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Nepal seeks to end 200 years of Gurkhas fighting for Britain

Almost two centuries of Gurkha service in Britain's Armed Forces could draw to a close after Nepalese MPs backed a ban on recruitment once economic conditions are strong enough to generate alternative jobs.

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Nepal seeks to end 200 years of Gurkhas fighting for Britain
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Almost two centuries of Gurkha service in Britain's Armed Forces could draw to a close after Nepalese MPs backed a ban on recruitment once economic conditions are strong enough to generate alternative jobs.

A parliamentary report setting the Himalayan state's foreign policy, recommends that the recruitment of Gurkhas to fight in foreign armies should end. Its authors complained that since Britain granted retired Gurkha troops the right to remain in the United Kingdom in 2009, the amount of income Nepal earns from the arrangement has declined.

Those who support a ban say the recruitment of poor young men to fight other countries' wars hurts Nepal's national image.

A ban would break a bond which dates back to 1815 when the East India Company's officers defeated a Gurkha army in the Anglo-Nepalese War but admired their warrior skills and spirit. Their heroics in battle with the British and British Indian Armies soon inspired fear around the world. When Hitler prepared for the Second World War, he sought to sabotage Britain's Gurkha recruitment by offering lavish gifts to Nepal's Rana royal rulers.

Gurkhas have fought in most of Britain's major conflicts since, including Afghanistan where a number of Gurkha troops have lost their lives.

Today there are still 3,800 Gurkhas serving in British Forces, while more than 30,000 serve in the Indian Army. Singapore and Brunei have their own Gurkha forces. Potential recruits are put through gruelling physical endurance tests, in which they must be able to run up mountains carrying packs weighing 77lbs.

Nepal's parliamentarians want to end the relationship and use their talents at home. Padam Lal Bishwakarma, the chairman of Nepal's parliamentary international relations and human rights committee, told The Daily Telegraph that he wanted the recruitment to end but not until the country could offer the men alternative jobs with matching pay.

"We should have that target that one day we should be able to employ all these youths. Then we will have to stop this recruitment," he said.

"Our youths are compelled to go abroad because of our lack of opportunities in our own country."

Nepal's Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday (Monday) sought to allay fears of any imminent ruling on the issue and stressed that the committee's report had simply been distributed throughout government.

"The government has not said anything about this. There is no need to panic," said a spokesman.

Britain's defence attache in Kathmandu, Colonel Andrew Mills, who oversees Gurkha recruitment and welfare, said the current arrangement contributed so much to Nepal's economy that he doubted there would be any change.

"We bring a lot of benefits without which the place would grind to a standstill.

"I pay directly into Nepal, not including remittances, pounds 87?million a year and that is very closely matched by the Department for International Development. The net swag is eight per cent of Nepal's GDP. No sane government would stop that, there are no jobs here," he said.

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