(Source: Channel News Asia story)
As part of the most recent rounds of cost cutting in the British defence establishment the 3500-strong Gurkha presence in the British Army is to be reduced by 400 positions. The best quote is:
"When they needed troops for battle, the UK government recruited hundreds and thousands of Gurkhas for their service but they have decided to cut numbers in the name of reducing defence expenditure," said Gajendra Isbo, of the Kathmandu-based Gurkha Army Ex-Serviceman's Organisation.
There can be no doubting the bravery and loyalty of these troops nor their fierce reputation. I recall reading a story that the Gurkhas were present during a siege in the Second World War. They became tired of being targets for the German gunners and so snuck out one night to a gun crew. They killed the two crew members sleeping on the outsides of the row of slumbering Germans with their Kukris but left the others to sleep undisturbed. One can only imagine what happened when the surviving crew members awoke the next day.
Despite this, the world is changing. The British would probably still like to recruit Gurkhas to maintain the numbers of the Army but the British national budget is not as robust as it once was. The Gurkhas like other important components of the service will have to share the pain. In the past there had been talk outside of Australian Defence circles of forming a Gurkha unit in Australia but Australia's Defence Department is also in savings mode. The 3000 plus remaining Gurkhas will continue the historical presence of the tough Nepalese fighters in the British Army. The long term question will be will units like the Gurkhas (and French Foreign Legion) be considered unwanted legacies of imperial pasts to be disbanded in the future or will they be viewed as still important components of financially constrained militaries?