By D B Rai (From Darjeeling Times)
In his interview in Devils Advocate, a popular programme of NDTV, the top Maoist leader said, “Our people have put forward this concern that they feel that the treaty lacks in equality and that it is not beneficial for Nepal. We thus want to review all the points of the 1950 treaty and want to revise it according to new necessity.”
The Indo Nepal treaty, a treaty of peace and friendship signed at Katmandu on 31 July 1950 between Chandreshwar Prasad Narain Sing, ambassador of India in Nepal on behalf of government of India and Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, Maharaja, Prime minister and supreme commander in chief of Nepal has ten articles that describes the condition of the friendship of both countries. Now-a-days, it has become a debatable issue in both countries, India and Nepal.
Its impact among Indian origin Gorkhas
The issue of the abrogation of the treaty has brought reaction among Indian Nepali/Gorkha, too. Most of the Indian Gorkhas feel that 1950 is the stain for them as 1950 treaty’s article ‘7’ has not clearly mentioned about the status of Indian origin Gorkha/Nepali.
The treaty’s article ‘7’ reads:” the government of India and Nepal agree to grant , on a reciprocal basis , to the nationals of one county in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of a similar nature”
The Gorkhas feel basing on this very treaty they are alleged of being migrants of Nepal. Mr. R.B.Rai, ex-M.P. and a veteran leader of Darjeeling also says the treaty has become the weapon for them to assault on Indian origin Gorkhas. On the issue of revision of treaty, he further said, though it is India and Nepal’s political business, the issue touches the Indian Gorkha also. He also wants there should be abrogation of treaty thereby making effective mechanism to check the influx of foreign Nepalese in India.” If such system were made, there will be record of the population of Gorkhas of Indian origin and Nepali who come from Nepal. This record will also be an evidence for us being Indian origin and tomorrow the day will not come to be called migrants by anybody.”
Gorkha Jana Muckti Morcha chief Mr. Bimal Gurung also agrees that there should be revision of 1950 treaty but he didn’t clarify the reason as to why it should be reviewed. He said his party hasn’t taken any decision on it yet to speak on it.
However, Madan Tamang, one of the veteran leaders of Hill, has otherwise views. He said the revision of 1950 treaty has nothing to do with Indian Gorkha. “Our citizenships (the citizenship of Indian Gorkhas) are never challenged by anybody in India. So there is not any interest for us to talk about the treaty” he said adding that only Nepal origin Nepalese who come here for labour and drudgery are humiliated by calling them ‘Migrants.’.
On the abrogation of treaty, he holds the view that this would rather hamper the economy of Indian Gorkhas who are more than fifty thousand in numbers in Nepal working in different schools. They have to come back to India quitting their job, if there was abrogation of treaty.
Similarly, in the same line of Madan Tamang, Mr. R.Moktan , an advocate of Sikkim –Darjeeling merger, opines the abrogation of Indo- Nepal treaty is not at all concerned with identity issue of Indian Gorkhas. For, Indian Gorkhas have already started clamoring Gorkhaland issue which will be a strong identity for Gorkhas in the country ultimately, he says.
On the other hand, some Non-Gorkha people are also demanding the abrogation of treaty Mr. Ashru Kumar Sikdar, an academician and writer of Siliguri, said the Indo- Nepal border is being used by people from the neighboring country to settle in several areas of Darjeeling district, particularly Siliguri. The only way to control this problem is to abrogate the Indo-Nepal Friendship treaty immediately.”
However, Mr. Mahendra P. Lama, a prominent intellectual of South Asia and vice chancellor of Sikkim University, thinks that the abrogation of the Indo Nepal treaty is the demand of the some elite section of Nepalese.
He writes: “There has been a protracted demand by some sections of the Nepalese elite for abrogation of the treaty on various grounds. They have used this to demonstrate India’s ‘big brotherly’ attitude and attempt to erode and usurp sovereignty.”
He also suggests three critical options in determining the future of this treaty. First, let this treaty be drastically rewritten, incorporating likely future needs, second, this treaty could be abrogated forthwith after a kind of referendum, and third is, this treaty could be abrogated and several new agreement like the modalities of open border, movement of people, recruitment of Nepalese citizens in the Indian army and management of non-traditional security issues could be signed.
The prospects of abrogation of the treaty
It is just as well for Nepal that Prachand at least could dare to raise the issue which is lying dormant for more than 58 years not being discussed. But given the political situation of Nepal and other factors, there is least possibility of revision in the treaty
They (Maoist) know the abrogation of the treaty would not be beneficial to Nepal for her sustainable economy. It may be recalled in 1990 when India clamped down the blockade of fuel for Nepal, there was hue and cry in Nepal. Nepal tried to bring the fuel from China, but could not be successful as the cost of the fuel was double that of India.
Not only this, the age-old cultural, religious and emotional ties between the people of the two nations would also be affected. Mr. Lama says: given the very nature, topography and age-old cross border exchanges and interactions the closing down of borders-like with Pakistan-will be impossible, untenable and impractical. It could, at most, be regulated through substantial increase in the number of official crossing points to help make the transition more people friendly.
Besides, Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum, a strong ally of Prachand government is said to have not in favour of abrogation of treaty and influence of pro-Indian lobby. Because of that also Prachand can’t force India to abrogate the treaty as this will create a fear of losing of MJF support for Prachand government
Maoist has just raise the issue to keep happy anti-Indian lobby to maintain their political clouts upon them and to bargain with India to some extent for their political mileage.
But India has agreed to review the treaty. During the India visit of Upendra Yadav, foreign minister of Nepal, the Indian Foreign Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee told him India is ready to sit with Nepal and review 1950 Indo Nepal Friendship Treaty.
Therefore, the corollary is of course there will be bout of roundtable talks between the leaders of Delhi and Katmandu, but the treaty will remain in status-quo. At best, the treaty may end up in just construction of some schools and hospital in the name of India –Nepal friendship treaty; that’s all.