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Gurkhas get breather

world Updated: Jul 14, 2008 23:34 IST

Nepal’s legendary Gurkha mountain men, whose service in the British army helps support tens of thousands of people in their impoverished homeland, will now get to fight another day.

The country’s new Maoist leaders had threatened to end what they see as the humiliating recruitment of young Nepali men into the British armed forces.

But in what appears to be a nod to hard-nosed practicality in a country where the annual average salary is $470, the Maoists have backed off, saying they must first oversee the new republic’s “economic revolution”.

“We don’t have any immediate plans to stop the recruitment of Nepali youths into the British army,” Nanda Kishore Pun, a deputy commander from the Maoist’s People’s Liberation Army, said. “For the next few years we will be concentrating on bringing an economic revolution,” said Pun, whose party is set to form Nepal’s first democratic government. “Then we will deal with this issue,” he added, saying a review of the recruitment policy would not come for “five to seven years”.

Another deputy Maoist commander, Janardan Sharma, described their recruitment into the British army as “shameful and humiliating”. “It’s wrong to sacrifice Nepalis to protect the sovereignty of foreign countries,” he said.

But the Gurkhas themselves don’t necessarily agree. “At least 30,000 families depend on the salaries and the pensions of the British Gurkhas,” said Lok Bahadur Gurung, from the Nepal chapter of the British Gurkha Welfare Society. “They have been significantly contributing to Nepal’s economy since the practice started nearly 200 years ago.