The Gorkhas have participated in nearly every campaign of the Indian Army since Independence and their valour is ingrained in the hearts and minds of the people of the country.
The recruitment of the Nepalese Gorkhas into the Indian Army stems from an arrangement agreed to in 1947 between India, the UK and Nepal, known as the Tripartite Agreement.
The Government of Nepal, continuing its recent saga of needling India and trying to dismantle the special relations between the two countries, appears to be suggesting a renegotiation or even stoppage of the recruitment of Nepalese Gorkhas in the Indian Army. Its demands could involve having a say in the recruitment or on the deployment — issues that may be difficult to agree to.
The general belief is that the Gorkhas in the Indian Army are a legacy of the Anglo-Gurkha war and the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli. But the history runs deeper. In Nepal, to this date, Gorkha recruits to the Indian Army are known as ‘Lahure’, i.e. those who have gone to serve the court in Lahore!
The Kingdom of Nepal was founded in 1769 by Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of Gorkha, by bringing other principalities in Nepal under his control. The next fifty years saw the ambitious Gorkhas in territorial contestation with the East India Company to the east and south and several princely states in India to the west.
On the western side, their expansionary quest saw the Nepalese capturing Kumaon and Garhwal and reach Kangra. This was in 1809. Here, they were stopped by the Sikh Army and had to accept a truce with Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The defeat at Sugauli really clipped Nepalese wings and they had to surrender land in the terai that they had come to control. Nepal’s western and eastern borders were also restricted to the Mahakali (Sharda) and Meechi river, respectively. Interestingly, it is this delineation that ensured that Shimla and Darjeeling remained in British India.