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Legendary Gurkhas threatened by Nepal communists

NEPAL: Maoist activists in Nepal on Friday called for an end to the recruitment by Britain and India of Nepali youth for their legendary Gurkha regiments.

The Young Communist League, a branch of the country's powerful Maoist former rebels, also vowed to pile pressure on the Himalayan nation's government to bring about an end to the nearly two century-old practice.

"It drains the country of capable young people," Ganesh Man Pun, the head of the Young Communist League told AFP at the end of a three-day high-level policy meeting. "Recruting Nepali youths into the Gurkhas should be stopped as soon as possible," he said.

Famed for their loyalty, discipline and courage in battle, Nepali Gurkhas have been recruited into the British Army since 1817. Competition is fierce and last year more than 15,000 people tried out for 230 places.

The British Army currently has around 3,400 Gurkhas serving in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan, while the Indian Army also has some 40,000 in its ranks.

Tens of thousands of family members depend entirely on Gurkha salaries and pensions, providing income that would be otherwise unobtainable in the largely agricultural, impoverished country.

The Maoists, however, said prospective Gurkha fighters should instead be given opportunities at home. "The government should provide alternative employment opportunities, as thousands of unemployed have already migrated due to the lack of opportunities here," the Maoist youth leader said.

Kathmandu, Friday, AFP

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