Every time diplomatic relations between India and Nepal come under some strain, it is the cynics who have a field day. The latest spell of acrimony, accentuated by a provocative cartographic ‘aggression’ initiated by Nepal Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, has given prophets of doom the chance to once again sound the death knell of the Indo-Nepal relationship. But little do these naysayers know that it requires more than just political or diplomatic divergences to permanently obliterate the centuries-old close bonding and bonhomie shared between the people of both countries.
Amongst the various issues that the current tension has generated, one concerns the future of the existing practice of Nepalese nationals serving in the Indian army. Some feel that with Oli encouraging hyper-nationalism and promoting anti-India sentiments amongst his people, New Delhi needs to be wary about recruiting Nepalese Gorkhas into the Indian army. Those who belong to this school of thought contend that the ongoing propaganda against India in Nepal would impact the psyche of its nationals due to which their loyalty towards India would be questionable.
Nationalistic feelings do affect the outlook of people, but one needs to guard against overplaying this factor by considering it in isolation. Gorkhas from Nepal have a long history of traditional and cultural affinity towards India, especially when it comes to the armed forces. It is largely believed that the British had been the first to recruit Gorkhas from Nepal, for military service in the Bengal Army of East India Company in 1815, after seeing their prowess on the battlefield during the Anglo-Nepalese war. However, the military association of Gorkhas with India precedes their British connection by at least six years.
It was in 1809, when the army of Maharaja Ranjit Singh clashed with the Gorkhas in Kangra [Himachal Pradesh] during the Gorkha-Sikh War. Though the Gorkhas were vanquished by the Sikhs, Maharaja Ranjit Singh was so impressed by their fighting abilities that he decided to employ them in his army. The Gorkhas fought alongside the Sikhs in the 1822 Afghanistan campaign and during the First Anglo-Sikh War , out of the four infantry battalions of Sikh army’s elite ‘Fauj-e-Khas’ [special forces], one was entirely composed of Gorkhas. Since Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s court was in Lahore, Gorkha soldiers serving in the Sikh army got the moniker ‘Lahure’ [pronounced ‘Lahoray’] – an expression used for Gorkha soldiers even today!
Returning to the issue of Nepalese Gorkhas serving in Indian army, a distinguished record of exemplary military service spanning more than two centuries of soldiering with the Sikh, British and Indian armies speaks volumes about the loyalty and dedication of Gorkhas from Nepal. If, today, they are renowned for being one of the most ferocious and dependable breeds of soldiers in the world, it is due to their unparalleled gallantry and enormous sacrifices made in the line of duty. The enduring ‘Lahure’ saga of bravery, which is an inseparable part of Nepalese folklore and hallowed canons like ‘Kafar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro” [Better to die than live like a coward] is what makes Gorkhas the indomitable fighters they are.
So, while casting aspersions their loyalty merely on unsubstantiated speculation is bad enough, the unkindest cut is when academicians and activists with little or no exposure to ground realities attempt to label Gorkha soldiers of Nepal serving in Indian and British armies as ‘mercenaries’. Coming from those who claim to be the learned ones, such gross misinformation is despicable as it’s invariably contrived to mislead the gullible. Whereas a mercenary is one who is ready to serve the highest bidder and switch loyalties for pecuniary gains without any qualms whatsoever, the Gorkha soldier from Nepal serving in the Indian army [just like all his compatriots irrespective of their colour, caste or creed] remains steadfast since he fights for ‘Naam, Namak, aur Nishan’ [Honour – of his own and that of the outfit to which he belongs, implicit loyalty to the organisation he serves, and pride in the flag of his unit].
Furthermore, this is not the first time that Nepal is experiencing an upsurge in anti-India sentiments. Readers may recall that as early as 1996, Maoists had demanded the closure of all non-Nepalese army Gorkha recruitment in the country. In 2012, the government led by Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai had even attempted to put an end to the recruitment of Gorkhas by other countries in their armies through a document titled, “Nepal’s Foreign Policy in the Changed Context, 2012,” prepared on its behalf by the Nepal Constituent Assembly Committee for Foreign Affairs.
However, with more than 30,000 Nepalese serving in Indian army and over 1,25,000 pensioners and widows of former soldiers, besides the humongous financial implications, discontinuing recruitment of Nepalese citizens in Indian army is also a highly emotive issue for ‘Lahures’. No wonder the 2012 proposal didn’t make any headway and Nepalese citizens continued to enlist in the Indian and British armies as hitherto fore in accordance with the Tripartite Agreement of 1947 between India, UK and Nepal that formalised recruitment of Nepalese Gorkhas in the Indian and British armies and laid down the terms and conditions governing the same.
In February, the Nepalese government approached the UK to consider reviewing this agreement, but it didn’t make a similar request to New Delhi even though Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had said that this agreement was “redundant.” However, not taking up this issue with India was not out of any love or affection for India but for reasons that are completely different. Oli’s move has been largely seen as an attempt to placate those opposing the recruitment of Gorkhas in foreign armies by giving them an impression of him going ahead and walking his talk on ending the recruitment of Nepalese citizens in foreign armies as well as keeping Beijing in good humour.
As per the Tripartite Agreement, India and UK were required to ensure that there would be no discrimination in pay, allowances, working conditions and facilities between their own nationals and Nepalese citizens serving in their respective armies. However, while India has scrupulously ensured this right from the beginning, the same isn’t the case with the UK where there was a wide disparity in pay and pension of Gorkhas vis a vis their British army counterpart till as late as 2007. Though equivalence was finally implemented thereafter, this issue hasn’t yet been fully resolved in its entirety and, thus, discontentment continues to simmer within the rank and file of Gorkhas serving in British army.
On the other hand, being treated as equals has enhanced the self-respect of Nepalese citizens serving in the Indian army while extension of health related and other schemes to retired Nepalese personnel, their dependents and widows of deceased soldiers has made quantum improvement in their quality of life. Frequent interaction between serving officers of the Indian army and veterans facilitates the formulation of a timely and proactive response to the requirements of the gallant Nepalese who had served in the Indian army.
Being treated at par with its own citizens while in service and their needs being taken care of even after retirement rightly make Nepalese citizens who are serving [or have served] in Indian army a proud lot. Hence, terming their occupation “dishonourable” or referring to them as ‘mercenaries’ in an attempt to demean doesn’t really upset or unnerve them! Similarly, since they fully understand that the Oli government is only promoting hyper-nationalism and raising anti-India ante to mollify Maoist factions and appease Beijing respectively.
Tailpiece: Ever since 1950, both India and Nepal have been following the tradition conferring the honorary rank of General of their respective armies upon each other’s army chiefs and this reflects the vibrant defence associated bonhomie that exists between the two countries. With Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari scheduled to confer the honorary rank of General of the Nepal Army upon Indian Army chief General M.M. Naravane at an investiture ceremony next month, reading too much into Oli’s political posturing would amount to making a mountain out of a molehill. Because at the end of the day, hyper-nationalism may influence thinkers, poets and romantics, but certainly not our blue-blooded soldiers from Nepal!
The writer is an Army veteran, who is a keen Pakistan watcher. After retirement, he is gainfully spending his time pursuing his favourite hobby of writing and is a regular contributor to newspapers, journals and various think-tanks.
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MOU BETWEEN ARMY NORTHERN COMMAND AND IIT JAMMU TO DEVELOP TECHNOLOGIES
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Headquarters Northern Command represented by Lt Gen S. Harimohan Iyer, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Northern Command and Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu (IIT Jammu) represented by Prof Manoj Singh Gaur, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu.
The objective of this MoU is to leverage the academic and technological prowess of Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu and domain knowledge/ expertise of Northern Command, in development of defence technology solutions and taking up joint projects for innovative solutions to weapon systems and equipment related problems of Northern Command.
The scope of the cooperation will be Research and Development (R&D) activities related to Northern Command, leveraging IIT Jammu’s expertise and technical infrastructure, and mutual interest and benefits on Research and Development (R&D) projects to solve Army’s problems which require research and experimentation.
The cost with respect to development of the project will be borne by the respective organisations as mutually agreed upon in respect of each project.
NCC conducts week-long combined annual training camp in Agartala
A week-long Combined Annual Training Camp for NCC cadets of Tripura NCC units which commenced at Agartala on 28 February culminated on Sunday. About 115 Senior Division & Senior Wing Cadets from various institutions in Tripura participated in this camp.
Professor Satyadeo Poddar, Vice Chancellor, MBB University, Agartala, was the Chief Guest at the Camp Closing Ceremony who gave away Prizes to the participating Cadets. He complimented the NCC training staff for imparting excellent training to the Cadets. Sharing his personal experience as a former NCC Cadet, he exhorted the Cadets to be physically fit, mentally robust and imbibe the virtues of NCC training in letter and spirit. He emphasised upon the need to work selflessly and contribute individually as well collectively towards Nation building, keeping the Motto of NCC always as the guiding factor.
The camp was conducted by 13 Tripura Bn NCC Agartala under the aegis of NCC Directorate, NER, Shillong and NCC Group HQ Silchar with the timely assistance of Education Department, Government of Tripura. It was the first camp to be organised post Covid-19 pandemic. The closing event was preceded by a Swachhata Awareness Rally.
Army holds sports events for J&K girls, on the eve of Women’s Day
New Delhi: On the eve of the International Women’s Day, with an aim to empower, encourage and engage girls of the Jammu & Kashmir in a constructive way, Indian Army organised a badminton competition for girls at the indoor sports stadium, Reasi. The aim of organising the event was to celebrate international women’s day by promoting sporting spirit amongst the girls & provide them with a platform wherein they can showcase their abilities & fighting spirit. To reaffirm its commitment towards fostering peace, empowering girls and also to provide an impetus to the sporting talents in the region, the tournament which was organised on 7th March at Reasi saw huge crowds turning up to watch their daughters play.
The Badminton Tournament was a crowd puller and attracted huge audiences from the region. The event also saw wide scale participation by girls from the area. The event was conducted for three age categories; 8-12 years, 13-16 years, and 17 years & above. The girls competed very hard and a tough fight was clearly seen amongst the girls during the finals. It was heartening to see the girls of all age groups putting in their heart & soul, displaying high quality of sporting spirit & sporting abilities.
The locals lauded the efforts of Indian Army for organising such an event exclusively for the girls of the region as the people are now slowly and steadily coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic scare. Today the girls of J&K are more confident of facing the challenges in life & surmounting all difficulties. Such events organised by the Indian Army go a long way to prepare the youth of the UT to contribute positively towards nation building. The conduct of such events will go a long way in further strengthening the existing bond between the awam and the Army in the UT of J&K.
Army Research & Referral Hospital commences nursing course
New Delhi: B.Sc (H) nursing course for students of College of Nursing commenced with the lamp lighting ceremony at the Army Hospital (Research & Referral) in New Delhi. The ceremony witnessed 30 budding nursing cadets don the uniform to begin their professional journey.
Lt Gen Joy Chatterjee, Commandant, Army Hospital (R&R), was the Chief Guest of the ceremony. He gave away the prizes to the students of College of Nursing-N/Cdt Bhawna Subba and N/Cdt Reeshma of IV Year. N/Cdt Arshpreet Kaur and N/Cdt Mahak Kamboj of III Year, N/Cdt Biji MR & N/Cdt Indrakshi of II Year BSc (H) for securing first and second ranks respectively in their classes of BSc Nursing (H) final Delhi University examination. Lt Gen Joy Chatterjee stressed on the fact that the students need to stay abreast of the latest advances in healthcare and, at the same time, focus on soft skills and professional touch.
At the ceremony, the traditional lamp was lit and relayed from Maj Gen Sonali Ghosal, Additional Director General, Military Nursing Service (MNS) to Maj Gen Smita Devrani, Principal Matron to Col Rekha Bhattachaya, Principal, who in turn passed it to the teachers. The teachers, then, transferred the light to the first year nursing students, denoting the transfer of knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next.
SOFTWARE-DEFINED RADIO FOR ARMY UNDER AATMANIRBHAR BHARAT MISSION
To arm the soldiers with advantages offered by technology and equip them to fight a war in the Net-centric battle space, present radios are to be replaced soon by indigenously developed software-defined radio.
Communication is vital and critical to all military operations. The Combat Net Radio (CNR) is the mainstay of communications for the Indian Army in the battlefield. The contemporary CNR equipment in the Indian Army supports voice communication only and has limited or no data transmission capability. To arm the soldiers with advantages offered by technology and equip them to fight a war in the Net–centric battle space, present radios are to be replaced soon by indigenously developed software-defined radio (SDR), which have enhanced data transmission capability, enhanced voice clarity and data transmission accuracy in spectrally noisy environments, support multiple waveforms, greater system security and better communication survivability in clear and secure mode to meet the operational requirements of the Indian Army.
Indian Army is in the process to revamp its communication systems by procuring V/UHF Manpack SDRs under Make-II category. After successful evaluation of vendor responses, Project Sanction Order (PSO) has now been issued to 18 Indian vendors to start prototype development. The contract will be placed with one of the firms post successful development of prototype as per provisions of Buy (Indian-IDDM) category of DAP 2020.
Development of V/UHF Manpack SDR under Make-II will be a game changer for Indian Army. It is in sync with the “Aatmanirbhar Bharat” policy of the Government which will lead to “Self Reliance” in advanced communication systems.
MOD AND BEL SIGN CONTRACT
Ministry of Defence (MoD) and Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DPSU) Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) have signed a contract for procurement of Software Defined Radio Tactical (SDR-Tac) worth over Rs 1,000 crore in New Delhi last month. The SDR-Tac, jointly designed and developed by Defence Electronics Applications Laboratory (DEAL) of Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) through a consortium of domestic agencies and industry, comprising Weapons and Electronics Systems Engineering Establishment (WESEE), BEL, Centre for Artificial Intelligence & Robotics (CAIR) and Indian Navy will bring strategic depth to the armed forces. The delivery will take place within three years. The BEL is already supplying SDR-Naval Combat (NC) and SDR-Air is under user evaluation trial. The DRDO and BEL are planning to provide latest SDR with security grading to the Armed Forces.
The SDR-Tac is a four Channel Multi-mode, Multi Band, 19’’ Rack mountable, ship borne Software Defined Radio system. It is intended to serve ship-to-ship, ship-to-shore and ship-to-air voice and data communication for network centric operations. It supports simultaneous operation of all the four channels covering V/UHF and L Band. This SDR system houses multiple types of waveforms for narrow band and wide band applications. The MANET waveforms are available in UHF and L-Band to support ad-hoc networking feature for net centric operations. User evaluation trials covering exhaustive harbour phase and sea phase trials were completed successfully during May to June 2018 at Visakhapatnam for all waveforms including V/UHF and L-Band MANET waveforms under different network configurations. Interoperability trials were also successfully carried out with all other form factors covering Airborne SDR-AR on board Dornier Aircraft, SDR-Tac on board INS Kirch in sailing mode, SDR- Man pack and SDR-Handheld. All the aspects were evaluated successfully by all user agencies of Navy and clearance was accorded for procurement.
The Armed forces are in need of transition from the single purpose radio of the past to more flexible Software Defined Radios (SDRs) to serve most of their wireless communication needs. These SDRs will be backward compatible with existing Indian radios. Different Service groups require different form factor radios for specific platforms and waveforms/applications. The SDRs allow use of common waveform/application implementation methods for different form factors. They also allow implementation of futuristic waveforms on the same hardware using software programmability, thus ensuring longer life and savings on cost. A key factor in SDRs is that software programmability allows easy changes of the radio’s fundamental characteristics such as modulation types, operating frequencies, bandwidths, multiple access schemes, source and channel coding/decoding methods, spreading/de-spreading techniques and encryption/decryption algorithms. Traditional hardware-centric radios require hardware changes to modify these fundamental characteristics. Multiple types of radio equipment can be replaced with multi-mode, multi band, multi-role SDR’s of suitable form factors.
BRO restores connectivity to 13 border villages of Uttarakhand
New Delhi: A 200-feet Bailey Bridge, built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in Reini Village on Joshimat-Malari road across the Rishiganga River was thrown open for public on 3 March. With this, BRO has restored connectivity, in a record time of 26 days, to the 13 border villages of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district that were cut off due flash floods on 7 February earlier this year.
DG BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry lauded the efforts of the personnel of 21 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF) of Project Shivalik and the Chief Engineer Project, Shivalik and his team of Karma Yogis who worked round-the-clock to achieve this feat. He said that BRO has named that bridge as ‘The Bridge of Compassion’ as a tribute to the fallen karmayogis of Renie Power Plant & NTPC Power Plant. He thanked the state government for providing support and assistance to BRO in completing this difficult task.
On 7 February, the Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in Rishiganga River had washed away a 90-metre RCC Bridge near Reini Village on Joshimat-Malari road. The bridge was the only link to Niti Border in Chamoli district. The GLOF had also washed away a hydro-electric plant located at the same site. More than 200 workers of the hydro-electric plant were trapped.
The BRO swung into action by deploying 20 small teams consisting of 200 personnel of 21 BRTF under Project Shivalik in the affected area for relief and rehabilitation work. More than 100 vehicles/equipment and plants that included 15 Heavy Earth Moving equipment/machinery like Hydraulic Excavators, Dozers, JCBs and Wheel Loaders etc were pressed into service. BRO also inducted critical equipment with the help of Indian Air Force.
The task was very challenging due to the steep cliff on far bank and 25-30 metres debris/muck on the home bank and non-availability of working space on either side.
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