“Strategy without process is little more than a wish list,” Robert Filek
The Asian landmass is one such place on this earth which has the unique quality of remaining in the world news due to its peculiar position in the comity of continents as also due to the fast changing geopolitical overtones affecting the various countries as compared to the rest of the world. Something of a similar nature is happening on the northern frontiers of India abutting the LAC at Ladakh and on the Indo-Nepalese front forcing us to reminisce the happenings during the “Great game” of 19 th century spilling over to early 20th century. The recent Lipulekh/Kalapani imbroglio tracing its roots to the 1816 Suguali treaty between British India and Nepal coupled with the Nepalese Foreign minister MrPradeepGyawli’s latest statement that 1947 Britain-Nepal-India tripartite treaty is redundant as far as Gurkha recruitment is concerned to the Indian army has much more wider ramifications than meets the eye.
As per the Nepalese FM, the changed geopolitical situation and context calls for revisiting this treaty. This statement of his though stated recently will alter the contours of Indo-Nepal relations for ever affecting in the bargain the cosy bilateral relations nurtured so carefully for centuries. Just to recapitulate the finer points of this tripartite treaty for the benefit of the readers in general. Firstly the treaty refers to the Gurkha recruitment in India and UK and quotes that the process of this recruitment should be for the Nepalese citizens only who thereafter will be resettled as Nepalese after the terms of engagement.Secondly it says that all religious and cultural observances must be preserved in accordance with the Hindu religion.It further says that Gurkha soldiers in both Indian and British armies must receive the same pay although allowances can be different and subject to satisfactory performance they should be allowed to serve till they qualify for pension. As for their leave, all Gurkha soldiers should be allowed an extended period of leave in Nepal every three years and so on.
This tripartite agreement applies to 3500 odd serving in the British army and close to 40000 Gurkhas in the Indian army.The same doesn’t apply to Gurkhas serving in Nepalese army.This tripartite treaty was reviewed in 2007 with UK since there has always been a strong undercurrent by the political class as to why should their able bodied young men fight for another country. The anti India baiters use this recruitment drive quite effectively and with the mood of the people in Nepal going ballistic over Lipulekh/Kalapani imbroglio this issue assumes center stage attention. The fact of Gurkha recruitment into Indian army initially appears to be a populist move, but when dug deeper it comes out with a plethora of surprises most of which are unpleasant to say the least and which all of us are not even aware of. This tripartite agreement in fact impinges upon the lives/livelihoods of thousands of Indian/Nepalese Gurkhas and their families to no end.Gurkhas have been serving in India since Mughal times and their relations were further cemented by the 1816 treaty of Suguali and in 1947 by the tripartite treaty between British India and Nepal.This agreement allows Nepali citizens to serve in India and and UK.
India currently has 7 Gurkha regiments which are 1st, 3rd,4th,5th,8th,9th and 11thGurkha rifles. The missing serials were allotted to British army on India’s independence. Each regiment is further organized into 5 or 6 Infantry Battalions mainly independent and functional units of Indian army. Within these units most units have 30% Indian citizens and rest is Nepalese Gurkhas who serve under the tripartite agreement. The size of the manpower Nepal provides is comparatively small, but then the stock from which these Gurkhas come is pure raw material, tough, hardy, mountainous folk simple, sincere and brave, the quintessential fighter class honed by centuries of martial abilities. Besides these Gurkha soldiers there are personnel employed in ITBP, SFFetc hence it would be difficult to quantify the exact number of manpower in our country, but a rough estimate by the GOI data peddled by the CSO/Central statistical organization based at New Delhi gives the figure in the range of pensioners as 1.3 lakhs, with 50000 active Gurkhas serving in India at any given point of time from Nepal of which about 35000 to 40000 are in defence forces and rest 10000 in allied services.
A case in point is that of Assam rifles .Raised as Cachar levy in 1835 the Assam rifles was initially 80% Gurkhas with most of the traditions being Gurkha centric .But the GOI in 1986 abolished the recruitment pattern which was followed for ages with a more nationalistic hue and needs. Same goes for the elite SFF/Est 22 organisation which was raised under the adverse circumstances of 1962 conflict and totally populated by the Pinjas/Tibetan soldiers belonging to the Amdo and Kham region of Tibet with the help of CIA of US as a deterrent to the PLA of China. But then with India having cold shouldered the Tibetan issue, most of the able bodied Tibetans started shunning to join the SFF leaving the doors open to Gurkhas to do the honours instead. Now how will this impact of annulment of tripartite agreement befall India and its army? One need to know that IA Gurkha units are already 30% populated by Indian Gurkhas and hence for a country of India’s size to ramp up the strength to 100% will be no issue at all. Initially there may be hiccups, but then govt of the day doesn’t concern with it much anyway. The recruitment pattern in the IA is much more streamlined and stabilized one and with India bursting at its seams with a young demography to boot there is just no dearth of capable people to fill in the ranks.
It is generally given to understand that if Nepalese FM PradeepGyawli’s words are put into action then the earliest India may have to feel the reverberations is somewhere in the time frame of about 2 to 3 years down the line. Now what is the political fallout of this latest fusillade let loose by the FM of Nepal on both the countries?As is understandable that a decision of this nature will have political ramifications more in India and with serious consequences for Nepal. In India the opposition parties will tout this as a foreign policy failure of the government of the day and for Nepal and its citizenry it will be dire straits. The Nepali youth is as ever on the lookout for greener pastures and jobs and for them India is a big market just across the Indo Nepalese border.By conservative estimates there are more than 7 lakhs Nepali origin people who have not returned to Nepal after having set foot in India. The political ramifications on this issue for Nepal therefore hinges upon its survival what to talk of picking up cudgels against India and engaging it one to one to prove to its people the righteousness of the decision taken.
Connected with the Nepalese GurkhaJhonny in Indian army is that of a large number of people of Nepalese origin who are working in India and also own property over here.There are families who are split between the two countries where one brother is working in India and the other in Nepal. Something of a similar nature is a fact of life in Kashmir where in across the LOC families have been torn apart now for close to 75 years with no chance of their getting reunited.How will the Red line is drawn for them? What about those thousands of Nepalis who work in countless metros/malls and spread over the length and breadth of India? Has anybody given any thought to this daunting question? What about those Nepalis who have pensionable jobs in India but are not soldiers? The eventual result will be a big backlash in Nepal causing deep reverberations across the board .One major fallout of annulment of this tripartite pact if at all it comes into being will be that of issue of foreign remittances to Nepal by its diaspora living in India. As is well known that the Nepalese economy is a “Remittance economy” heavily dependent upon the money sent back home by its earning population settled in India and elsewhere.
Readers are well aware that Indo-Nepal border is porous one with unhindered access to each country. Recruitment of Indian Gurkhas is typically done on a certificate issued by the respective Gurkhaboards, hence how will this be monitored as with open borders can any one stop the Nepalese from trooping inside India? At the end of the day there are more questions unanswered than being answered,if this tripartite agreement sees the light of the day. Let it be very clear that the Nepalese population may go for leather hunting while their political class earns brownie points, but when the curtains are down after the show, what about the deep shared values of the people so carefully nurtured for centuries, the people to people contacts, same religion and deep historical bonds? Does the present FM and the PM Mr KP Oli have satisfactory answers for all the above? If not then what locus standi do they have for making such sweeping statements aimed at hitting the core of Indo-Nepalese relations? Well I leave it to the readers for chewing the cud, since may be they could come out with a possible solution to this vexed issue.