Gurkhas Get a Fair Deal or so said the British Ambassador

By Dr Andrew Hall

You have to be good, very very good, to join the British Army as a Gurkha. The United Kingdom currently recruits only 230 Nepali citizens a year, but this year over 14,600 young men applied - it's certainly a popular career. To be one of the fortunate few you have to be highly motivated, well educated and in peak physical condition. Those who make the grade are joining one of the world's most advanced armies, often serving in some very challenging operational theatres such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
In return, the Gurkha soldier will be paid the equivalent of his British counterpart (as a Lance Corporal 2.25 lakh rupees a month, as a Sergeant 3.15 lakh rupees a month and as a Captain 4.16 lakh rupees a month). His wife and children will be entitled to live in service provided accommodation in the United Kingdom. In addition, they will all receive free healthcare and free education for their children. It sounds, and is, a highly desirable and attractive career.

So why have retired ex-British Gurkha servicemen been demonstrating outside the British Houses of Parliament and outside the British Embassy in Kathmandu? They say they have been unfairly treated over their pensions and over their immigration status. There has been a lot of rhetoric. I wanted to lay down some facts.


Until now Gurkha pensions have been linked to the rates paid to Indian Army pensioners. Why? Because that was the agreement the-then Governments of Nepal, India and the United Kingdom signed up to in 1947 when the British Indian Army was wound up and some Gurkha regiments were re-assigned to the British Army and some to independent India's Army.

Since then every new recruit has been made perfectly well aware of this linkage. The pension rates were intended to support the ex-Gurkha when he retired to Nepal. And they are generous. Don't take our word for it: judge for yourselves. A Captain draws in the region of 42 thousand rupees every month, while a Sergeant and a Lance Corporal draw in excess of 17 thousand and 13 thousand rupees respectively, each month.

Why didn't they get the same pension as a British soldier? Because the Gurkha Pension Scheme (GPS) and the British Armed Forces Pension Scheme 75 (AFPS 75) are entirely different, intended to meet different needs. The GPS is based on the Indian Army Pension Scheme. It assumes that Gurkhas are recruited in Nepal, serve in the British Army as Nepalese citizens and, crucially, are discharged in Nepal, where historically the vast majority of former Gurkhas have remained on retirement.

Let's be clear. The GPS is not a substandard version of the British AFPS 75. On the contrary, it has benefits that the AFPS 75 does not. What are they? Specifically, the Gurkha pension scheme not only provides generous rates but also:

" pays pensions early, on departure from the army. This is a massive benefit. Their counterparts in the wider Army under the British AFPS 75 who serve for less than 22 years (currently 80%+) do not receive any pension at all until they reach the age of 60 or, increasingly, 65. In contrast, Gurkhas who leave service with only 15 years service, start to receive a pension under GPS immediately on discharge. This means that they receive pension payments for a long period, perhaps 25 years or more, when a non-Gurkha gets nothing. The preserved pension a non-Gurkha soldier gets at age 60/65 is worth more, but is paid for a much shorter period;

"ensures any revision of pensions benefits are applied to all pensioners in the scheme. For example, all our pensioners had their pensions at least doubled when the GPS was reviewed in 1999. This is in marked contrast to their British counterparts whose pensions are based on their salaries at the time they left the Army. They cannot catch up with any subsequent pay awards made to their successors; "matches or exceeds any improvements made to Indian Army pensions rates, including through the 10-yearly Indian Army Pay Commissions. For example, in 2006 the British Government learnt that the Indian government was going to change the calculation of its pensions. We immediately began to implement this change, which will result in a further substantial increase (up to 20%) in GPS pensions for junior ranks. The British government also continues to review the GPS pensions annually to take account of cost of living increases in Nepal.

So, are the pension arrangements for Nepali ex-Gurkhas different? Yes, absolutely: they confer on Nepali ex-Gurkhas benefits that their British counterparts can never enjoy.

However, as a result of the Gurkha Terms and Conditions of Service review, ex-Gurkhas, who left the British Army after 1 July 1997 and who have already been benefiting from the GPS pension, will be allowed the option of transferring to the British AFPS 75. All their service, including that before 1 July 1997, will be taken into account, if they decide to transfer their benefits into AFPS 75. Service on or after 1 July 1997 will be given a credit of year-for-year in AFPS 75, while service before that date will have a credit worth broadly the same as the benefits earned in the GPS before that date.

However, an individual's decision of whether or not to transfer from GPS to AFPS 75 will be a complex one and individuals will need to read carefully the Offer To Transfer documentation when issued, ensure they understand the consequences of opting for change and make a decision based on their personal needs.

Finally on pensions, it has been claimed that it is "outrageous" that Gurkhas who served for the duration of World War II receive no pension for their war service. However, not only is this in step with their comrades in the wider Army who also served for the duration of the war and earned no pension from it but ex-Gurkhas are able to draw on the services of the Gurkha Welfare Scheme which provides financial and other support to over 10,000 ex-Gurkhas.

Settlement in the United Kingdom

The other complaint raised by the ex-Gurkha organisations is over their entitlement to permanent resident's status in the United Kingdom. Until a few years ago a tiny number of retired Gurkhas qualified for a United Kingdom resident's permit. They would not have spent enough time in the United Kingdom to qualify under our Immigration Rules. In October 2004 that changed. The British Home Office gave an immigration concession to ex-Gurkhas who retired after 1 July 1997 to allow those who had completed at least 4 years military service to count this towards the qualifying period for settlement in the United Kingdom.

The ex-Gurkhas outside the British Embassy are not demonstrating about this concession. They are demonstrating that the concession should also apply to those Gurkhas who retired before 1 July 1997. So, why is the concession only valid from 1 July 1997? Because 1 July 1997 is the date when the Brigade of Gurkhas, on completion of the British withdrawal from Hong Kong, became a United Kingdom based force, thus enabling ex-Gurkhas to demonstrate close and continuous ties to the United Kingdom. Before then our Gurkhas were based in the Far East, and could not therefore demonstrate these close ties as required by the United Kingdom Immigration Rules. This requirement has never been up for negotiation and it was never the British government's intention to grant universal settlement rights to all Gurkhas who were recruited in Nepal, served in the Far East and were finally discharged in Nepal.

However, in recognition of the fact that some ex-Gurkhas, discharged prior to 1 July 1997 might also be able to demonstrate close ties to the United Kingdom, the British government introduced four discretionary criteria. Under these criteria, which include either three years service in the United Kingdom, the balance of close family members being already resident in the United Kingdom, children's education or acute medical conditions, significant numbers have successfully applied for settlement visas.

While I, and my Embassy staff, have listened carefully to our ex-Gurkhas concerns and have acted as a conduit to the British government, it saddens me that they feel so hard done by. The relationship between the Brigade of Gurkhas and the British Army has always been one built on mutual trust and confidence. Nothing has been hidden and our Gurkhas have known from their first days of service what their terms and conditions of service would be. When there have been changes over the years, we have given extremely detailed briefings. The relationship within the Army is but a reflection of the long term relationship between our two nations. From where I sit our friendship remains as strong as ever. Fortunately for Nepal, the majority of ex-Gurkhas living in Nepal are now devoting their energies and their resources to building a peaceful and prosperous Nepal together with their fellow citizens.

(Dr Hall is the British Ambassador to Nepal)
I'd have thought the argument for absolute parity in pay, pensions etc. has been overwhelming for a long time now.


Book Reviewer
Fascinating and informative post!

I do have a couple of 'issues' with the question on immigration and 'close ties to the UK'.

No foreigners (IMHO) have demonstrated anywhere near the loyalty to this country that Ghurkas have and do. Not only this, but if any nationality has shown a degree of integration into the UK mindset, it is that of the Ghurka soldier who has learned the VERY best facets of the British way of life and its values.

Of all the immigrants that come to the UK, none is more suitable that the Ghurka who has offered his life to serve us, who has learned our values through service in the British armed forces (one of the last bastions of true British values).

Ex-ghurkas can bring a lot to this country, and IMHO, more than your average immigrant.

We have NOTHING to lose by allowing them to come here. Let's not also forget the rights we gave to commonwealth citizens to come to the UK, irrespective of service in the forces. Were they more deserving? I think not.

Let's also not forget the paltry numbers they might represent too. 274 Ghurkas recruited in a year. That's not many potential immigrants is it?
Fair play to them but I think that the post WW2 east europeans especially the Poles integrated excellently and added value to this country. In the North Hanmpshire area there seems to be quite a few Nepali people with military bearing working on Facilities management etc. Still displaying the old values and earning respect from many.
At last someone who is not afraid to tell it how it is. It will be a sad day for the Gurkhas when they have Brit TACOS forced on them. The vast majority will be going home without a pension - just like the average Brit squaddie.
Hehe, Gurkhas are funny old haps, I have 1 or 2 mates that are from Nepal, they also want to join the Army, one wanting to join The royalmarine ommandos, however, they seem to take everything quite serious and literally. If you tell one to get out of it for telling you something spetaular, he's gonna want to punh your nose.

:D good old gurkhas


I know a few ex-ghurka's and work with one. I know of an ex 22 year colour sergeant who is residing in the uk and his pension is only around £60 per month! Not quite the same an an ex colour sergeant in the rest of the British Army I think.

My work colleague had done 15 years and he is not in receipt of any type of pension yet!

They may have known about the terms and conditions they signed up to, however they would have been young nepalese men then and having never experienced the British Army nor resided in the UK would be totally unaware of the difference in pay rates between their regiment and the rest of the British Army. Their terms and conditions should definately be modernised.

My work colleague has been given British Citizenship, however he has a lot of red tape to go through in order to get his family over here to live with him. Doesn't seem so hard when your a member of the EU having never served Britain nor set foot in it!

We should treat these brave soldiers with more respect and dignity!


War Hero

Your isolated case does show a disparity of pay and pensions compared to the average UKTAP soldier who has served 22 years. However if you look at Gurkha TACOS in the wider sense you may form a different opinion.

You should also note that when your work colleague joined the British Army there was not an option to remain in UK, if Gurkhas did invariably they were either here illegally or had managed to gain special residency status having been discharged in Nepal (where the pension does equate to a good wage 16000 Nepal Rupees average wage, Pte gets 17000 Nepal rupees in pension (see Ambassadors statement for those figures less national average wage which I had to look up (I suspect your CSgt friend may not be giving you exact details of his pension as £60 equates to 8000 rupees approx))). All Gurkha soldiers had to return to Nepal as this was part of the agreement.

Have a look through this thread:


For your info, whilst Gurkha soldiers basic rate of pay is not comparable to UK soldiers, they get an allowance called the Universal Addition which brings their overall pay in line with UK soldiers.

I think if you read the ambassadors letter you will find an unbiased view on the new GTACOS which does not get all emotional about service with Gurkhas but spells out the facts of the new GTACOS review and its effect on the "average" Gurkha soldier.

In my opinion the GTACOS review is probably good for 50 - 65% of Gurkha soldiers. 50 - 35% of Gurkhas will be much worse off and will become reliant on the Gurkha Welfare Trust in Nepal (for Welfare Pensions) and on the British Legion in UK (for welfare grants). Hope you're prepared to put your hand in your pocket....
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