‘British army may not recruit Gurkhas’

LONDON: The fearless Gurkhas, who have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years, may no longer be recruited over fears that the veterans will cost too much for the government.

Military chiefs have warned that the historic Gurkha regiment could be scrapped if a landmark legal ruling results in thousands more veterans being allowed to settle in Britain, the Evening Standard newspaper said.

Under new regulations that are set be announced by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in the next few weeks, the rights of former Gurkhas who left the regiment before 1997 are expected to be widened significantly. It could turn historic regiment into the most expensive infantry regiment in the British Army.

The change follows a High Court order last year which granted five of the Nepalese veterans the right to stay in Britain in a test case victory which led ministers to pledge a review of the rules covering up to 2,000 ex-Gurkhas in the same situation.

Campaigners believe that there should be blanket residence rights for the veterans and their dependants, who under the existing regulations are only entitled to move to Britain if they served after 1997.

According to the report, military officials are concerned that such rights for the warriors, who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, could leave the British taxpayers with a substantial bill of between 1 billion pounds and 3 billion pounds.

“This could make the Gurkhas too expensive for the Army,” said a senior defence official.

“We all acknowledge the fantastic service the Gurkhas give, particularly now in Afghanistan, but they may be too costly,” the official was quoted as saying by the paper.

PTI Jan 15, 2009, 05.28pm IST

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