London, Apr.25 : The tradition of Gurkha soldiers being an integral part of the UK armed forces is probably at risk with the coming to power of the Maoists.
The Maoists are the largest party in the 601-seat constituent assembly after a surprise election result. Though they do not have a majority, the preliminary results give them 217 seats, and this the former rebels say will allow them to end the practice of allowing Gurkhas to enrol for the British and Indian armies.
Baburam Bhattarai, a Maoist leader, said: "The obnoxious practice of your citizens joining foreign armies as mercenaries will be stopped."
But this has been met with opposition among former soldiers - and politicians in Britain.
"Nothing stirs a Gurkha more than his honour dared, but here we are in a fix," said Mahendra Lal Rai, secretary of the largest former Gurkha soldiers' group.
"We do feel like mercenaries fighting for foreign armies, but who can deny our economic reality, our compulsions? We are caught between pride and practicality."
Nick Harvey MP, the Liberal Democrat shadow defence secretary, was quoted by the Scotsman as saying: "This would be a disaster for the British Army, and a disaster for those who are, and may wish to become Gurkhas.
"The contribution Gurkhas make to Britain's armed forces is invaluable. Any prospect that we could lose the service Gurkhas give this country only serves to highlight the poor treatment that their veterans have been subjected to by the British government," he added.
The Lib-Dems want Gurkhas who left the army before 1997 to be granted the same right as those who retired since then to live in the UK.
There are around 3,500 Gurkhas currently serving in the British army.
Last year, about 17,500 Nepalese youths battled to secure 230 places on offer in the army. They are motivated by economic reality as well as a proud fighting tradition.
They earn the same 28,000 pounds basic wage as British personnel and now qualify for a UK pension and the right to retire in the country.
Nepal is one of the world's poorest countries - the typical wage is less than 300 pounds a year and 40 per cent of the population live in poverty.