The future of Indo-Nepal treaty and its impact on Indian Gorkhas?

By D B Rai  (From Darjeeling Times)

Nepal communist party chief Puspa Kamal Dahal aka Prachand has raised the issue of the review of historical treaty, 1950 Indo –Nepal treaty, rippling the political wave in India and Nepal.

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.”

On the demand of Indian Gorkha of abrogation of treaty he says: Interestingly the 10 million –odd Indian Gorkha living in various parts of India have also been demanding the abrogation of the treaty and the closing down of the border. This is because their identity is being diluted by the floating population from Nepal who come to India for livelihood. As a result, Indian Gorkha are dubbed as foreigners in states like Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya.

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.

India agreed for the reason that she must have felt, Nepal always make 1950 treaty an issue alleging the treaty is completely in favour of India and she wants to make Nepal another Bhutan with the support of the treaty. So in response of it also and to bring back the good image of India in Nepal, India might have accepted the proposal of Nepal. 

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.

*Mr.D.B.Rai ‘anoop’
(The writer is a freelance journalist by profession and can be reached at

EU Approach to 1950 Treaty – By Dr Durga P. Paudyal

After the independence of India, particularly after the fall of Rana regime in 1951, the Monarchy created a fear of ‘Indian expansionism’ in the Nepalese mind to project himself as the savior of the ‘Nepali Nationalism’. This was a ploy to discredit democratic forces and consolidate power under him. On the other hand, the Indian side saw the Treaty as an instrument of the continuation of the status quo of the policy of British India. Hence, the Nepalese initiatives of its own foreign policy were seen as somewhat violation of the Treaty.

The revision/replacement of 1950 Treaty of Friendship and Peace between Nepal and India is now on the table when Prime Minister Prachanda formally proposed during his recent state visit to India. It is learnt that India reciprocated positively and constituted a joint committee consisting of two foreign secretaries to submit a draft for consideration. At home, the Madhesi political leaders opposed this proposal, as the issue was not discussed earlier.

This proposal should be seen in a proper context. From the time immemorial, there have been close relations in social, economic, cultural and spiritual spheres between the two countries. People of the two countries enjoy free movement for business and employment opportunities as well as marital relationship. Millions of pilgrims visit Char Dham, Pashupati Nath, Janaki Dham, Lumbini, Bodh Gaya and others. Even the great spiritual leaders like Gautam Buddha who was born in Lumbini was enlightened in Bodh Gaya of India, the Shivapuri Baba born in Kerala spent his 38 years in Shivapuri in Kathmandu and Khaptad Baba born in Punjab spent several decades in Khaptad jungle of Doti district of Nepal. The 1950 treaty has only formalised these ground realities in the format of a modern nation state.

However, there have been problems in interpreting and implementing the content and spirit of the Treaty. First, after the Sugauli Treaty following the Anglo-Nepal war, Nepal remained in a self-perpetuated isolation from the rest of the world. The British Raj provided political support to the despotic Rana Oligarchy in Nepal in return to its subdued international relationship under the Raj and interrupted supply of Gurkha soldiers in the British Army. After the independence of India, particularly after the fall of Rana regime in 1951, the Monarchy created a fear of ‘Indian expansionism’ in the Nepalese mind to project himself as the savior of the ‘Nepali Nationalism’. This was a ploy to discredit democratic forces and consolidate power under him. On the other hand, the Indian side saw the Treaty as an instrument of the continuation of the status quo of the policy of British India. Hence, the Nepalese initiatives of its own foreign policy were seen as somewhat violation of the Treaty. Second, the equal reciprocal provision of the Treaty was seen as unequal to Nepal because of its size and capacity. Moreover, subsequent water resources development treaties such as Koshi, Gandak and Mahakali as well as several unilateral constructions of dams across the border by India, made Nepali land submerged under the clogged water while enjoying benefits of flood control, irrigation and hydro power across the border. As a result, Nepal became more apprehensive on the intensions of India with Nepal. Hence, not a single mega-water development project has been constructed over the past 50 years. As a result, the whole region has remained more stagnated and poor. Finally, several power brokers and trade monopolists, who existed for centuries, were somewhat protected, if not flourished, under the guise of the Treaty. Hence, the trade is still monopolized by a few; the border area has been hazy for thriving smugglers and law breakers. Most Nepalese feel that the 1950 Treaty is the main culprit for all these contradictions.

Recently, there has been a sea-change in the political landscape of Nepal. To begin with, the election of the Constituent Assembly has been peacefully conducted which transformed the kingdom into a federal republic. Now a new constitution is being prepared under the new political order. The Maoist armed insurgents has been peacefully brought into the competitive political order, who are now heading the government through ballot. In this changing context, it is logical for the new political leadership to review the fundamental institutions and provisions that governed Nepal during the past century.

As the draft of the treaty is being prepared by two foreign secretaries, it may be relevant to debate on the possible options available to them. First, they can give a blind eye to the call, as in the past, until the tide for change is subsided. But, the postponement for change may not energize the economic development of the New Nepal, with the same reason that has prevented over the past 60 years. The old policy mindset and bureaucratized traditional diplomacy can not address the vital economic interest and strategic challenges. Second option could be a more conservative thinking for sealing the border altogether. This option would be more expensive for border security and patrolling as India is already experiencing in its eastern and western borders. Moreover, the role of Nepal as a buffer zone in the most strategically sensitive border between the two Asian giants can not be underestimated. Besides, several details such as defining the citizens of each country, cut-off dates and eventual repatriation in their respective countries may pose insurmountable problems that India has already experienced during the partition of the sub-continent.

The final, perhaps imaginative, option could be to develop the Treaty in the European Union model. Indeed, Nepal and India have been enjoying most of the benefits of the EU nations, except a few. First, there is no joint political forum like the European Parliament, where the political concerns could be understood, debated and resolved. The bureaucratic channels have been slow, static and self serving. The recent Koshi disaster is an example which, experts say, could have been prevented long ago, whereas bureaucrats were battling whom to blame. Second, there are no resources for start up or equalizing the level playing field of the backward region, like in EU. Hence, Nepal could not exploit its potentials for the growing market of India and minimize its trade imbalance. Finally, there is no policy synchronization between the two countries, which could discourage the border smugglers, criminals, trade monopolists and market cartels.

In this context, an Indo-Nepal Joint Parliamentary Committee (INJPC) could be set up with a permanent secretariat, which could, among others, monitor policies, generate knowledge and debate and resolve emerging issues at the political level. Under the INJPC three commissions, among others, could be set up. One, a Water Resources Development Commission, which could develop, commission and monitor the mega water resources projects that benefits both countries. There should be an Equalization Fund for leveraging the public sector, especially the Government of Nepal, for initial preparations in larger projects for private sector investment. Two, a Natural Resources Management Commission to address the issue of sustainable management of high mountains, glacier melt-down due to the climate change and increasing damage by land-slide and flood water in both countries. Three, an Immigration Control for the development of a mechanism of screening and monitoring immigration, while issuing the visa, like the Schengen visa of EU, at the diplomatic missions of both countries.

This model may be the most difficult political agenda to sell, especially in Nepal, where the critic may see it as surrendering Nepali sovereignty to India leading to finally submerging in the Union. But if Nepal’s vast potentials are to be developed, a close cooperation between the two countries is imperative. Hence, political wisdom, vision and courage from both sides will be required to convince the people that if Belgium, Luxemburg and Holland can live side by side with France and Germany, there is no reason why Nepal can not live with India with dignity, sovereignty and its own identity.

Indeed, over the past three decades, SAARC has made several innovative declarations with little progress at the ground due to the political realities. Even SAFTA and SAPTA are yet to make any visible impact. In this context, the new arrangements between Nepal and India can make a role model for other countries on the region to join in the club. (From Nepalnews)

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