Context: Recently, the killing of a soldier from Nepal serving in the Gurkha regiment in cross-border firing along the Line of Control is a reminder about the strong ties between the Indian and Nepalese armed forces amidst the recent chill in the ties. Soldiers from Nepal form a significant part of the Indian Army’s legendary Gurkha regiment.
Background: Origin of India’s military ties with Nepal
- Pre-independent India:
- The military ties between the two goes back to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whose army in Lahore enlisted Nepalese soldiers called Lahure or soldiers of fortune.
- British India raised the first battalion of the Gurkha Regiment as the Nasiri regiment in 1815.
- By the time the First World War started, there were 10 Gurkha regiments in the British Indian Army.
- Post independence:
- When India got freedom, these regiments were divided between the British and Indian armies as per the Britain–India–Nepal Tripartite Agreement signed in November 1947.
- Six Gurkha regiments with a lakh-odd soldiers came to India.
- They went on to raise another regiment called 11 Gurkha Rifles to accommodate soldiers of 7th Gurkha Rifles and the 10th Gurkha Rifles, who chose not to transfer to the British Army.
- Indian Chief of Army Staff is the honorary chief of the Nepalese army: This convention dates back to 1972: Then Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, a Gurkha regiment officer, fondly called Sam Bahadur by his troops, was made the honorary chief of the Nepalese army.
Can Nepali citizens join the Indian Army?
- Yes, any Nepali can join the Indian Army, both as a jawan and as an officer.
- A citizen of Nepal can take the National Defence Academy or Combined Defence Services exams and join the Indian Army as an officer.
- The Nepalese army also sends its officers for training to India’s military academies and combat colleges.
- The Gurkha regiments, which have 35 battalions, recruit a large number of troops from Nepal.
Gurkha regiment: A thread between India-Nepal ties:
- Gurkha regiments are the main reason behind strong interpersonal ties between the soldiers and officers of the two countries.
- Every year battalions of the Gurkha regiment commission a tour of Nepal. Young officers from India trek to traditional recruiting areas in the rugged Himalayas, meet the locals, and often live in villages with ex-servicemen.
- Both the officers and the troops are fiercely proud of their war cry ‘Jai Maha Kali, Ayo Gorkhali’, the khukri, and their command over Gurkhali language.
Rights enjoyed by the soldiers from Nepal:
- They enjoy the same benefits as the India troops both during service and after retirement. They get the same medical facilities as the Indian soldiers, and often medical teams from the Indian Army tour Nepal.
- Unlike the British, the Indian Army has never discriminated against the Nepalese soldiers, who can avail of healthcare facilities in India as well.
- The Indian Army also runs welfare projects in Nepal villages, including small water and power projects.
About the Gurkhas
- The name "Gurkha" comes from the hill town of Gorkha from which the Nepalese kingdom had expanded.
- But their name is said to derive from an 8th century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath.
- Ethnicity: The ranks have always been dominated by four ethnic groups, the Gurungs and Magars from central Nepal, the Rais and Limbus from the east, who live in villages.
- The Gurkhas are mainly impoverished hill farmers.
- Nepalese customs: They keep to their Nepalese customs and beliefs, and the brigade follows religious festivals such as Dashain, in which - in Nepal in which goats and buffaloes are sacrificed.
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