Monday, November 30, 2009

Are we prepared?

The Kathmandu Post
John Narayan Parajuli
NOV 26 - In less than two weeks, the United Nations Climate Change conference kicks off in Copenhagen, and the signs are already ominous about any breakthrough. A binding treaty with 40 percent reduction in carbon emission (on 1990 levels) by the developed nations and a fund to help the poorest countries mitigate and go green may not be ready in time for the summit. Developing countries like China, India and Brazil are doing more, but the developed countries have got cold feet about financing the poorest countries. And you can’t blame them in these tough economic times when their own coffers are running dry.

But as disagreement persists at the global forum, the problems for Nepal are local. The shrinking snow cover on the Himalaya places Nepal on one of the many frontiers of any battle against climate change. As scientists are playing catch-up with the gravity of the problem, anything they say or their models say should be taken as the least worst scenario. Just last week, scientists with the British Antarctic Survey revised the average global rise in temperature forecast to 6 degrees Celsius from previous the 4. “Oops! We were wrong in our estimates” is a common refrain among the scientific community these days, and we will have to expect more of that. Because climate science isn’t an exact one. But we would do well to err more on the side of caution.

So how is Nepal, as one of least developed countries, prepared to face the brunt? Is there a serious national policy to tackle and mitigate the effects of climate change? Are the government and non-government agencies working on a coherent plan?

Unfortunately, the discourse in most developing countries (including Nepal) on climate change has been focused more on blaming the developed nations, and less on taking initiatives. As a heavily donor-dependent nation, the problems of preparedness are a big issue for Nepal. Associating ourselves with the group of 11 most vulnerable countries (V11) will help to pitch a stronger case for assistance with urgency; but if we don’t help ourselves, there is very little others can do for us. The discussion on climate change is warming up as evidenced by a spike in national media coverage, but our national attitude still is cold towards our own responsibility, even though we want others to do something about it.

On Nov. 15, an international scientific team conducted an assessment tour of the 11 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the Makalu-Barun National Park area. They also visited the rapidly melting Imja glacier and lake (which feeds some of the big rivers in China, Nepal and India); and though there are no details yet on their conclusion, one can only infer that the rate of melting glaciers and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) is rapidly increasing. As scientists have forecast a more rapid increase in global temperatures, the number of potentially dangerous glacial lakes will subsequently go up. The Himalayan region has witnessed an average increase of temperature by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius since 1975.

In 1995, the danger of Tsho Rolpa Lake bursting downstream was averted with some timely help from the Dutch in painstakingly siphoning out the water. But we weren’t so lucky in the 1980s: Most notable among them was the 1985 Dig Tsho burst that wreaked havoc downstream destroying “houses, farms, bridges and even the Thame micro hydropower plant”. But we still haven’t learnt our lessons.

The government needs to invest in its own capacity building to avert GLOF and mitigate other effects, including the ability to rapidly relocate people from harm’s way of some these dangerous glacial lakes in the event of a disaster. Some experts have already predicted a likelihood of glaciers completely disappearing from the Himalaya by as early as 2035. Planning and preparation needs to take into account the worst case scenario in the future. There is no way of accurately predicting the actual implications; but if what is happening now is any indication, climate change will fundamentally alter the way we live.

Climate change has been increasingly blamed as a trigger for a lot of natural disasters, and perhaps there is some truth in it. But what is also happening as this process moves forward is that there is very little inclination within our national government to take a proactive role in mitigating the effects on its own. In fact, we look with expectant eyes at the West. The developed countries are expected to fix our problem. Sure, there is a degree of culpability that falls on the rich nations, and they have to carry the bigger share of the burden in slowing the effects of this impending disaster. But Nepali officials would do well to remind themselves that though the problem is of a global nature, the worst effects will fall on us.

Poorer countries have to be effective partners on the global stage, and perhaps banding together in V11 will be useful in putting forward a stronger voice; but locally, they have to take their own home-grown initiatives to understand the implications. Presenting a rock from the Himalaya to the president of the United States, or the proposed Himalayan cabinet meeting, or the underwater cabinet meeting in Male may work well as a publicity stunt to get donor and Western attention; but it is a very superficial act, and does not contribute to any local undertaking in dealing with the effects of a warming world. We need to stop collecting evidence for others, while we ourselves seem to live in a state of denial.

I hope that we are not just sending a delegation to Copenhagen for the sake of it; and I hope, as a country increasingly under threat from melting snow on the third pole, our delegation has a concrete plan of action to share with the rest of the world. While it is true that we are in this together, it doesn’t mean the developing countries can afford to hold their breath for the developed countries to walk the talk for them. Once the worst nightmares of climate change begin to unfold, each country will be left to fend for itself. Therefore, any country that prepares and invests in local capacity will be better placed to mitigate the challenges. In the crudest terms, only the fittest will survive.

Monday, November 9, 2009

United States of Europe?

The Kathmandu Post

NOV 09 - Upon our arrival at the Heathrow Airport recently, an immigration officer asked me some routine questions. He wanted to know how much my stay would cost me; I replied in Euros rather than Pounds. Perhaps fatigue and having lived in Netherlands recently were to be blamed for the slip. The officer frowned and said: Over here, Pound Sterling is the currency, and we are proud that way.

Britain has maintained a relative distance from some of the European Union’s (EU) common policy, through opt-outs. But there is a growing debate within UK and other member countries on the extent of integration, although mainstream politicians want to clearly avoid it. The Lisbon treaty which will come into force from Dec. 1, following the ratification by Ireland and Czech Republic has triggered fresh discussions. Both Labour and the Conservative Parties in Britain had promised a referendum on the EU constitution. Labour reneged on their promise sometime ago. But the Conservatives who have been jumpy on the issue in the past were buying time to quietly break the news of their change of heart, until they were forced last week after the Czech president signed off on the Treaty.

Now that all ratifications are in on the treaty, Eurocrats may have succeeded in creating a slight distraction, as all eyes are now fixed on the newly created the post of EU President and foreign minister. Tony Blair’s ambitions of becoming the first president of Europe may have been sabotaged. The Conservative Party, which is likely to win the elections, next year, has already opposed Blair’s candidacy.

There is more: Britain’s half-hearted presence within the EU has been frustrating for other EU leaders. It seems British leaders can’t imagine themselves away from the Anglo-Saxon bloc, where they are happy to play second fiddle to the Americans. According to the Guardian, last week the French Minister for Europe, Pierre Lellouche came down heavily on the British Conservative party leaders, and described their policy as ‘autistic’ and blamed them for ‘castrating Britain’s position within Europe.’ “Nobody is going to play with the institutions again. It is going to be, take it or leave it and they should be honest and say that.”

Conflicting impulses

Europe’s problems are manifold: Controlling immigration, maintaining social security amid falling productivity, salvaging some lost glory as the continent where the entire ‘modernisation’ project began. But that’s not all, the core problem that haunts Europe is what it wants to become? Does it want to remain a loose union or push for more integration to become a strong union with federal features? Surely the failed EU Constitution and the current Lisbon Treaty have provided a blueprint, but do the people agree with what the Eurocrats have in mind?

Germany, a key driving force for a stronger Union, like other Euro-heartland countries, remains beset by its own conflicting impulses. The political establishment clearly wants more integration, and was instrumental in drafting the Lisbon Treaty after the Constitution was rejected by French and Dutch voters. Critics allege that the Treaty is a mere repackaging of the rejected Constitution, and they insist that it makes a mockery of the public opinion. The biggest criticism is of the EU is exactly that: the democratic deficit. The European Commission, the executive branch, is not an elected body and its office bearers are not accountable directly to the people. The Lisbon Treaty aims to grant more power to the European Parliament to counter some of the criticism. Critics aren’t happy though. They argue that no amount of patch-work can bridge the fundamental democratic gap within a transnational superstructure like EU.

European Union (EU) is surely a model for political and economic integration, although not a perfect one yet, nevertheless, it is one of a kind. But within the continent the ranks of skeptics are swelling, and even some ‘Euro-believers’ fear the rise of a super-state that would swallow sovereignty of the member states and would eventually march on the path of federalism. While in Nepal, the debate is on devolution of power, here in Europe, the debates are evolving around the extent of integration within a supranational instrument.

In June, the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled that many of the competence handed over to the Brussels under the Lisbon Treaty will remain a sovereign German competence. The 8 judges involved also argued that the Lisbon Treaty is merely an international treaty of cooperation. The ruling effectively asked the government to consult the people through a referendum if it were to accept the treaty as a constitutional document. The very thing the treaty was designed to do: to avoid promised national referendum in Czech Republic, Ireland, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and Britain, and other countries where the national constitution stipulates such a provision before the transfer of sovereignty.

The elections for European parliament last year saw in the rise of number of right-wing Member of European Parliament (MEPs), some of whom ran on the platform of working towards abolishing the Union. Of course, it is silly to take a politician’s rhetoric at the face value and seriously believe that Brussels would be powered down; nevertheless their electoral victory is a measure of public’s frustration and resentment with Brussels performance. Right-wing stance may seem ludicrous but it is symptomatic of Europe’s burgeoning problem that could undermine the vision of united Europe.

The failure of Eurocrats to communicate the achievements of their project is equally frustrating. The transnational nature of the set-up allows very little direct contact with people. The democratic deficit is clearly a two-edged sword. Lack of it is equally problematic as its presence may be to the politicians. During a visit to Brussels in April this year, a spokesman for the EU Competition Commissioner, and some journalists who had gone native (by virtue of having spent too many years in Brussels), bitterly complained about how the national press treats Brussels: When everything goes fine, it is out of the press radar, but when something goes wrong national politicians rub it on Brussels, and EU gets hammered badly by the press.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI Sunday November 7, 2004
Source: NATION WEEKLY (See page 26, also 36)
Bhim Prasad Tamang was not exactly thrilled by the high profile visit of U.S. official Arthur E. Gene Dewey last month to his dilapidated hut in the Beldangi II refugee camp. He's been through it before. In the last 14 years, a number of foreign dignitaries have come to the camp and raised his hopes for early repatriation, and that was that.
The story never had a happy ending.

"Do you want to go to Bhutan?" Tamang quotes Dewey, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, as having asked him. "Of course I want to go home," he says. "But what are the conditions?"

Like Tamang, more than 100,000 refugees in seven camps in eastern Nepal now feel that their desire to go home may not come to fruition. That they are doomed to a life of a refugee. Over the years, many high-profile comings and goings have raised expectations, but have amounted to nothing. In 2000, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees
Sadako Ogata told them, "Bhutan is ready to welcome you back. You all will be going home soon." But her assurance turned out to be hollow, say refugees. After cycles of hope and bitter disappointment their expectations are now tempered with realism.

"We are optimistic," says Prem Khanal, a refugee teacher. "But we are also keenly aware of how optimistic we should be about these visits." As Dewey took stock of the miserable conditions in the camps, he told the refugees that he was visiting them to learn what they think is the best solution for them. This is the first high-profile visit since Bhutan's disengagement from the bilateral process on December 22, 2003. The process of repatriating refugees verified by the Nepal-Bhutan Joint Verification Team at the Khudunabari camp was to begin from February 15 this year, but following a scuffle between the refugees and Bhutanese officials, Bhutan pulled out of the process, citing poor security as the reason. After almost a year, the United States seems to be keen to revive the stalled process.

"I didn't come just to visit this part of the world," said Dewey to a group of refugees, "but with a serious purpose: to bring a solution." The urgency in U.S. efforts to find a solution comes in part from reports that the Maoists are operating in the refugee camps. The United States wants to resolve the refugee impasse quickly to deny the Maoists another fertile breeding ground. Dewey warned New Delhi and Thimphu that "time is running out." During his discussions in New Delhi he also sought Indian help in "getting Bhutan to agree on steps for repatriating at least some refugees." Dewey is learned to have
explicitly conveyed Washington's concern about the growing Maoist influence in the refugee camps and the dangers this could pose for India and Bhutan, just as well as to Nepal.

Apart from underscoring the urgency for an immediate solution, his visit has also triggered discussion on other options apart from repatriation; local integration or third-country resettlement are high on the list. "We have to look into all options," Dewey told reporters in Kathmandu. "Sometimes there is not just one solution." There are
indications that the United States has given up hope that a complete repatriation will ever take place. "Our hope is that Bhutan at least accepts this segment," Dewey said in Delhi, referring to the 2.5 percent of the refugees in the Khudunabari refugee camp who were
classified as "bona fide Bhutanese." Although Nepal is keen on the repatriation process, the refugee community is, at best, divided over the remaining two alternatives—local integration and third-country resettlement. Some fear that agreeing to either of the options, even in principle, could diminish their cause for a dignified repatriation. "It could end our existence as Bhutanese refugees," says a young refugee Dadiram
Neupane, "and hence our right to return to Bhutan."

But others insist that any solution is better than none at all. "It's fine if they want to give us citizenship here or take us to a different country," says Bhim Prasad Tamang. Refugees like Tamang feel that the two options are, if not adequate, at least a dignified escape from the confinement of camp life. And there are others who want to work towards all three options simultaneously. They say no single option will be practical for all refugees: Not all will be repatriated, if ever Bhutan decides to do so; not all can be locally integrated given their sheer numbers; and not all will be deemed fit by the host country for a third-country resettlement. Most refugees are encouraged that the American representative at least seemed open to all solutions.

Dewey's visit to the camps and the three capitals has renewed hopes, as refugee leaders believe that American pressure was instrumental in pushing forward the bilateral process in 2000, when Julia Taft and Karl Inderfurth, both senior State Department officials, convinced both Nepal and Bhutan to agree on a verification process. U.S. President Bill Clinton's letter to the Nepali and Bhutanese prime ministers in late 2000 was credited with getting the process started.


JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI Sunday October, 17 2004
Last week brought another reminder to the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees, languishing in seven camps in eastern Nepal, that they might not be able to continue to enjoy the UNHCR's humanitarian aid for much longer. United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees Rudd Lubbers reiterated the essence of his message last year to Bhutanese refugees during the 55th annual UNHCR executive committee meeting in Geneva on October 5: By the end of 2005, we will withdraw. The UNHCR maintains
that the withdrawal doesn't mean the withdrawal of its protection mandate. "Less encouraging is the situation of the Bhutanese people in camps in Nepal. At ExCom last year I said that we cannot accept that they remain there indefinitely," Lubbers said.

Lubbers last year had unveiled the Convention Plus initiative, intended, according to the UNHCR, to find equitable ways of sharing the burden of caring for the refugees. The UNHCR's hands are understandably full. With more than 20 million refugees worldwide and more continuing to pour in from escalating conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the UNHCR has initiated the plan to minimize its own role to a legal protection level only. Lubbers' plan could bring some relief to overstretched U.N. refugee agency, but it will surely take the relief away from the refugees.

The U.N. refugee agency is hoping that bilateral and multilateral donor agencies will chip in to substitute for the UNHCR. So far none of the bilateral donors seems to have committed to work in the Bhutanese refugee camps. Even UNHCR officials in Kathmandu haven't briefed the bigger donors about their plans.

Lubbers' reiteration of the message is likely to cause panic among refugees, as most of them were led to believe that UNHCR was just trying to pressure the Nepali and the Bhutanese governments to find a solution quickly. Now there is reason to believe that the UNHCR is serious. "The UNHCR's phase-out program could hinder repatriation,"
Ratan Gazmere, a Bhutanese leader accompanying Tek Nath Rijal to Geneva, told reporters before leaving to attend the UNHCR's executive committee meeting from September 28 to October 8.

Refugees are worried about what would happen to them after the proposed withdrawal, says a journalist from Damak, Jhapa. "The UNHCR is like our parent. Who would look after us after the withdrawal?" asks Moti Bishwa, an inhabitant of Beldangi Camp II. Refugees are already feeling a sense of insecurity. UNHCR officials have been trying hard to explain that phase-out or withdrawal doesn't mean complete pullout; they are also trying to explain that they won't leave unless a substitute comes in.

"The phase down strategy will not have any impact on UNHCR's presence and protection role in Nepal," said Abraham Abraham, the resident representative of UNHCR in Nepal. The idea behind the UNHCR's phase-out plan is to make the refugees self-reliant through development projects and programs. The plan is ambitious and may be too good to be true. Many think that it simply won't work. Refugees aren't willing to believe that any other agency can substitute the UNHCR in terms of expertise. "Is the UNHCR trying to substitute its mandate?" asked SB Subba, former chairman of Bhutanese Refugee RepatriationRepresentative Committee.

Any change of hands, some say, will be a failure. Even as the appointed time for completion of the phase down strategy draws closer, the UNHCR has made no visible preparations; there is no word on who's going to step in. Initially it was expected GTZ, JICA and USAID would chip in, but American diplomats in Kathmandu have already rubbished the idea of USAID's direct involvement. Even UNHCR officials in the
field don't believe that the 2005 deadline can be met, given the pace of progress. And the Nepali government has criticized the UN refugee agency.

In October last year Foreign Minister Bhek Bahadur Thapa even raised the issue with U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan. "I understand that the UNHCR is having a resource crunch," says Thapa.
"But to paralyze the refugee committee when two countries are negotiating cannot be appreciated." There are other refugee camps in the world with longer standing than the Bhutanese camps in eastern Nepal, he says. "I see the need to be fairer to the refugee community in Nepal."

Despite calls for fairness and continuing support by the government and the refugee community, the Convention Plus initiative is likely to continue. The three-pronged approach—repatriation, local integration and third-country resettlement—if adopted by the UNHCR will cause a huge uproar among the refugee community in Nepal. The UNHCR has said that it won't encourage repatriation to Bhutan unless Bhutan allows it
to monitor the process. Bhutan is unlikely to concede to the demand.

"The UNHCR's signals are easy enough to understand," says Rakesh Chettri, a Bhutanese refugee leader: "There won't be any repatriation." Without repatriation, the plan to phase down the UNHCR's role to protection level will increase the sense of insecurity caused by fourteen years of stalemate. "The international community has ignored us," says Chettri. That feeling resonates throughout all seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal.


JOHN NARAYAN PARAJULI Saturday January, 29 2005
Source: NATION Weekly

A popular joke out of the Falklands War that was fought in 1982 goes like this: How did the Argentine soldiers know that the Gurkhas had come to fight? Answer: In the morning when they woke up, their heads fell off.

Valor on the battlefield is the Gurkha's hallmark, but their perseverance off the battlefield is remarkable. For 14 years, retired Gurkhas have protested unequal pay and pension rules that make them second-class soldiers in the British Army. Their struggle may finally have paid off. The British government has put aside a longstanding
policy of revising minor aspects of its policy regarding the Gurkhas; something that retired soldiers, now activists, say was a cynical attempt to avoid major revisions. On Jan. 12, British secretary of state for defence, Geoffrey Hoon, made an announcement in the House of Commons: Britain will conduct a wide-ranging review of the Gurkhas' grievances.

Prem Bahadur Bega joined the British Army in 1984 and was given compulsory retirement in 1999 after 15 years of service. A British colleague who was recruited in the same year as Bega was allowed to serve for seven more years before his retirement. The Briton earned several thousand pounds more in a year than Bega and receives far more
in pension—625 pounds a month compared to Bega's 91 pounds. Bega's wife and children were allowed to accompany him for only 18 months out of his 15 years of service: The family of his British counterpart accompanied him throughout his service. "This is gross injustice," says Bega. Many other Gurkha veterans agree.

The Gurkhas want parity with their British colleagues in pay and pension, and also on the prickly issue of promotion. There seems to be a glass ceiling on Nepalis rising to higher ranks. Only three have been promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel, and only one has
commanded a Gurkha battalion. Beyond this, the Gurkhas argue, the terms of service should be equal. Only 25 percent of Gurkhas are entitled to married housing, and the length of time that Gurkha families can stay with soldiers and noncommissioned officers is limited. The grievances of pay, pension, promotion and terms of service form the bulk of the Gurkhas' discrimination case against the British government. For years the British refused hear their pleas. "The British government even didn't bother to respond to our
petitions," says Gopal Siwakoti, popularly known as Chintan, a lawyer who acts on behalf of the Gurkha Army Ex-Servicemen's Organization, the GAESO.

But after the Royal Courts of Justice in London cleared the way in May 2002 for the Gurkhas to sue the British Ministry of Defence, the British government found itself on the legal and moral low road. It has now for the first time conceded that fact. On Jan. 12, Defence Secretary Hoon announced that the government would conduct a "wide-ranging review" of the Gurkhas' pay and pensions. Hoon said that he wants to ensure that the Ministry of Defence is beyond reproach both legally and morally. Hoon's concession raises a few obvious questions: Why did the ministry decide to conduct the review now, and will the proposed review end the unequal treatment regime to the satisfaction of all?

"An ultimatum from us," says Krishna Rai, vice president of GAESO, "prompted the MoD to make the new announcement." GAESO, which is fighting court-battles against the ministry over its unequal treatment, sent the ministry a legal notice on Nov. 19 asking it to address all their grievances within a month or face court action. The Gurkhas see Hoon's announcement as a major victory. GAESO's legal advisers say that their case was strong and that they had collected new evidence that would have brought them a victory in court. The ministry must have found the new evidence damaging, say observers,
because it responded by asking GAESO to wait until January for a major announcement regarding Gurkha pay and pensions.

In a written ministerial statement to the House of Commons Hoon said, "As the House will be aware, our policy is to keep the Brigade of Gurkhas' terms and conditions of service under review, to ensure that they are fair and that any difference from the wider Army are reasonable and justifiable."

As happy as Gurkha activists are with the British action, they are also taking the new announcement with a pinch of salt. They have demanded that the British government make all aspects of the announcement public. In reply Lieutenant Colonel G.R. Harnby, chief of staff of British Gurkhas Nepal, says: "It will be a comprehensive review. It will look into all aspects [and be] sensitive to the Nepali dimension."

A British Embassy statement says that the examination of the terms and conditions of service will be all-embracing and look into the present terms of service for Gurkhas. The review is likely to include their career profiles; length of structures within the Brigade of Gurkhas; pay and pensions; allowances; personal support for soldiers and their families, including pastoral care, education for children, medical provisions and leave arrangements. The Nepali government has already been informed of the review. Hoon told British MPs the review would look at whether differences between the Gurkhas' conditions and those of British soldiers were "absolutely justifiable." But the Gurkhas
have warned the Ministry of Defence not to try to justify any disparity. "We want complete equality," says Chintan. "There can be no justification for any kind of discrimination."

Is British policy racial discrimination? Britain says it's not, but an increasing number of Britons including the wife of current Prime Minister Tony Blair, Cherie Booth Blair, argue that it is a clear case of racial discrimination and a human rights violation.

The argument has merit. Nepalis are treated differently than other foreign nationals serving in the British military. Fijians whom the Ministry of Defence recruits enjoy the same conditions as British troops.

Even the British government's Commission for Racial Equality has supported individual cases filed by some Gurkhas. In the case of Hari Thapa, a retired lance corporal, the commission said that the ministry's responsibilities under the Race Relations Act of 1976
outweigh the terms of the tripartite agreement (refer to Box Story).
Thapa, who lives in Wales, filed a racial discrimination case against the Ministry of Defence in an industrial tribunal after he was given an early discharge from the Army five years ago. During his 15 years in military service, he was paid 43,000 pounds less than his British counterparts.

Growing support among British political parties parallels the court support for the Gurkhas. Opposition Liberal Democrat defense spokesman, Paul Keetch, said that the ministry must recognize that it cannot "treat 21st-century soldiers like 19th-century conscripts." Even the British public seems to care about the Gurkhas. A demonstration of more than 400 retired Gurkhas in Liverpool caught the eye of the press, and the Daily Express ran a campaign supporting the Gurkhas. In a poll of 16,000 people conducted by the newspaper, 99 percent supported the Gurkhas' demand. In October, British Prime
Minister Tony Blair agreed to grant conditional citizenship to Gurkhas.

Gurkhas aren't going to be satisfied with conditions any more. They have called for complete equality with the British soldiers. There is another outstanding issue: more than 10,000 veterans and widows who are without any pension or compensation. In one example, in 1969 some 10,000 Gurkhas were made redundant under a retrenchment scheme. Their British counterparts who were also laid off under the scheme were handsomely compensated; Gurkhas were paid 150 pounds and sent home. In 1986, 111 Gurkhas soldiers on training in Hawaii were disciplined and dismissed en masse for mutinous behavior. Gurkhas said they were sent home without compensation or the right to appeal. When asked if the review would include these two issues, a British official in Nepal says that the review will be forward looking, although he quickly adds that he hopes the reviewers will look into the past and the future before reaching any conclusions.

Some Gurkhas are optimistic that the review will get them equal treatment. "Let's hope the Ministry of Defence will end the discrimination," says retired Lance Corporal D B Bomjon, who receives 71 pounds a month, about Rs.9,000, as pension while his British
counterparts receive 475 pounds.

The money is a big issue, and it is perhaps the reason the British have tried to avoid a full review. Full parity could cost the British government more than 2 billon pounds in total. It may finally be worth the cost to shake-off one of the last bits of the colonial hangover.
And if complete parity isn't forthcoming, the Gurkhas say they are ready to prove their mettle in the courtroom, just as they have in the battlefields.