[Burning Issue] India-Nepal Relations

Basic features of Indo-Nepal treaty of peace and friendship

  1. Nepal is the only vital neighbour as it shares an open border with India.
  2. India and Nepal initiated their relationship with the signing ten articles treaty of 1950, “Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship”.
  3. The treaty allows free movement of people and goods between the two nations and a close relationship and collaboration on matters of defense and foreign policy.
  4. This allows the reciprocality for Nepalese and Indian citizens to move freely across the border without passport or visa, live and work in either country and own property or conduct trade or business in either country.
  5. However, a section of Nepalese received this treaty as violation of their sovereignty.
  6. The extensive Indian trade and economic influence was also resented by some in Nepal.
  7. In 1975 after the annexation of Sikkim by India, Nepal began openly lobbying for renegotiation of the treaty and proposed itself as a Zone of Peace between India and China.

Importance of Nepal for India and vice-versa

Cultural Importance

  1. While enjoying their own peculiarities, both India and Nepal share common culture and ways of life.
  2. Religion is perhaps the most important factor, and plays a predominant role in shaping the cultural relations between these two countries, marked by cross country pilgrimage on Char Dham Yatra, Pashupatinath Temple and some Buddhist sites.
  3. A considerable section of Nepalese comprises of madhesi population which has familial & ethnic ties with states of Bihar, UP.
  4. Although Nepal has its unique geography, history and cultural heritage still it is an integral part of the broader cultural history and tradition of Indian sub-continent.

Strategic Importance

  1. Nepal is a buffer state between India and China.
  2. It has an open border with India which leads to problems such as illegal migrants, counterfeit currency entry, drug and human trafficking.
  3. Several Nepali Citizens are also deployed in Indian defense forces as well.

Political Importance

  1. Constitutional turmoil is not new in Nepal. India has played a vital role in the democratic transition in Nepal against the monarch King Gyanendra.
  2. Nepali Congress (NC) is one of the country’s oldest parties which supports relations with India, but the communist parties show a tilt towards China.

Economic Importance

  1. Nepal is a important export market for India.
  2. Himalayan rivers flowing through Nepal can be used for Hydroelectric power projects which will benefit border states of UP, Bihar and other adjacent areas.
  3. There are three major water deals between Nepal and India, namely the Kosi Agreement, the Gandak Treaty and the Mahakali Treaty. India also exports Power to Nepal.
  4. Also, Nepal is the largest borrower of Indian Currency in South Asia.

Examples of bilateral cooperation

  1. The “Treaty of Peace and Friendship” was one of the landmark initiative of bilateral relations between India and Nepal.
  2. Operation Maitri of 2015 reiterated India’s commitment towards relations with Nepal. The search, rescue and relief operations carried out by Indians.
  3. Through this India once again proved its potential in role-playing and responsibility-bearing capacity in the region.
  4. India also announced a post-earthquake reconstruction package of US$ 1 bn for Nepal.
  5. India and Nepal have a Power Exchange Agreement since 1971 for meeting the power requirements in the border areas of the two countries.
  6. In 2014, PM Modi won hearts of Nepalese Population by his address in Nepal’s parliament.

Irritants in bilateral ties

Grudges of Nepal

  1. Anti-India Sentiment in Nepal is largely politically motivated as it is wrongly perceived as India’s backing to Monarchy.
  2. The issue of open borders has also been a point of debate in Nepal in recent years- Nepalese people argue that the India is benefiting more from it than Nepal.
  3. Nepal feels vulnerable and insecure because it is landlocked.
  4. Increasing Chinese presence in Nepal is one of the major concern for India. China’s move to extend the rail link to its border with Nepal can reduce Kathmandu’s dependence on India.
  5. Fundamentally these Chinese agencies are building up anti-India sentiments in Nepal.
  6. Nepal’s assent for “One Belt One Region” (OBOR) initiative of China is viewed by India with suspicion.

Grudges of India

Madhesi Issue

  1. Nepal adopted the new post-monarchy Constitution in 2015. Madhesi, a minority group residing in the Terai of Nepal, have been demanding a redrawing of federal boundaries.
  2. The Nepali constitution has given equal representation on the basis of “geographical area” triggering a demand for separate Madhesi province.
  3. Most of the key constitutional posts have been reserved for only citizens by descent hence surpassing Madhesis.
  4. In line with Madhesi Protest, Indian supply was blockaded at the border points leading to acute shortage of essential commodities.
  5. Nepal has accused India of imposing an undeclared blockade
  6. This angered a large part of the Nepalese population, allowing China to step in as an alternative.

Human trafficking in Nepal

  1. An estimated 100,000–200,000 Nepalese in India are believed to have been trafficked.
  2. Sex trafficking is particularly rampant within Nepal and to India, with as many as 5,000–10,000 women and girls trafficked to India alone each year.

Border Issue

  1. The unsettled border disputes at Kalapani and Susta have contributed substantially to the anti-Indian sentiments in Nepal.
  2. Border crossings from undesignated posts is a matter of content for India.

India’s importance to Nepal

  1. India is the nearest foreign employer to Nepali Citizens, which provides various avenues of work and ease in assimilation into a foreign culture.
  2. India is the only potential neighbour who could harness Nepal’s hydropower.
  3. Moreover, Indian tourists are the major movers of Nepal’s tourism sector.

Nepal’s Importance for India

  1. Nepal is a feasible market for Indian exports and attracts huge economic dependence on India.
  2. It acts as a strategic buffer state between India and China.
  3. As discussed earlier, India is the only beneficiary to harness its immense hydropower capacity.
  4. It is one of the major proponent and supporter of India’s interest on various International forums.

Way Forward

  1. India can be the big-brother for Nepal in all sense.
  2. The onus is on India to rethink on a long-term basis how to recalibrate its relationship with Nepal provided Nepal should not ignore its dependence on India.
  3. India needs to continue to understand that there is another opportunity to rewrite bilateral and geopolitical history.
  4. India needs to also realize the new reality that its monopoly over geopolitics in Nepal is over, and there is another relationship that Nepal is nurturing.
  5. While China does not have people-to-people interactions with Nepal on a par with India, it has an open avenue for India to retain its strategic importance.
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