In a major policy decision, the Army Headquarters has sanctioned the recruitment of non-Gorkha personnel from Uttarakhand into select Gorkha Rifles (GR) regiments. The move, which shall come into effect from the next recruitment cycle, will make eligible Garhwali and Kumaoni youth from Uttarakhand to join GR.
At present, the Indian Army has approximately 40 GR battalions.
Till now, only Nepal-Domiciled Gorkhas (NDG) and Indian-Domiciled Gorkhas (IDG) were recruited into GR regiments, with a ratio of 60-40 maintained between Nepalese and Indian troops in a GR battalion. However, an all-Indian Gorkha battalion was also raised in a regiment a few years back.
Highly-placed sources informed The Indian Express that the approval to induct non-Gorkha personnel has been given for three of the seven GR regiments.
When contacted, a senior officer in Army Headquarters confirmed the development. “There is no shortage of recruits coming from Nepal in the various GR battalions. However, there has been a shortfall of Indian Gorkha recruits for some units and therefore this measure has been adopted to make up the numbers. At present, this induction of non-Gorkhas has been limited to the next two years and thereafter a call will be taken after seeing the numbers of Indian Gorkhas volunteering to join up,” said the officer.
A 1947 tripartite agreement between Nepal, India and the UK allows India Army and the British Army to recruit Gorkha soldiers from Nepal. Under this agreement, of the ten GR regiments at the time, six went to India and four were retained by the UK.
Thus, the Indian Army kept 1, 3, 4, 5, 8, and 9 GR and subsequently raised a seventh regiment, 11 GR. The British Army retained 2, 6, 7 and 10 GR.
Apart from Infantry, Gorkhas are also recruited in an all-Gorkha artillery regiment and a Mechanised Infantry battalion whose origins lie in Gorkha Rifles. Gorkhas also serve in Rashtriya Rifles battalions in Jammu and Kashmir.
Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali had recently termed the Gorkha recruitment a legacy of the past and had called the 1947 tripartite agreement redundant. The remarks had come in the backdrop of the Kalapani dispute between India and Nepal.
A senior retired Gorkha Rifles officer who did not want to be quoted called the development “unfortunate”. “Maybe the government does not want to fill the shortfall of Indian Gorkhas by recruiting more Gorkhas from Nepal, given the strain in relations,” he said.
The British raised the first Gorkha regiment in 1815 at Subathu, Himachal Pradesh. However, prior to that, Maharaja Ranjit Singh had also recruited Gorkhas after a conflict with the Gorkha Army in Kangra in 1809.
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