Nepal looks to Indian Army chief’s visit for clarity on Agnipath scheme
The Indian side submitted a formal proposal to Nepal seeking approval for recruitment of Nepalese citizens under the Agnipath scheme in July but there has been no official response from Kathmandu so far
NEW DELHI: Nepal is looking to an upcoming visit by Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande to help clear the air on the possible recruitment of Nepalese citizens under the Agnipath scheme that aims to induct personnel for only four years, people familiar with the matter said.
On the other hand, Indian Army officials said issues related to Agnipath are unlikely to be taken up during the army chief’s first visit to Nepal during September 4-8. Both countries are yet to formally announce the visit.
The armies of the two sides share very close ties and Nepal is usually among the first countries visited by every Indian Army chief. The Nepal Army chief is an honorary chief of the Indian Army and the same honour is conferred by the other side.
The Indian side submitted a formal proposal to Nepal seeking approval for recruitment of Nepalese citizens under the Agnipath scheme in July but there has been no official response from Kathmandu so far, the people cited above said.
Nepal’s foreign minister Narayan Khadka called Indian envoy Naveen Srivastava to the foreign ministry on August 24 and asked for plans to recruit Nepalese citizens under the new scheme to be deferred until there is consensus on the issue among all political parties in Nepal, according to a report by myRepublica.
Khadka said all political parties in Nepal should have a “unanimous view” about the Agnipath scheme, which had “become controversial in India itself”, the report said. There was no official word from the Indian side on this development.
“As such, the Nepalese side is hoping for greater clarity regarding the Agnipath scheme to emerge during the Indian Army chief’s visit,” one of the people said.
Nepal’s officials have also expressed apprehensions about the future of Gurkha soldiers recruited for only four years under Agnipath.
An Indian army official, however, said: “It is a ceremonial visit at the Nepal Army chief’s invitation. Agnipath and issues related to Gorkha recruitment are unlikely to be on the agenda.”
India announced the Agnipath scheme on June 14, replacing the legacy system of recruitment to lower the age profile of the armed forces, ensure a fitter military and create a technically skilled war fighting force capable of meeting future challenges. The move sparked widespread protests and forced a concerted outreach by the government to scotch apprehensions about the scheme.
The scheme seeks to recruit soldiers for only four years, with a provision to retain 25% of them in the regular cadre for 15 years after another round of screening.
The Indian Army has recruited Gurkhas from Nepal since 1947 under the terms of a tripartite agreement between the UK, India and Nepal and tens of thousands of them serve in six regiments.