Vacancies for Nepalis under Agnipath may be withdrawn if Nepal failed to act soon: Indian Army Chief Pande

Indian Army Chief General Manoj Pande said that India may be forced to withdraw vacancies for enlisting soldiers from Nepal under its new “Agnipath” scheme if Nepal did not take a decision in time.

Nepal has put on hold recruitments under the scheme in protest against the induction of soldiers for only four years without pension and ex-servicemen benefits, Times of India reported.

Responding to a query at a session in the United Service Institution of India on Wednesday, Gen Pande said the vacancies allocated to Nepali Gorkhas will have to be “redistributed” to others for the time being if Nepal does not allow recruitment rallies as per the laid-down cutoff dates, the report said.

Such a move by India, if it comes to that, could have adverse implications for the already delicately poised relationship with Nepal, where China has systematically made huge strategic inroads over the years, TOI claimed.

The Indian Army is going to induct a total of 40,000 “Agniveers” in two batches after recruitment rallies and selection process around the country, and in Nepal, with the training of around 25,000 to begin in December and 15,000 in February.

Even before the Agnipath scheme was announced in mid-June, the annual intake of Nepali Gorkhas in the Indian Army had gradually come down to around 1,500 from the earlier over 4,000 per year, according to TOI.

“As per my sense,” Gen Pande said, Nepal “is unlikely to take any decision before the general elections in the country on November 20”, given that certain quarters were opposed to the Indian Army recruiting Nepalese youth.

“It’s a decision for Nepal to take,” Army Chief Pande said, adding that India had explained the “benefits” for the 75% of the young soldiers to be demobilized after four years with the Seva Nidhi exit package of Rs 11.7 lakh each.

Meanwhile, Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Bharat Raj Paudyal called on foreign minister S Jaishankar on Wednesday after meeting his counterpart, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, a day earlier to discuss bilateral relations.

It may be noted that the Indian Army began recruiting Nepali Gorkhas under the tripartite agreement signed among India, Nepal, and the United Kingdom in 1947.

As many as 30,000 Nepalese citizens are serving in the Army’s seven Gorkha Rifles regiments, each of which has five to six battalions.

(Inputs from TOI)


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