Kathmandu Asks India to Suspend Recruitment of Nepali Youth Under Agnipath Scheme

New Delhi: Nepal has requested the Indian Army to postpone the recruitment of Nepalis – which was planned to begin on Thursday – until there is more clarity about the Agnipath tour-of-duty scheme.

According to Nepali newspaper My Republica, foreign minister Narayan Khadka called Indian ambassador Naveen Srivastava to the ministry on Wednesday and asked him to postpone the plan to recruit Nepali youth – who are drafted into the Indian Army’s Gorkha regiment – under the Agnipath scheme.

Agnipath’s announcement has been controversial in India and several aspirants participated in violent protests against the scheme soon after it was announced in June this year. However, the military has insisted that there will be no rollback of the scheme, under which 75% of recruits will be discharged after four years of service. They will not receive a one-time severance payment but no pension.

The Indian Army had plans to recruit Nepalis in the Western city of Butwal on Thursday and the Eastern city of Dharan on September 1. According to My Republica, Nepal foreign minister Khadka told the Indian ambassador that all “political parties in Nepal should have a unanimous view about the Agnipath scheme” and requested India to stop the recruitment until a consensus is reached.

According to the news agency IANS, after Agnipath was announced on June 14, the Indian Army via the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu wrote to Nepal’s foreign ministry and sought approval for recruitment and security support. But the Nepal government failed to communicate to the Indian side whether it will allow the Indian Army to start the recruitment process. Only on Wednesday, one day before the planned recruitment in Butwal, did the Nepal foreign minister ask India to delay the recruitment of Nepali youth.

The newspaper also reported that defence analysts are worried about the social impact of the Agnipath scheme on Nepal. “The social impact on Nepali society must also be considered when young adults trained in warfare and weaponry are sent back to Nepal, rather than spending a full career in the Indian Gorkhas. There is even sociological evidence that such a situation is likely to raise the level of gun-violence and other types of violence in society, as Indian commentators have also suggested,” a retired Nepal Army general said, according to My Republica.

Also Read: Here’s What’s Likely to Happen to Indian Army’s Discharged Agniveers

Nepali nationals can be recruited for military services in India and the United Kingdom as per the tripartite treaty signed in 1947. According to Kathmandu Post, around 1,300 Nepalis would have been recruited under the Agnipath scheme this year – far lower than in the previous years. In all, around 40,000 ‘Agniveers’ are expected to be recruited by the three Indian service branches this year.

Reacting to the development, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, ““We have been recruiting Gorkha soldiers to the Indian Army for a long time. We look forward to continuing to recruit Gorkha soldiers to the Indian Army under the Agnipath scheme.”

Featured image: Representative image of the Indian Army’s Gorkha regiment. Photo: Public.Resource.Org/Flickr CC BY 2.0

This article was first published on The Wire.