Unease Around Recruitment Of Gorkhas Into Indian Army As "Agniveers"
The recruitment of Gorkhas into the Indian Army under the "Agnipath scheme" has been temporarily halted by Kathmandu, casting doubt on the future of a custom that dates back 75 years, just days before Indian Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande is scheduled to arrive to receive the title of "Honorary General" from the Nepal Army. As old as Gorkha, recruiting in the Indian Army is the custom of the Army Chiefs of the two nations serving as Honorary Generals of the other side. Gen. Pande's visit on September 5 for this reason ties in with the growing unease around the recruitment of Gorkhas with Nepalese citizenship into the Indian Army as "Agniveers." As soon as he takes office, the Chief of Army Staff of the Nepali Army departs for India, when the Indian President confers on him the title of "Honorary General" of the Indian Army. General Rajendra Chettri, the head of the Nepali Army, visited India in 2016 and received the title of "Honorary General" in the Indian Army; General Bipin Rawat, the head of the Indian Army, received the same title in the Nepali Army in 2017. In November 2020, General Manoj Narawane travelled to Nepal.
In the Himalayan nation's Butwal City, a recruitment rally for the Indian Army was scheduled to begin on August 25. Narayan Khadka, the foreign minister of Nepal, and Naveen Srivastava, the ambassador of India to Nepal, met to talk about the problems a day ago. The Indian Army frequently recruits Nepalis for its Gorkha battalions, but after the Modi administration unveiled the Agnipath programme in June of this year, it had solicited Kathamndu's opinions. But the Sher Bahadur Deuba administration did nothing. The Nepalese government decided to postpone these demonstrations because it believes that the 1947 Tripartite Agreement, which was signed by the governments of Nepal, India, and the United Kingdom shortly after Indian independence, does not apply to this new method of joining the Indian military. The government believes that it must adopt the Agnipath programme, and in order to do so, political negotiations with all Nepalese parties are required. The Nepalese government has asked that the Indian Army not hold recruitment rallies in Nepal that were set to start on August 25 until these conversations are held, and their outcome is known.
The governments of India, Nepal, and the UK came to an agreement about the future of the Gorkha soldiers who were fighting in the Indian Army not long after India gained independence on August 15, 1947. According to the provisions of this agreement, the 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 10th Gorkha regiments were transferred to the British Army, while the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, and 9th Gorkha regiments remained with the Indian Army. Soon after India gained independence, the 11th Gorkha Rifles, a new Gorkha Regiment, was established. The agreement also specifies the terms and circumstances that apply to Gorkha troops serving in the Indian Army who are citizens of Nepal as well as their post-retirement perks and pensions. An intriguing historical fact about Gorkha troops is that China and Pakistan both wanted Gorkha soldiers from Nepal for their respective forces following the 1962 conflict, but the Nepali government refused their requests. The Indian Army has the greatest contingent of Gorkha soldiers, while in the UK, there are only two regiments left: the 1 Royal Gurkha Rifles and the 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles (the British Army uses the term "Gurkha" while the Indian Army uses the term "Gorkha").
In order to lessen the Indian Army's reliance on Nepal for Gorkha soldiers, efforts have been made to balance the composition of the force between troops with Indian and Nepalese citizenship. Additionally, in 2016 a complete Indian Gorkha brigade was formed. The Himachal Pradesh town of Subathu is where the 6th Battalion of the 1st Gorkha Rifles (6/1 GR) was organised. In a Gorkha battalion, the proportion of soldiers with Nepalese citizenship to those with Indian citizenship ranges from 60:40 to 70:30, though this will alter further in the future. The Army has announced that soldiers from the Uttarakhand regions of Kumaon and Garhwal will also be eligible to serve in the Gorkha Rifles, changing the recruitment regulations for the Gorkha Rifles.
There are now 32,000–35,000 Nepali soldiers serving in the Indian Army. There are over 1.32 lakh ex-servicemen from the Indian Army living in Nepal. Even though it's uncertain how many people will be hired from Nepal this year, the fact that just 25% of them would be rehired by the Indian Army and the other 75% will have to return home has raised concerns. About Rs 4,000 crore goes toward the annual pensions for Gorkhas who reside in Nepal (the Indian Army also employs Gorkhas who reside in India). Additionally, 1,000 crore rupees in remittances are sent home each year by serving in the military. The position taken by Nepal on the enlistment of its citizens in the Indian Army has been rather contradictory. Parts of the political system have questioned the enlistment of Nepalis in foreign armies where they might be used against friendly nations to Nepal over the past 20 years. The Indian Army has Gorkhas stationed at both the Line of Actual Control and the Line of Control with China. Pakistan and Nepal have cordial relations, and China has a significant impact in Nepal.
Both armies stand to gain from these shared experiences, and this combined training, mutual interaction, and sharing of experiences between both countries further strengthens the ongoing historical military and strategic ties, giving the bilateral relations and already solid bonding between the two countries a boost. There are also worries that by excluding certain castes from Nepal's national life, it may not be best for the nation or the communities in the long term. The Indian Army recruits from the Magar and Gurung communities in western Nepal, as well as the Kirati Rai and Limbus in eastern Nepal. Despite the rhetoric, Nepal is aware that the economic factor is too significant for Kathmandu to completely ignore, but it still wants to be part of the hiring process. Nepal was taken aback by the scheme's abrupt disclosure.
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