surprise to Victory: "After climbing up a mountainside for seven hours, the Gorkhas reached their objective on the ridge. Some of the most heroic deeds of valour were witnessed in this part of the battle…"
The unit earned bravery 29 awards and was conferred with the title "bravest of the brave".