Nepal stalls recruitment of Gorkhas in Indian Army under Agnipath scheme

Days ahead of the scheduled arrival of Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pandey to receive the rank of ‘Honorary General of the Nepal Army, Kathmandu has put a question mark on the recruitment of Gorkhas in the Indian Army under the ‘Agnipath scheme’. On the future of a practice that began 75 years ago.

The practice of the army chiefs of the two countries having honorary generals of the other side on a reciprocal basis is as old as the recruitment of Gurkhas in the Indian Army. General Pandey’s arrival on 5 September coincides with the emerging uncertainty over the recruitment of Gurkhas living in Nepal into the Indian Army as ‘Agniveers’ for this purpose.

On Wednesday, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka informed India’s Ambassador to Nepal Naveen Srivastava that the recruitment of Gorkhas under the Agnipath scheme was not by the provisions of the tripartite agreement signed by Nepal, India and Britain on November 9, 1947. has said that Kathmandu will take a final decision on the issue after extensive consultation with political parties and all stakeholders.

External Affairs Ministry sources said Khadka also told Srivastava that the 1947 agreement, based on which Gurkhas are recruited in the Indian Army, does not recognize India’s new recruitment policy under the Agnipath scheme, and thus Nepal will need to “assess the impact of the new arrangement.

As a result, the month-long recruitment process, which was to begin on Thursday and end on September 29 at various centers across Nepal, has come to a standstill indefinitely, sources said.

New Delhi had approached Kathmandu six weeks ago for cooperation and approval for recruitment after a gap of two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the meeting, sources said, the Nepal side clarified that the existing recruitment scheme for four years under Agnipath is not in conformity with the provisions of the 1947 agreement. There are concerns about the future of Gorkha recruits retiring after four years in Nepal, and the impact these out-of-job youths – all in their twenties – have on society.

The Nepal Parliament’s State Relations Committee, which was supposed to discuss various issues, including the Agnipath scheme and its impact on Gorkha recruitment, was adjourned due to a lack of quorum.

Minister Khadka said that it is necessary to collect the opinion of all the parties including major political parties and stakeholders. “This is not the final decision of the government. We will come back to India once a broad consensus is reached,” said a source in the ministry.

After the Treaty of Sagauli in 1816 between the Government of Nepal and the British East India Company, the recruitment of Gurkhas from Nepal into the then British Indian Army began. After India became independent in November 1947, it became a tripartite arrangement and Gurkhas in Nepal were given the option to serve in the Indian Army or go to the UK.

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