Talks Continuing Over Allowing Women To Join Gurkhas

Talks over the possibility of accepting Nepalese women into the Gurkhas are still in progress, the British Ambassador to Nepal has said.

Nicola Pollitt spoke to Forces News in Pokhara, central Nepal, as the latest Gurkha recruits completed their attestation - swearing allegiance to Queen and country and marking the start of their British Army career.

She said: "I would love to see Nepalese women join the British Army just as British women can join all areas of the military now.

"It is something we are discussing with the government of Nepal and I very much hope we will be able to make that happen before too long." 

All roles in the UK Armed Forces were opened to women in 2018 by then-Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.

Gurkha Major, Major Muktiprasad Gurung, said he "very much" hopes women will be allowed to join the Gurkhas in the future.

Captain Govinda Rana, Quarter Master, added that the camp is "ready to accept any female recruits".

In December 2019, Nepal's foreign minister said the country wanted to review its Gurkha deal with the UK ahead of allowing female recruits to join the British Army.

Ms Pollitt said: "The relationship between the UK and Nepal is over 200-years-old and is the longest-serving diplomatic relationship of any country, and the Gurkhas form the basis and the heart of that."

WATCH: How the 2021 Gurkha selection process was done.

Meanwhile, 340 new Gurkha recruits have passed a gruelling selection process in Nepal.

The number of young men to be recruited each year is set in advance, with the 2021 intake decided prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to coronavirus, British Gurkhas Nepal resorted to a backup selection procedure which had been devised in 2015, when the region was hit by a devastating earthquake.

This involved cancelling new registrations and, instead, inviting back the best of the candidates who had just missed out the previous year.

For the recruitment to go ahead, British Gurkhas Nepal was turned into a COVID-safe zone, with applicants isolating for 14 days before coming on the camp.

While most of the tests remained the same, the famous doko race was cancelled for the first time.

Major Jack Millar, Officer Commanding, British Gurkhas Pokhara, told Forces News: "We were worried the whole time that we weren't going to meet the demand but keeping everyone who was involved in selection safe was the priority.

To maintain social distancing guidelines, candidates were taken off-site to wait for results.
To maintain social distancing guidelines, candidates were taken off-site to wait for results.

"Luckily, we managed to get through with no incidents whatsoever and I think that was testament to the advice we got from all the healthcare professionals that helped set up the infrastructure we've got here."

He added there had been no drop in standards, despite the challenges of the selection process.

"All of the potential recruits that were called forward had performed exceptionally well at regional selection but unfortunately, last year, there were just a number of recruits who outperformed them on the day," Major Millar said.

"From the results that we've got, we've got some really impressive fitness and education standards."

To maintain social distance, as soon as the tests were complete, the candidates were taken off-site and housed in so-called 'Party Palaces' around the city while they waited for their results.

Among those to pass the selection was Jagadish Gurung. He told Forces News: "I'm really excited to see England.

"I want to visit different places, like Buckingham Palace and I want to go to Chelsea football stadium."

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