15000 Nepalis in Russian army indicating a potential threat to India

According to a recent report by CNN, Russia has recruited as many as 15,000 Nepali citizens to fight on the frontlines in the Russia-Ukraine war.

While the Nepal government stated that about 200 of its citizens are fighting in Ukraine, some lawmakers argue that this is an underestimation of the real numbers.

Opposition lawmaker and former foreign minister, Bimala Rai Paudyal, told CNN that around 15,000 Nepalis are fighting for Russia.

Last year, several reports indicated that Nepalis were joining PMC Wagner, a Russian private military company. However, disagreements between the Russian military and Wagner chief Prigozhin caused some clashes between them, leading to the company relocating from Russia to Belarus.

With the absence of Wagner in the conflict, demand for foreign mercenaries spiked significantly in the Russian military. Therefore, the Russian military started directly recruiting Nepalis, offering high salaries and other benefits.

According to a CNN report, the Russian military is paying Nepalis at least $2,000 per month and has also expedited the procedure to obtain Russian passports. With Nepal being one of the poorest countries, with a GDP per capita of $1,336 in 2022, the Russian offer has become significantly lucrative to them.

Challenges for Nepalis in Russia

Nepalis are reportedly travelling to Russia via countries like India and the UAE with tourist visas. Upon arrival, they head to Avangard Academy, Russia’s training centre, for physical fitness tests before recruitment into the Russian army.

CNN interviewed some Nepalis who returned after fighting in the Ukraine war. They reported that Russia is deploying Nepalis directly to the frontlines after just basic training, with Russian personnel staying a few kilometres behind for support, using Nepalis as cannon fodder.

According to the Nepal government, 13 out of the 200 Nepalis were killed in action, and four were captured as Prisoners of War (POWs) by Ukraine. Opposition lawmaker and former foreign minister estimates suggest that the actual number of killed Nepalis will be significantly higher.

Russian officials did not respond to CNN’s questions about the number of Nepalis serving in the Russian military and how many of them were killed.

With massive protests from family members of those in Russia, the Nepal government has repeatedly asked Russia to stop recruiting their citizens and return the remains of those killed in the war.

Nepali Gorkhas in the Indian army

Gurkhas are considered to be among the world’s bravest and most skilled warriors. They are primarily found in the northern and Northeast states of India, with the majority living in Nepal. Over 32,000 Nepali Gorkhas are currently serving in the Indian army and have played a significant role in past wars.

The Indian army recruits 1300 Gurkha youth every year. However, after India introduced the Agnipath scheme, which mandates that only 25 per cent of soldiers remain after 4 years of service, Nepal stopped the annual recruitment of Nepalis into the Indian army.

This might be one of the reasons behind Nepalis joining the Russian military, as they may not have other job opportunities due to the halt in annual recruitment into the Indian army from Nepal.

Instead of thousands of Nepalis looking for a job in the Indian army, they are turning to other countries for opportunities.

Indication of potential threat to India?

Last year, several reports claimed that China is keen on recruiting Nepalis into the PLA. This is not the first time, as China approached Nepal about recruitment after the Indo-China war in 1962. However, the Nepali government rejected the proposal.

Now, if Nepal officially allowed China to recruit Nepalis into the PLA or if China adopts a strategy similar to Russia’s, this would become a significant concern for the Indian army at the LAC.

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About Vinay Sadham


The writer is a defence enthusiast and content creator with over 8 years of experience. He runs a YouTube channel called Telugu Defence News. He can be contacted at [email protected]