Gurkha and British soldiers ride bicycles on the Hong Kong border in 1985. Photo: Gurkha Memorial Museum
Gurkha and British soldiers ride bicycles on the Hong Kong border in 1985. Photo: Gurkha Memorial Museum

Some people who have limited knowledge about world history may believe that Gurkhas are “mercenaries”, a derogatory word that would provoke the Nepali soldiers.

Perhaps people have such a wrong concept as they remember that the Gurkhas have fought for the British over the past two centuries but fail to understand the whole picture.

Gurkhas are an autonomous institution who began serving with the British in 1815. There has not been a single war in which they did not fight alongside the British forces, sacrificing tens of thousands of their own lives and earning more than a dozen Victoria Crosses in the process.

Read: Gurkhas’ history of service to Hong Kong is being forgotten

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the Gurkhas have played a very important role in safeguarding British interests around the globe and never failed to fulfill their duties as loyal soldiers as well as friends. The British should always be grateful for the services the Gurkhas have provided to their country for generations.

An association that lasts for more than 200 years cannot be based on relationship alone. There must be something very special between them besides trust, faith, respect and a very special national character of Gurkhas – unconditional loyalty – which cannot be bought with money.

Nepali men are proud to become Gurkha soldiers and they always perform their duties with honor and dignity. A community of men who have devoted their blood and sweat to their profession should never be a subject of mockery.

Read: Meet the Gurkhas, fearsome fighters with a 200-year history

To clarify the situation, two points about the legal status of the Gurkhas are worth mentioning.

First, the Tripartite Agreement signed by the governments of the United Kingdom, India and Nepal in 1947 stated clearly that as the Gurkhas had been fully integrated into the regular army into which they had been recruited, under no circumstances were they to be considered mercenaries.

Second, the Gurkhas and the French Legion are under the protection of Geneva Convention Articles 47a and 48b established in 1972 freeing them from being called mercenaries. Unlike hired mercenaries, the Gurkhas have always served in a national regular army, and still do so today.

Besides, the Gurkhas and their families have obtained the right to become British citizens and they are serving the nation just as other citizens normally do.

People who insist on calling the Gurkhas mercenaries should think twice, as they could fine themselves sued for defamation.

Read: Why Hong Kong should not wash its hands of Gurkha history

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