Kathmandu/London: Britain plans to keep the strength of the Gorkha battalion intact at 2600 even as it axes British soldiers as part of plans to downsize its Army, a move that comes as a good news for the Nepali-origin people but is being questioned by critics at home.
Famous British regiments will bear the brunt of cuts when the country culls down its infantry from 97000 to 82000 regulars post 2020.
But despite this substantial cut in the British Army, the Gurkha battalion, known for its valour under the British Army, will remain intact, a statement from the British Embassy in the Nepalese capital said today.
"I am delighted that the Gurkha brigade has survived these difficult cuts. This is good news for our Gurkhas and for Nepal, and is testament to the high regard that the British Government and people have for their Gurkhas, as well as to the Brigade's success and reputation on operations," said the statement from the Defence Attache at the British embassy.
"The Brigade of Gurkhas, which will play a full part in this new structure, will number 2600 soldiers and officers, serving in two Infantry Battalions, an Engineer, a Signals and a Logistic Regiment," it said.
In Britain, however, politicians and Army members have questioned the decision to spare thousands of Gorkhas the infantry cull and axe British battalions.
Some critics have accused the government of "lacking the stomach" for a political fallout that would be likely if they cut the unit of Nepalese soldiers who have served Britain for two centuries, a report in The Telegraph said.
"The Gurkhas have given many years of exceptional military service which we should be eternally grateful for. But given that we are being cut to the bone I think it's inexplicable and illogical when we are making British soldiers redundant that we are retaining Nepalese soldiers," Col Richard Kemp, a former infantry commander was quoted as saying.
Patrick Mercer, a Tory MP and former infantry commander, said that serving officers had told him there was "very serious anger at the Gurkha battalions being saved while British battalions are being axed".
Besides the regular soldiers, the British Army will maintain a ?part-time force of 30000 Territorial Army soldiers to back up them.
"We have always been clear that some units will inevitably be lost or will merge as a result of the restructuring of the Army to create an agile, flexible force for the future," a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence was quoted as saying.
First Published: Thursday, July 05, 2012, 22:36