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regular-article-logo Wednesday, 22 May 2024

Congress slams central government on Gorkha 'loss' to Russia's Wagner Group

The party also took note of the 'disturbing reports' about China luring away Nepali Gurkhas for the People’s Liberation Army

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 28.06.23, 04:54 AM
 While Gorkhas were part of the British Army in India, six Gorkha regiments were transferred to India after Independence. Currently, there are 47 battalions serving in seven Gorkha regiments in the Indian Army.

While Gorkhas were part of the British Army in India, six Gorkha regiments were transferred to India after Independence. Currently, there are 47 battalions serving in seven Gorkha regiments in the Indian Army. Representational picture

The Congress on Tuesday blamed the Narendra Modi government’s flawed policy of recruitment in the Armed Forces as reports suggested Nepali Gurkhas (now called Gorkhas) have joined the private militia in Russia known as Wagner Group which recently drew global attention by revolting against President Vladimir Putin.

The Congress also took note of the “disturbing reports” about China luring away Nepali Gurkhas for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

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Congress communications chief Jairam Ramesh tweeted: “Gurkhas are universally acknowledged to be among the finest soldiers in the world. Yet the ill-conceived Agnipath scheme has interrupted a 200-year-old recruitment process and no Gurkha soldiers will be entering the Indian Army in 2023. This disruption is leading to Gurkhas being recruited by private military companies like the Wagner Group that recently revolted against the Russian government.”

Ramesh added: “There are disturbing reports that China is seeking to recruit Gurkhas, exploiting the vacuum created by Agnipath. In its misguided and unilateral attempts at “reform”, the Modi Government is once again destroying political, cultural and social capital built over decades and endangering our national security.”

Nepali soldiers form a significant part of the Indian Army’s legendary Gorkha regiment. While Gorkhas were part of the British Army in India, six Gorkha regiments were transferred to India after Independence. Currently, there are 47 battalions serving in seven Gorkha regiments in the Indian Army.

Many Gorkha soldiers have won top gallantry awards in India.

The Modi government did not consult the Nepal government on the recruitment of Gorkhas while announcing the Agnipath scheme though several Indian Army generals argued that the absence of Gorkhas will have an adverse impact on the Armed Forces. The government has said the recruitment of Gorkhas will continue under the Agnipath scheme but it is not clear whether any special arrangement has been made so far. It also depends on Nepal whether it agrees to the conditions of the Agnipath scheme.

The report that Ramesh attached with his tweet said: “On May 16, Russian authorities made it easy to access Russian citizenship after one year of military service. Since then, hundreds of Nepali youths have joined Russian forces as contract soldiers. Some of them are retired from the Nepal Army. While Russian citizenship is a big attraction for Nepali youths, another factor is the end of their recruitment in the Indian Army. Ties between Nepal and India came under strain when the Indian Government last year replaced long-term employment with shorter contracts tenure and no pension.”

Forward Bloc appeal

The All-India Forward Bloc on Tuesday issued a statement asking the Centre to learn a lesson from the Wagner operation in Russia and reconsider the continuation of the Agnipath scheme.

The party said that under Agnipath, 46,000 youths are to be recruited for the army and after four years, 75 per cent of them will be without jobs and social security.

The trained and jobless Agniveers, with an average age of 27, can be easily recruited by anyone planning to raise a private army like the Wagner group, the party said. This will be detrimental to the country’s interest, it added.

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