Elite Gurkha warriors could be in battle for Beijing if India fails to look after them properly, security sources warned last night.
It means future conflicts could see the soldiers fighting against their 4,000 “cousins” in British regiments.
The Gurkhas were first recruited by the British East India company in 1815 following a peace deal with Nepal. They subsequently fought several wars for both the Indian and British armies.
Under a tripartite agreement after Indian independence in 1947, six of the ten Gurkha regiments remained part of the Indian Army, the remaining four joining the British Army.
But under the controversial Agnipath – “path of fire” – scheme introduced last year, most of the rank and file members of India’s armed forces will serve just four years, forgoing long tenures, pensions and other benefits.
Only a top-performing 25 per cent will be retained for security forces.
Under the terms of a 1792 treaty, China pledged to help defend Nepal against “external aggression” and sources believe Beijing may take advantage of the opportunity by offering Nepalese Gurkhas better terms.
There have already been reports of retired servicemen being lured with £300 bounties to fight for China in crucial hot spots with India.
While the idea of employing Gurkhas has been refuted by Nepal’s government, sources in Kathmandu fear China’s growing economic influence in the Himalayan country may hold more sway in the future. This includes punitive interest loan repayments for the Pokhara International Airport built by China which has yet to officially be used despite its £300million price tag.
Following a seven-year repayment holiday, China is now insisting on 1.9 per cent back each year.
“One only needs to look at recent comments by China’s ambassador to Nepal Chen Song, when he warned his audience about the dangers of trading with India, to gain a sense of China’s regional confidence,” an Indian security source said last night.
“The fear is Nepal will be unwilling or actually unable to resist Beijing’s increasing pressure.
“And what may begin as a problem for India may soon become a problem for the UK.”
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