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Monday, June 28, 1999 Published at 21:02 GMT 22:02 UK

World: South Asia

Gurkhas urge pension parity

Gurkhas were among the first soldiers to be deployed in Kosovo

By the BBC's Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

A Nepal-based organisation of retired Gurkha soldiers has urged Queen Elizabeth and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair to end what it calls discrimination against British Gurkha soldiers.

Brits in Balkans
The Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemens' Organisation (Gaeso) accused the UK Government of seeking to justify the discrimination on the basis of an annexe added to a 52-year old treaty between Nepal, India and Britain.

The treaty governs the recruitment and deployment of the Gurkha soldiers, but Gaeso said that the annexe is not binding on Nepal.

[ image: Sergeant Rai died clearing an area of bombs]
Sergeant Rai died clearing an area of bombs
The Gaeso reaction, the second in less than a week, comes in the wake of renewed debate on alleged discrimination against British Gurkha soldiers on pension and other benefits.

The debate restarted after a Gurkha soldier of the British army Balram Rai, was killed along with his British counterpart while clearing landmines in Kosovo.

The UK Government has announced a lump sum in compensation and pension for Mr Rai's widow, which is several times less than that received by the widow of his British counterpart.

Treaty justification

The UK Government says that the discrepancy is due to the difference in ranks between the two men.

It says pensions given to Nepalese men who served in the British Gurkhas are based on a tripartite treaty between Nepal, India and Britain in 1947.

Under this agreement, Britain says that pensions are approximated to the Indian pay code.

The vice-president of Gaeso, Mr Krishna Kumar Rai, said that Nepal is not a signatory to the annexe of the treaty which provides for the approximation.

He said that it was signed by India and the UK, which he said cannot be imposed on Nepal.

Equality campaign

Gaeso has been conducting a campaign over the last five years for equal pension and other retirement benefits for Gurkha soldiers that are on a par with their British counterparts.

The campaigners have been encouraged by the renewed debate on the issue following the death of Sergeant Rai, in Kosovo.

The Nepalese Government has not made fresh comment on the issue, but the vice-president of the governing Nepali Congress Party, Sushil Koirala, has voiced support for the pension and other benefits to Mr Rai's family that are equal to his British counterparts.

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