Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India’s Military Ties with Nepal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ex. Surya Kiran

Mains level : India-Nepal military ties

Soldiers from Nepal form a significant part of the Indian Army’s legendary Gurkha regiment. Here is a brief explainer on the origin and evolution of these ties.

Practice question for mains:

Q.“India has special and time-tested military ties with Nepal”. Analyse.

India’s military ties with Nepal: The origin

  • India’s military connection with the Himalayan country goes back to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whose army in Lahore enlisted Nepalese soldiers called Lahure or soldiers of fortune.
  • British India raised the first battalion of the Gurkha Regiment as the Nasiri regiment on April 24, 1815.
  • By the time the First World War started, there were 10 Gurkha regiments in the British Indian Army.
  • When India got freedom, these regiments were divided between the British and Indian armies as per the Britain–India–Nepal Tripartite Agreement signed in November 1947.
  • Six Gurkha regiments with a lakh-odd soldier came to India, which went on to raise another regiment called 11 Gurkha Rifles who chose not to transfer to the British Army.

Can Nepali citizens join the Indian Army?

  • Yes, any Nepali can join the Indian Army, both as a jawan and as an officer.
  • A citizen of Nepal can take the NDA or CDS exams and join the Indian Army as an officer.
  • Col Lalit Rai, who received a Vir Chakra for the bravery of his battalion, the 1/11 Gurkha Rifles, during the Kargil war, is one such officer of Nepalese descent.
  • The Nepalese army also sends its officers for training to India’s military academies and combat colleges.

Do the soldiers from Nepal enjoy the same rights as the Indian troops?

  • Yes, they enjoy the same benefits as the India troops both during service and after retirement.
  • They get the same medical facilities as the Indian soldiers, and often medical teams from the Indian Army tour Nepal.
  • Unlike the British, who started giving the Nepalese soldiers pension only a few years ago, the Indian Army has never discriminated against the Nepalese soldiers, who can avail of healthcare facilities in India as well.
  • The Indian Army also runs welfare projects in Nepal villages, including small water and power projects.

The honorary chief of the Nepalese army

  • Yes, this convention dates back to 1972 when then Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, a Gurkha regiment officer, fondly called Sam Bahadur by his troops, was made the honorary chief of the Nepalese army.
  • Ever since the Army chief of India is the honorary chief of the Nepalese army and vice-versa.

Joint exercises

  • Joint military exercise ‘SURYA KIRAN is an annual event which is conducted alternatively in Nepal and India.
  • It is an important exercise in terms of the security challenges faced by both nations in the realm of changing facets of global terrorism.
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