Gorkha soldiers and Nepal’s changed context

Nepal has not been involved in a war with any country since the one with East India Company and British forces in 1814-16. But for close to two centuries, brave Gorkha soldiers (or Gurkhas as they are known in the British Army) from Nepal have fought numerous wars for others.

But the era of these brave men laying down lives for causes not associated with their motherland could soon come to an end.

As a new Nepal tries to emerge from the rubble of a civil war and demise of the 240-year-old monarchy, Gorkhas serving the British and Indian armies could become a thing of the past.

The Committee for International Relations and Human Rights of Nepal’s parliament recently endorsed a policy paper (‘Nepal’s Foreign Policy in Changed Context’) which besides offering suggestions on foreign policy also seeks an end to soldiers fighting wars under foreign flags.

“Gurkha 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…Since, ultimately, Gurkha recruitment will have to end, it is necessary to create alternatives,” the paper recommended.

If such a ban on recruitment is indeed put in place, it will end a unique chapter in military history where citizens of one country served in armies of others and fought against enemies with whom they had no enmity.

Recruitment of Gorkhas, first into East India Company and later into British Army, began during the 1814-16 war when impressed with their bravery the East India Company started enlisting them. The first Gorkha regiment, Nausiri Battalion, was formed in 1815.

Gorkhas proved their tenacity in many wars and later became part of British Indian Army when it was formed after the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny. They served the British during the First and Second World Wars with distinction in many countries and the legend of the Gorkha as the ‘bravest soldier’ and his ‘khukri’ took firm shape.

After India’s independence, both Britain and India decided on retaining services of Gorkha regiments in their armies as per the Tripartite Agreement signed with Nepal. In the past 200 years, Gorkhas have earned battle laurels in over 20 countries for Britain and India during wars and peace-keeping efforts.

At present there are 39 battalions in seven Gorkha regiments of 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. Indian Army pays them over Rs 1,200 crores annually in pension and provides other benefits to their families as well.

Britain’s Brigade of Gurkhas comprise of 3640 men recruited from Nepal. Such is the level of trust enjoyed by them that they were recently entrusted the task of protecting Prince Harry, third in line to the British throne, when he was secretly posted in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

All that tradition could soon fade away as Nepal mulls changes in foreign policy with the intention of holding its head high among as an independent, sovereign republic.

“The elimination of Gurkha recruitment, indeed, is a test of whether the new republic can settle the debate over her semi-colonial status and become a proud member of fully sovereign community of nations,” writes columnist Gyanu Adhikari in The Kathmandu Post.

Comments

10 Responses to “Gorkha soldiers and Nepal’s changed context”
  1. Charles Norrie says:

    To describe the Murdochs as having a flair for investigative reporting is like saying that Guantanamo Bay had a flair for investigating terrorism. It was terrorism pure and simple.

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  2. shogunschan says:

    this is stupid…if people want to join gurkha army they should be allowed to….government can’t tell what people can do or not…. especially nepal government…. if people were forced to join the gurkha, then it would be different story…but it totally volunteer…

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  3. Himalayagarden says:

    soldiering is not only a job but a life style. before stopping recruitment then government must create alternatives of employment and be able to offer just as good alternatives as both IG and BG. these soldiers, like hundreds of thousand of other nepalis have left nepal to work abroad as there is a lack of work, less possibilities, a wage not sufficinet to live on and many other reasons, government should firstly improve the conditions and possibilities of work at home beofre closing avenues and good possibilities abroad….
    colonialism….is not to serve the Indians or British but nepals largest threath is from her own politicians being corrupt, greedy and not serving the people….

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  4. Sad that some should think the elimination of The Gurkha Regiment is a test of the new Republic. As usual the politicians have it wrong and are trying to make a name for themselves. It is more an indication of their lack of confidence. The British Army supports the brave and valuable traditions of the proud and noble people of Nepal.

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  5. SADHU-VEDANT-MUNI says:

    to control the mind is very difficult task. our mind is like a monkey who is himself very active, is intoxicated and bite by scorpion.so money becomes controlled.like wise our mind is uncontrolled so we can control our mind by knowledge and practices of meditations. during meditations we face many unwanted thoughts,so do the practice and know that what is good for us,always be positive.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    One of the wittiest day of this blog.

    Shenoy, Vijay and Mohan at their best.

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  7. Betla kumar says:

    Conservation of 300 hornbills on cost of national security (which,by the way, itself is not clear) may sound naive but it does pose some serious future repercussions. Every single species hold a vital link to its ecological setting. Any change in population of one species(plant or animal) could cause an irreversible damage to its ecosystem. So loss of one species is in fact a loss of few other dependent species over the few decades, and further more species over half-a-century, and it goes on and on….so the point is – har-ek-species-zaruri-hai!! (every species is important).
    Jai Hind….

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  8. Swapan kumar Mallick says:

    At my age I have never seen those birds live except in photoes, even being a native from Andaman. But still there is hope and chances that we can save them so that our future generation dont imagine them and be proud. Dont let the Andaman hornbill extinct like Dodo.

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  9. DAVID ISREAL says:

    Time we give more importance to the other creatures who share our planet, Pray and home India’s environment minister heads the appeal and works to save the beautiful birds!

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  10. Shah says:

    Ok I just wrote to ministry of environment, India.

    Please do the same and ask the govt. to do the needful.

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