Gurkha veterans on Wednesday.

Gurkha veterans end 13-day pensions hunger strike

Gurkha veterans on Wednesday.

Former Gurkha servicemen have ended a 13-day hunger strike after the Government agreed to enter talks with the Nepalese Embassy over equal pensions for veterans.

The group had not eaten for almost a fortnight, with one 60-year-old admitted to hospital with heart problems in the early hours of Wednesday morning, before returning to his strike outside Downing Street.

The hunger strikers were part of a group of protesters calling for equal pensions for Gurkhas who retired before 1997 and are ineligible for a full UK Armed Forces pension.

On Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced it would open talks with the Nepalese Embassy about the matter.

An MOD spokesperson said: "We are happy the Satyagraha group have agreed to break their fast. Our primary concern is always the health and welfare of our serving personnel and veterans and this strike was not a course of action we encouraged.

"We look forward to meeting with the group next month alongside the Nepali Ambassador to move forward together."

Watch: One of the group returned to the hunger strike after being taken to hospital.

The Gurkha Equal Rights campaign group tweeted on Thursday afternoon: “BREAKING NEWS ! Government has a struck a deal with the Nepal Embassy for a government to government dialogue.

"13 days of fast unto death, the hunger strike has now been called off ! Thank you everyone for your support and love!"

The Gurkhas, recruited from Nepal, have a reputation as hard and loyal fighters, and are known for the trademark curved kukri blades they carry sheathed on their belts.

Around 200,000 fought in both world wars, also serving in places such as Hong Kong, Malaysia, Borneo, Cyprus, the Falklands, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Those who served from 1948 to 2007 were members of the Gurkha Pension Scheme until the differences between Gurkhas' terms and conditions of service and those of their British counterparts were removed.

Serving Gurkhas, and those with service on or after 1 July 1997, could then opt to transfer into the Armed Forces Pension Scheme (AFPS).

The change was brought in after an amendment to immigration rules in 2007, backdated to July 1997, meant more retired Gurkhas were likely to settle in the UK on discharge, whereas the Gurkha Pension Scheme had lower rates as it had assumed they would return to Nepal where the cost of living was significantly lower.

A year's service after 1 July 1997 counts as a year's service in the AFPS, however, a year's service before 1 July 1997 only counts as a proportion of a full service year – between 23% and 36% depending on rank.

Cover image: Gurkha veterans on hunger strike on Wednesday.

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