Driving Business for the Gurkha Community
Written by Andrew Stretton
Edited by Anthony Figueroa
Renowned as tough and brave soldiers, over 200,000 Gurkhas fought in the First World War as part of a regiment in the British Army. The regiment, originally from the hill-town region of Gorkha in Nepal, have received 26 Victoria Crosses, the highest British military decoration awarded for valour and will be marking their 200th anniversary serving in the British Army later this year. Unfortunately, despite such high accolade, many retired Gurkha heroes have faced numerous political battles in an effort to secure welfare rights, particularly regarding pension and residency in the United Kingdom.
As their official representative at the time, the Nepalese Ambassador Dr Suresh Chandra Chalise recognised the difficult social, linguistic, and economic barriers ex-Gurkha and Nepalese communities faced when integrating and adjusting to life in the UK. Gurkhas who retired before 1997 received only around a third of the pension that is received by their British and Commonwealth counterparts, and it was only in 2009 after a high-profile campaign led by actress Joanna Lumley that retired Gurkhas won the right to live in the UK.
Soon afterwards, the former Ambassador went a step further and used his experience and network to connect Nepalese business owners with enterprise leaders who could help the ex-Gurkha community make their businesses more efficient and more profitable. One notable success includes providing Gurkha business owners access to the London Mela, Europe’s largest South Asian festival, which draws in 80,000 people annually. His efforts also helped generate lots of interest for Nepalese small business owners from various British trade organisations, thus securing local investment for community entrepreneurs.
Under the Business Driver category, Dr Chalise was one of the first diplomats to win the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in January 2013. Upon receiving the award, Dr Chalise noted, “I am happy that Grassroot Diplomat acknowledged the Embassy of Nepal’s initiatives through its social and economic diplomacy measures.” It is his efforts that have encouraged Gurkha newcomers to participate in starting their own businesses and bring their Nepalese culture to a British audience.
Dr Chalise has been the Nepalese Ambassador to the Court of St James since January 2010 and is now living in Nepal with his family since the end of his term in March 2014.
The Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award honours the achievements of diplomats and politicians who represent civilian interests in areas of policy change, social awareness, and business development at a community level.