Says senior advocate Yuvraj Sangraula: “The Agnipath scheme violates the Tripartite Agreement signed at India’s independence which stipulates that pensions and other financial benefits be given to Gorkha soldiers as per the Indian Army Pay Code.”
Recruitment of Nepalis into the British Army started even before the end of the 1814-16 war with the East India Company. Nepali soldiers have served in 10 Gurkha regiments of the British Army ever since, serving in both world wars, in the Malaya insurgency, and in Afghanistan. At least 55,000 Nepalis in the British Army have been killed in action, and many thousands have died fighting for India since 1947.
Following Indian independence in 1947, six of the 10 regiments were assigned to India and four to Britain. India has since added another Gorkha Regiment, and there are currently 32,000 Nepali soldiers in 40 battalions. (India refers to its Nepali soldiers as ‘Gorkhas’, while the British prefer ‘Gurkha’.)
The Tripartite Agreement between Britain, India and Nepal spells out the rights of Nepali soldiers: their salaries, pensions, financial compensation, as well as facilities for families.
The treaty guarantees equal basic pay for Gorkhas as other Indian soldiers, as well as pensions for servicemen who have served a minimum of 15 years.
On 23 July, UML leader Bhim Rawal raised the Agnipath scheme in Parliament, asking for clarification from the government. He demanded that if Agnipath included Nepali soldiers, then Gorkha recruitment into the Indian Army be terminated.
India earlier had informed the Nepal government that it would go ahead with recruiting Nepali youths in Butwal and Dharan. But after Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka held talks with Indian ambassador Naveen Srivastava on 24 August, the recruitment has been postponed in Butwal for now, and officials say that further discussions are underway.
Experts, including former Nepali military brass, had called at the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the Foreign Ministry last week to urge talks with New Delhi about the impact of Agnipath on Nepal.
Read also: Looking back at the 1923 Nepal-Britain Treaty, Santa Gaha Magar