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British Army mulls proposal to raise new Sikh regiment

LONDON (PTI): The British Army is examining proposals to re-establish a Sikh Regiment, along the lines of the erstwhile British Indian Army.

Chief of the general staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, is looking into the feasibility of a Sikh unit, including the possibility of a reserve company, and it "may well have merit," UK armed forces minister Mark Francois told the House of Commons recently.

A new unit would inherit many of the "proud traditions of Sikh regiments" from the army's past, he said.

Speaking during defence questions in Parliament, former defence minister Sir Nicholas Soames urged ministers to "do away with political correctness" and raise a Sikh regiment.

He told Francois, "You will be aware of the extraordinary gallant and distinguished service by Sikhs to this country down the generations.

"Would you not agree with me that it's high time to do away with the political correctness which infects some of this thinking and actually raise a Sikh regiment to serve in the country and make up a very serious gap in our Armed Forces?" he asked.

Francois replied, "With regard to your specific suggestion, can I say that you are one of a number of Members of Parliament who have raised this suggestion with me recently.

"We have passed this possibility on to the chief of the general staff (CGS), who is now looking at this issue and we are awaiting CGS's comments back. But the idea may well have merit," he said.

Rory Stewart, chairman of the UK's Defence Select Committee, suggested a Sikh company within the reserves could be "a starting point".

"I said earlier the idea may have merit but we've looked at one specific option, or are looking, at the possibility of a reserve company, not least one which would inherit many of the proud traditions of Sikh regiments going back through many years in the British Army," Francois told him.

Latest figures show the British armed forces have around 160 Sikhs in their ranks, including 130 in the army.

Thousands of Sikhs had served in the British Indian Army during the two world wars. They were known for their bravery and gallantry and won as many as 10 Victoria Crosses, the highest British battlefield honour.

In 2007, the UK's ministry of defence had scrapped a similar plan after the Commission for Racial Equality warned it could be seen as divisive and perceived as "segregation".

The Network of Sikh Organisations said it was in favour of a Sikh unit.


Britain  Army  Sikh  Regiment  Defence  

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