The Indian Army is concerned about the situation in Nepal getting messier following the resignation of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (AKA Prachanda), who took the step following the reinstatement of the Nepal Army chief General Rookmangud Katawal and the subsequent withdrawal of support by alliance partners of the Prime Minister on the issue of the dismissal of the army chief.
Specifically, the concerns relate to recruitment of Gorkhas to the Indian Army as well as the safety of Gorkha Rifles soldiers traveling to or in Nepal.
Army sources told StratPost, “We don’t really know what this will means for our recruitment process. Recruitment was stalled for the past couple of years and only began again last month at Pokhara and Dharan. We received more than 13,000 applications for some 1,000 vacancies.”
The Indian Army has a large presence in Pokhara with a Pension Paying Office (PPO) as well as an Indian Army hospital in addition to recruitment offices. The recruitment of Gorkhas is overseen by the Gorkha Recruitment Center in Gorakhpur.
One senior officer also said, “Earlier during the time of conflict, Gorkhas from the Indian Army were often targeted by the Maoist rebels, even if they were simply going home on leave. This is something that could happen again.”
Nepalese Gorkhas constitute 40 per cent of the seven Gorkha Rifle regiments of the Indian Army, which comprise of 35 battalions. There are currently estimated to be over 30,000 Nepalese Gorkhas in the Gorkha Rifles. The schedule for the ongoing recruitment has not been decided yet and is likely to be affected by the political situation in Nepal, especially if the Maoists again decide to take up arms against the Nepal Army or even in the event of a political vacuum.
At another level, army sources have also indicated other worries,asking, “What if the Maoists try to oust the President? What happens then?” At the strategic level, the ongoing political unrest is being seen to be a battle of influence between China and India over Nepal. The attempted dismissal of the army chief was prompted by his refusal to integrate the Nepal Army with the Maoist rebel People’s Liberation Army, which would have made the Nepal Army completely political and would have gone a long way towards the establishment of a people’s republic, a dream of many Maoist leaders in Nepal and also something which would give China enormous influence in Nepal.
“The fact that Lieutenant General Kul Bahadur Khadka was the Maoists’ designated successor to General Katawal shows there are now fissures in the Nepal Army too, and could mean a split in the ranks. God knows what would happen then,” said the officer.