Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Thinking through the Nepal policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaty of Sagauli

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Nepal relations

Unilateral actions by Nepal

  • Minor dispute involving territory around the Kalapani springs, was expanded to claim a large wedge of Indian territory towards the east, measuring nearly 400 square kilometres.
  • The expanded claim was incorporated into Nepal through a constitutional amendment and a revised official map.

Future course of action

  • India should be willing to engage in talks with Nepal on all aspects of India-Nepal relations.
  • But any talks on the Kalapani issue should be limited to the area which was the original subject for negotiations and Susta.
  • Borders which have been accepted by both sides for more than 100 years and which have also been reflected on their official maps cannot be unilaterally altered by one side coming up with archival material which has surfaced in the meantime.
  • This would make national boundaries unstable and shifting, and create avoidable controversies between countries as is the case now between India and Nepal.

Some historical background

  • The Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 sets the Kali river as the boundary between the two countries.
  • There was no map attached to the treaty.
  • Nepal is now claiming that the main tributary of the Kalapani river rises east of the Lipu Lekh pass from the Limpiyadhura ridgeline and hence should serve as the border.
  • Even if the lengthiest tributary may be one principle for a riverine boundary, it is not the only one.
  • There are many boundaries which do not follow any geographical principle at all but are the result of historical circumstances, mutual agreement and legal recognition.
  • British surveys of the region consistently showed the India-Nepal border heading due north of Kalapani springs.
  • This alignment never changed in subsequent years and was also reflected in Nepali official maps.
  • It has been argued by Nepal that it was the East India Company and successor governments “cartographic chicanery” to shift the source of the Kali river towards the east.
  • But Nepali government never contested such actions.
  • In 1969, the then Prime Minister of Nepal demanded that India military personnel manning 17 villages along the Nepal-Tibet border since the early 1950s be withdrawn.
  • If Lipu Lekh and Kalapani were on Nepali territory then why were they omitted from the list?
  • The Chinese, at least since 1954, have accepted Lipu Lekh Pass as being in Indian territory.
  • In the Nepal-China boundary agreement of 1960, the starting point of the boundary is clearly designated at a point just west of the Tinker Pass.

Consider the question “Nepal’s newfound aspiration has led to the introduction of friction in India-Nepal ties, what is needed is recognition of each others’ concerns. Comment.”

Conclusion

For India, more than the exemplary inter-state relationship, it is the unique people-to-people relations between India and Nepal; and, fortunately, inter-state relations have been unable to undermine the dense affinities that bind our peoples together. While India should reject the Nepali state’s ill-conceived territorial claims, it should do everything to nurture the invaluable asset it has in the goodwill of the people of Nepal.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India’s Military Ties with Nepal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ex. Surya Kiran

Mains level : India-Nepal military ties

Soldiers from Nepal form a significant part of the Indian Army’s legendary Gurkha regiment. Here is a brief explainer on the origin and evolution of these ties.

Practice question for mains:

Q.“India has special and time-tested military ties with Nepal”. Analyse.

India’s military ties with Nepal: The origin

  • India’s military connection with the Himalayan country goes back to the reign of Maharaja Ranjit Singh whose army in Lahore enlisted Nepalese soldiers called Lahure or soldiers of fortune.
  • British India raised the first battalion of the Gurkha Regiment as the Nasiri regiment on April 24, 1815.
  • By the time the First World War started, there were 10 Gurkha regiments in the British Indian Army.
  • When India got freedom, these regiments were divided between the British and Indian armies as per the Britain–India–Nepal Tripartite Agreement signed in November 1947.
  • Six Gurkha regiments with a lakh-odd soldier came to India, which went on to raise another regiment called 11 Gurkha Rifles who chose not to transfer to the British Army.

Can Nepali citizens join the Indian Army?

  • Yes, any Nepali can join the Indian Army, both as a jawan and as an officer.
  • A citizen of Nepal can take the NDA or CDS exams and join the Indian Army as an officer.
  • Col Lalit Rai, who received a Vir Chakra for the bravery of his battalion, the 1/11 Gurkha Rifles, during the Kargil war, is one such officer of Nepalese descent.
  • The Nepalese army also sends its officers for training to India’s military academies and combat colleges.

Do the soldiers from Nepal enjoy the same rights as the Indian troops?

  • Yes, they enjoy the same benefits as the India troops both during service and after retirement.
  • They get the same medical facilities as the Indian soldiers, and often medical teams from the Indian Army tour Nepal.
  • Unlike the British, who started giving the Nepalese soldiers pension only a few years ago, the Indian Army has never discriminated against the Nepalese soldiers, who can avail of healthcare facilities in India as well.
  • The Indian Army also runs welfare projects in Nepal villages, including small water and power projects.

The honorary chief of the Nepalese army

  • Yes, this convention dates back to 1972 when then Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, a Gurkha regiment officer, fondly called Sam Bahadur by his troops, was made the honorary chief of the Nepalese army.
  • Ever since the Army chief of India is the honorary chief of the Nepalese army and vice-versa.

Joint exercises

  • Joint military exercise ‘SURYA KIRAN is an annual event which is conducted alternatively in Nepal and India.
  • It is an important exercise in terms of the security challenges faced by both nations in the realm of changing facets of global terrorism.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Changing Nepal and changing ties with India

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Indian states sharing border with Nepal

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Nepal ties and border issue

Of late, India’s bilateral relations with Nepal has been going south. The latest trigger has been the changes made by Nepal in the map. This article explores the transformation of Nepal and its impact on India-Nepal relations. Despite the efforts by Nepal to explore the options beyond India, ties are still robust between the two countries and this is reflected in more than one ways.

Let’s map the changes in  Nepal with one constant factor: nationalism

1. Democracy

  • The obvious change in Nepal is that it is now a democratic republic after nearly 250 years of being a monarchy.
  • The Nepali Congress and Maoist leader, Prachanda, claim democracy (1990) and the abolition of monarchy (2008) as their legacies.

2. Societal change due to exposure to globalisation

  • More pervasive is the societal change from Nepal’s exposure to globalisation.
  • Geography, too, stands to change, with the Chinese now having the potential to bore through the Himalayas and exhibiting their presence in Kathmandu in economics and politics.

3. Nationalism

  • The constant in Nepal is nationalism which is really a mask for anti-India sentiment.
  • Politicians use it for personal gain, and it is deeply ingrained in the bureaucracy, academia and the media.
  • Today, Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is cementing his legacy as a nationalist by extending Nepal’s map into Indian territory.
  • The cartographic aggression and the embedding of the new map in the country’s national emblem and Constitution are untenable and should have been avoided under all circumstances.
  • In 2015, the Nepali Congress government adopted the new Constitution, ignoring India’s concerns.

4. Identity politics

  • Identity politics with India is also visible within the country.
  • Nepali citizens from the Terai (Madhesis) feel discriminated as being “Indian”.

To Nepal, their attitudes reflect the angst of a small state. To India, Nepal appears incorrigible.

Let’s understand how globalisation changed Nepal

  • After democracy was restored in 1990, passports were more liberally issued, and Nepalis began looking for work opportunities globally, beyond just India.
  • West Asia and South-East Asia specifically became major destinations for labour migration.
  • Security uncertainties with the Maoist insurgency at home also propelled the trend of migration.
  • Students and skilled personnel began moving to Europe, the United States, Australia, Thailand and even to Japan and South Korea.
  • As of 2019, nearly a fifth of Nepal’s population, from all parts of the country, were reportedly overseas.
  • At an estimated $8 billion, global remittances account for nearly 30% of Nepal’s nominal GDP.
  • This makes Nepal one of the most remittance-dependent countries in the world.
  • Leftist ideology and the prominent presence of international non-governmental organisations — ostensibly there to resolve conflict and alleviate poverty — have added to Nepal’s exposure to the world.
  • Nepal’s 2011 Census shows that over 80% of its 28 million-strong population were Hindus, and since 1962, it had formally been a Hindu kingdom.
  • The new Constitution in 2015 makes Nepal a secular country.
  • The proliferation of communication technology has also spread a certain cosmopolitanism but without the accompanying metropolitanism.

Nepal exploring options beyond India

  • Kathmandu has continued its long-standing efforts to spread Nepal’s options beyond India.
  • Multilateral development banks are by far the biggest lenders and players in the country’s development efforts.
  • And in fact, one of Nepal’s largest aid donors is the European Union.
  • India and China are not the only players for big projects either.
  • A long-delayed project to pipe water into Kathmandu was with an Italian company.
  • Major investments in the telecom sector are coming from Malaysia, and the largest international carrier in Nepal is Qatar Airways.

Weakening of natural bond and responsible factors

  • The outward movement of students, along with with the growth of institutions of higher learning at home, has meant that most young people in Nepal, including emerging contemporary leaders in politics, business or academics, have not studied in India.
  • This lack of common collegiate roots removes a natural bond of previous generations that had provided for better understanding and even empathy.
  • While most Nepalis understand Hindi, because of the popularity of Bollywood, articulation is quite another matter.

Robust ties with India, despite diversification

  • Despite Nepal’s efforts to diversify its options globally, its linkages with India remain robust.
  • Nepal’s trade with India has grown in absolute terms and continues to account for more than two-thirds of Nepal’s external trade of around $12 billion annually.
  • This clearly reflects the advantages of geography, both physical and societal.
  • India continues to be the largest aggregate investor in Nepal.
  • The massive under-construction Arun-III 900 MW hydro-electric project is slated to singly produce as much power, when completed in five years, as Nepal produces today.
  • Moreover, the peg with the Indian Rupee provides unique stability to the Nepali Rupee.

Unique advantage to Nepal

  • Nepal’s per-capita income is just above $1,000.
  • While the huge remittance economy has brought a semblance of well-being, the country has a long way to go in reaching prosperity.
  • The relationship with India, with open borders and Nepalis being allowed to live and work freely, provides Nepal a unique advantage and an economic cushion.
  • The latter is particularly important today with COVID-19-caused global contraction positioned to pop the remittance bubble.
  • Neither the Chinese nor any others are likely to write blank cheques.
  • India for its part should also focus on developing its border areas with Nepal, with better roads and amenities of interest (such as shopping malls) to the burgeoning Nepali middle class.
  • This would have economic plusses for both sides and keep ties strong at the people’s level. It would also be an image makeover.

Consider the question “Despite intermittent disagreements over certain issues, India-Nepal ties remain robust. In light of this, elaborate on the ties between the two countries and suggest ways to find the solution to the latest border dispute between the two countries.”

Conclusion

It is important that we update the prism through which we view our relationship with our Himalayan neighbour. We must not forget the past nor turn away from it but, instead, must be mindful of the realities of a changing India and a changing Nepal.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Complexity of India-Nepal relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaty of Sugauli-1816

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Nepal relations

This article helps us understand Nepal’s perspective of the India-Nepal border dispute. Though the issue dates back to India’s independence, it came to dominate the political landscape in Nepal since 1990s. But there is no solution in sight. So, what makes the issue complex? Read to know…

What the border dispute between two countries is about?

  • The inauguration of the “new road to Mansarovar” on May 8 by India’s defence minister has strained the relations between Nepal and India.
  • Nepal claims that a section of the road passes through the territory of Nepal and links with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China through the Lipu Lekh pass in Nepal.
  • The 1816 Sugauli Treaty between Nepal and British India placed all the territories east of the Kali (Mahakali) river, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh at the northwestern front of Nepal, on its side.
  • The borders of Nepal, India and China intersect in this area.
  • Given the situation in 1961, Nepal and China fixed pillar number one at Tinker pass with the understanding that pillar number zero (the tri-junction of Nepal, India, and China) would be fixed later.
  • Lipu Lekh pass is 4 km northwest and Limpiyadhura 53 km west of Tinker pass.

No progress on the solution of the issue

  • The dispute over the Kalapani area has spanned the last seven decades.
  • Both Nepal and India have recognised it as an outstanding border issue requiring an optimal resolution.
  • When in August 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Nepal in 17 years, Nepal’s Prime Minister Sushil Koirala raised this issue again.
  • The two prime ministers agreed to resolve the issue on a priority basis and directed their foreign secretaries “to work on the outstanding boundary issues including Kalapani and Susta”.
  •  There was virtually no progress on the ground.

Nepal’s objection to India-China agreement

  •  In May 2015, Prime Minister Modi visited China, and the two countries agreed to “enhance border areas cooperation”.
  • The May 2015 agreement is a broad one compared to the 1954 India-China agreement “on trade and intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India”, which mentions Lipu Lekh pass as one of the six passes “through which traders and pilgrims of both countries may travel”.
  • Nepal protested against the inclusion of its territory, Lipu Lekh, in the joint statement without its consent and demanded that the two countries make necessary corrections to reflect the ground realities.
  • The protest was ignored.

Growing nationalism and distrust let to the deterioration of relations

  • The tone of Nepal-India relations appears to be dominated by frustrations of the past and traditional attitudes more than the opportunities of the future.
  • The widening gap in understanding each other’s concerns has helped feed Nepali nationalism and create a dense cloud of distrust and suspicion between the two countries.
  • The gap widened after India chose to impose an economic blockade in response to Nepal’s sovereign decision to promulgate a democratic constitution.
  • The current ruling Communist Party of Nepal made people’s anger over the blockade its campaign plank during the 2017 general election.

What makes the border issues complex and difficult to solve?

  • Complexity of the issue stems from the fact that the political leadership handles only a small part of this very important bilateral relationship.
  • India as a big neighbour is rarely seen grasping the psychological dimensions of the relationship.
  • Officials handling these multifaceted relations may momentarily influence the atmospherics but they rarely touch the core of these relations, let alone reorient or transform them in the rapidly changing context.
  • This is manifest in the deferring of substantive conversations on the outstanding boundary issue for decades.
  • The foreign secretary level mechanism has not met even once to discuss the border issue since its formation.
  • There are over three dozen bilateral mechanisms between Nepal and India to engage at various levels.
  • The meetings of these mechanisms are rarely regular.

Consider the question “The India-Nepal border dispute looks minor, but allowing it to fester is likely to sow the seeds of immense competition and intense rivalry in the sensitive Himalayan frontier with far-reaching geopolitical implications. Comment.”

Conclusion

Geography, history, and economy make Nepal and India natural partners, sharing vital interest in each other’s freedom, integrity, dignity, security and progress. People-to-people relations are unique strengths of bilateral relations. India, for it’s part and in the spirit of its ‘neighbourhood first’ policy, must start a solution-oriented dialogue and find the solution to the dispute.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Time to revisit the special relationship with Nepal

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Nepal

Mains level : Paper 2-India-Nepal border issue

A new map released by Nepal delivered a blow to the India-Nepal relations. But this is hardly the first time this has happened. The article clears some cobwebs about Nepal’s foreign policy. First, it throws light on the past trend set by Nepal. And drawing on the past experience, it suggests the changes India should adopt in new framework to deal with Nepal.

Nepal’s new map: Yet another knock on India-Nepal relations

  • As the parliament in Nepal gets ready to approve a new map that will include parts of Indian territory in Uttarakhand, Delhi is bracing for yet another knock to a bilateral relationship.
  • Many in the Indian strategic community believe that the train wreck was avoidable.
  • But others view the collision between Delhi and Kathmandu as both inevitable and imminent.
  • Even if the territorial issue had been finessed, something else would have triggered the breakdown.

Bigger fissures in relation

  • A closer look suggests that the territorial dispute is merely a symptom of the structural changes.
  • These structural changes are unfolding in the external and internal context of the bilateral relationship.
  • The question, then, is not what Delhi could have done to prevent the current crisis.
  • It should be about looking ahead to build more sustainable ties with Kathmandu.

2 factors India must consider and depart from

  • Any new framework for engaging Kathmandu must involve two important departures from the past in Delhi.
  • 1) First is coming to terms with Nepal’s natural politics of balance.
  • 2) The other is the recognition that Delhi’s much-vaunted “special relationship” with Kathmandu is part of the problem.

Let’s look at the history of Nepal’s geopolitics

  • The founder of the modern Nepali state, Prithvi Narayan Shah, described Nepal as a “yam between two rocks”.
  • He was pointing to the essence of Nepal’s geographic condition between the dominant power in the Gangetic plains on the one hand and Tibet and the Qing empire on the other.
  • Contrary to the conventional wisdom in India, China has long been part of Kathmandu’s international relations.
  • As the East India Company gained ground at the turn of the 19th century, Nepal’s rulers made continuous offers to Beijing to act as China’s frontline against Calcutta’s expansion into the Himalayas.
  • Kathmandu also sought to build a coalition of Indian princes to counter the Company.
  • Even after it lost the first Anglo-Nepal war in 1816, Kathmandu kept up a continuous play between Calcutta and Beijing.
  • As the scales tilted in the Company’s favour after the First Opium War (1839-42), Nepal’s rulers warmed up to Calcutta.
  • When the 1857 Mutiny shook the Company, Kathmandu backed it and regained some of the territories it lost when the Raj replaced the Company.
  • As the fortunes of the Raj rose, Kathmandu rulers enjoyed the benefits of being Calcutta’s protectorate.
  • India inherited this framework but has found it impossible to sustain.

Why the Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1950) lost its appeal?

  • The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship gave the illusion of continuity in Nepal’s protectorate relationship with the Raj and its successor, independent India.
  • That illusion was continuously chipped away amid the rise of mass politics in Nepal, growing Nepali nationalism, and Kathmandu’s acquisition of an international personality.
  • The 1950 Treaty, which proclaims an “everlasting friendship” between the two nations, has become the symbol of Indian hegemony in Nepal.
  • In a paradox, its security value for India has long been hollowed out.
  • It is a political millstone around India’s neck that Delhi is unwilling to shed for the fear of losing the “special relationship”.
  • Delhi has been trapped into a perennial political play among Kathmandu’s different factions and responding to Nepal’s China card.

Weakening of “special relationship”: Essence of Nepal’s foreign policy

  • Once the Chinese Communist Party consolidated its power in Tibet and offered assurances to Nepal, Kathmandu’s balancing impulses were back in play.
  • At the risk of oversimplification, Nepal’s foreign policy since the 1950s has, in essence, been about weakening the “special relationship” with India and building more cooperation with China.
  • Kathmandu has used different labels to package its desire for greater room for manoeuvre between its two giant neighbours — non-alignment, diversification, “zone of peace”, equidistance, and a Himalayan bridge between India and China.
  • The stronger China has become, the wider have Kathmandu’s options with India become.

Way forward

  • It makes no sense for Delhi to hanker after a “special relationship” that a large section of Kathmandu does not want.
  • If Delhi wants a normal and good neighbourly relationship with Kathmandu, it should put all major bilateral issues on the table for renegotiation.
  • Such issues should include the 1950 treaty, national treatment to Nepali citizens in India, trade and transit arrangements, the open border and visa-free travel.
  • Delhi should make it a priority to begin talks with Nepal on revising, replacing, or simply discarding the 1950 treaty.
  • It should negotiate a new set of mutually satisfactory arrangements.
  • India had conducted a similar exercise with Bhutan to replace the 1949 treaty during 2006-07.
  • The issues and political context are certainly more complicated in the case of Nepal.
  • It is better that Delhi bites the bullet and makes a fresh beginning with Kathmandu rather than let the relationship deteriorate.
  • No bilateral relationship between nations can be built on sentiment — whether it is based on faith, ideology or inheritance.
  • Only those rooted in shared interests will endure.
  • Rather than object to Kathmandu’s China ties, Delhi must focus on how to advance India’s relations with Nepal.
  • It should bet that the logic of Nepal’s economic geography, its pursuit of enlightened self-interest, and Kathmandu’s natural balancing politics, will continue to provide a strong framework for India’s future engagement with Nepal.

Conclusion

Discarding the appearances of the “special relationship” might, in fact, make it easier for Delhi to construct a more durable and interest-based partnership with Kathmandu that is rooted in realism and has strong popular support on both sides.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

For a reset in India-Nepal relations

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treat of Sugauli in 1816

Mains level : Paper 2- Indiao-Nepal relations and territorial dispute.

Over the past few years, we have been  witness to the deteriorating India-Nepal relations. Reserves of goodwill which India had accumulated is fast depleting in Nepal. The latest issue over the map is a new addition to the decline in relations. This article stresses the need for political maturity to find the solution to the complex issue of the underlying problem.

Need for the fundamental reset in relations between Indian and Nepal

  • The immediate provocation for the contention is the long-standing territorial issue surrounding Kalapani.
  • It is a patch of land near the India-Nepal border, close to the Lipulekh Pass on the India-China border.
  • However, the underlying reasons are far more complex.
  • Yet, Nepali Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s exploitation of the matter, by raising the banner of Nepali nationalism and painting India as a hegemon, is part of a frequent pattern.
  • Which indicates that relations between the two countries need a fundamental reset.

Let’s look at the historical background of the India-Nepal border

  • India inherited the boundary with Nepal, established between Nepal and the East India Company in the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.
  • Kali river constituted the boundary, and the territory to its east was Nepal.
  • The dispute relates to the origin of Kali.
  • Near Garbyang village in Dharchula Tehsil of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, there is a confluence of different streams coming from north-east from Kalapani and north-west from Limpiyadhura.
  • The early British survey maps identified the north-west stream, Kuti Yangti, from Limpiyadhura as the origin.
  • But after 1857 changed the alignment to Lipu Gad, and in 1879 to Pankha Gad, the north-east streams, thus defining the origin as just below Kalapani.
  • Nepal accepted the change and India inherited this boundary in 1947.

More past events dealing with the LIpulech pass

  • The Maoist revolution in China in 1949, followed by the takeover of Tibet, created deep misgivings in Nepal.
  • So, India was ‘invited’ by Nepal to set up 18 border posts along the Nepal-Tibet border.
  • The westernmost post was at Tinkar Pass, about 6 km further east of Lipulekh.
  • In 1953, India and China identified Lipulekh Pass for both pilgrims and border trade. After the 1962 war, pilgrimage through Lipulekh resumed in 1981, and border trade, in 1991.
  • In 1961, King Mahendra visited Beijing to sign the China-Nepal Boundary Treaty that defines the zero point in the west, just north of Tinkar Pass.
  • By 1969, India had withdrawn its border posts from Nepali territory.
  • The base camp for Lipulekh remained at Kalapani, less than 10 km west of Lipulekh.
  • In their respective maps, both countries showed Kalapani as the origin of Kali river and as part of their territory.
  • After 1979, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police has manned the Lipulekh Pass.

So, when was the issue of the origin of Kali river raised?

  • After the 1996 Treaty of Mahakali -Kali river is also called Mahakali/Sarada further downstream-the issue of the origin of Kali river was first raised in 1997.
  • The matter was referred to the Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee that had been set up in 1981 to re-identify and replace the old and damaged boundary pillars along the India-Nepal border.
  • The Committee clarified 98% of the boundary, leaving behind the unresolved issues of Kalapani and Susta when it was dissolved in 2008.
  • It was subsequently agreed that the matter would be discussed at the Foreign Secretary level.
  • Meanwhile, the project to convert the 80-km track from Ghatibagar to Lipulekh into a hardtop road began in 2009 without any objections from Nepal.

Objections raised by Nepal to the new map released by India

  • The Survey of India issued a new political map (eighth edition) on November 2, 2019, to reflect the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir as two Union Territories.
  • Nepal registered a protest though the map in no way had changed the boundary between India and Nepal.
  • However, on November 8, the ninth edition was issued.
  • The delineation remained identical but the name Kali river had been deleted.
  • Predictably, this led to stronger protests, with Nepal invoking Foreign Secretary-level talks to resolve issues.

New map released by Nepal and issues with it

  • A new map of Nepal based on the older British survey reflecting Kali river originating from Limpiyadhura in the north-west of Garbyang was adopted by parliament and notified on May 20.
  • On May 22, a constitutional amendment proposal was tabled to include it in a relevant Schedule.
  • The new alignment adds 335 sq km to Nepali territory, territory that has never been reflected in a Nepali map for nearly 170 years.

Following issue explains why there is need for rewriting the fundamental of India-Nepal relations

1. Nepali nationalism is being equated to anti-Indianism

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often spoken of the “neighbourhood first” policy.
  • But the relationship took a nosedive in 2015 when India first got blamed for interfering in the Constitution-drafting in Nepal.
  • And then for an “unofficial blockade” that generated widespread resentment against the country.
  • It reinforced the notion that Nepali nationalism and anti-Indianism were two sides of the same coin.

2. China factor

  • In Nepali thinking, the China card has provided them the leverage to practise their version of non-alignment.
  • In the past, China maintained a link with the Palace and its concerns were primarily related to keeping tabs on the Tibetan refugee community.
  • With the abolition of the monarchy, China has shifted attention to the political parties as also to institutions like the Army and Armed Police Force.
  • Also, today’s China is pursuing a more assertive foreign policy and considers Nepal an important element in its growing South Asian footprint.

3. India has ignored the changing political narrative for long

  • The reality is that India has ignored the changing political narrative in Nepal for far too long.
  • India remained content that its interests were safeguarded by quiet diplomacy even when Nepali leaders publicly adopted anti-Indian postures.
  • Long ignored by India, it has spawned distortions in Nepali history textbooks and led to long-term negative consequences.
  • For too long India has invoked a “special relationship”, based on shared culture, language and religion, to anchor its ties with Nepal.
  • Today, this term carries a negative connotation — that of a paternalistic India that is often insensitive and, worse still, a bully.
  • The 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship which was sought by the Nepali authorities in 1949  is viewed as a sign of an unequal relationship, and an Indian imposition.
  • The purpose of the treaty was to continue the special links Nepal had with British India and it  provides for an open border and right to work for Nepali nationals
  • Yet, Nepali authorities have studiously avoided taking it up bilaterally even though Nepali leaders thunder against it in their domestic rhetoric.

Consider the question, “Examine the issues that have been testing the old ties between India and Nepal.”

Conclusion

The urgent need today is to pause the rhetoric on territorial nationalism and lay the groundwork for a quiet dialogue where both sides need to display sensitivity as they explore the terms of a reset of the “special relationship”. A normal relationship where India can be a generous partner will be a better foundation for “neighbourhood first” in the 21st century.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India Nepal Border issue: Colonial legacy or the Dragon’s Power Play

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Treaty of Sugauli, Lipu Lekh pass.

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Nepal ties, and issues involved.

India – Nepal relations are having its “see saw swing” moment. At one end, lies the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship, close people to people relations and India’s aid during 2015 earthquake. But on the other end lies the economic blockade and Madhesi protest. Another entry to the later side is the Border issue.

  • The inauguration of road from Dharchula to Lipu Lekh was done with great fanfare, at least on the Indian side.
  • The metalled road is a BIG relief for pilgrims and traders on the traditional route for the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra, who otherwise were stuck for days in the arduous walk.

So, where is the issue?

The issue lies in Nepal’s charge claiming that the stretch passes though Nepalese territory. This was displayed by some politicized moves like-

  • Intemperate remarks by Nepal’s PM in the Nepalese Parliament.
  • Manner (airdropped to the location by helicopters) and timing(why now?) of the Deployment of armed police at Chharung, close to Kalapani, in its Sudoor Paschim.
  • Finally, Nepalese government has raised the stakes further by authorizing a new map extending its territory across an area sensitive for India’s defence.

The very beginning: The Sugauli Treaty

  • Before the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli, the Nepalese kingdom stretched from the Sutlej river in the west to the Teesta river in the East.
  • Nepal lost the Anglo-Nepalese War and with the signing of Sugauli Treaty was brought down to its present territories.

The Sugauli Treaty stated that “[t]he Rajah of Nipal [Nepal] hereby cedes to the Honourable [the] East India Company in perpetuity all the under-mentioned territories”, including “the whole of the lowlands between the Rivers Kali and Rapti.” It elaborated further that “[t]he Rajah of Nipal [Nepal] renounces for himself, his heirs, and successors, all claim to or connection with the countries lying to the west of the River Kali and engages never to have any concern with those countries or the inhabitants there of.”

  • The present controversy arose with Nepalese contest that the tributary that joins the Mahakali river at Kalapani is not the Kali river. Nepal now contends that the Kali river lies further west to the Lipu Lekh pass.
  • But here’s the catch!
  • The British used the Lipu Lekh pass for trade with Tibet and China.
  • Even Survey of India maps since the 1870s shows the area of Lipu Lekh down to Kalapani as part of British India.
  • Even though the areas of Nepalgunj and Kapilvastu were restituted to Nepal as a reward for the military help rendered by Jung Bahadur Rana in quelling the 1857 uprising. The British did not return any part of Garhwal or Kumaon, including the Kalapani area, to Nepal.
  • Infact, both the Rana rulers of Nepal and the Nepalese Kings accepted the boundary and did not raise any objection with the government of India after India’s Independence.
  • True that India did not existed in 1816 when the Treaty of Sugauli was concluded.
  • But many borders of the world and India are colonial legacy, which we have to work out.

The path to peace

  • The Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Working Group was set up in 1981 to resolve boundary issues, to demarcate the international border, and to manage boundary pillars.
  • By 2007, the group completed the preparation of 182 strip maps, signed by the surveyors of the two sides, covering almost 98% of the boundary, all except the two disputed areas of Kalapani and Susta.
  • Not able to solve the border issues in these disputed areas has left us hanging.

India has successfully resolved far more intractable border issues with Bangladesh.

  • The land boundary settlement required an exchange of territories, including the transfer of population, and a constitutional amendment to give effect to the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement.
  • The maritime boundary issue with Bangladesh involved going to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration. Despite knowing well that if the Court applied the principle of equity, India would lose up to four-fifths of the disputed area. India lost but the government of India accepted the ruling.
  • Compared to what was accomplished between India and Bangladesh, the India-Nepal border issues appear more easily solvable.

Respecting out Ties

  • India Nepal ties are unique.
  • Historical link between the nations.
  • Spirit of maintaining India’s close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal.
  • The people-to-people relationship between India and Nepal is unmatched.

What lies ahead?

  • This matter can be best handled bilaterally, through quiet diplomacy.
  • The Official Spokesperson of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, Anurag Srivastava, has said recently that India and Nepal have an established mechanism to deal with all boundary matters.
  • He has affirmed that India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue.
  • The remaining issues concerning the boundary i.e Kalapani and Susta are not difficult to resolve unless they are caught up in domestic or international concerns.
  • The next steps should be approval of the strip maps by the respective governments (that of the Nepalese Government is still awaited), the resolution of the differences of opinion over Kalapani and Susta, and speeding up the erection of damaged or missing border pillars.

Consider the question “India-Nepal ties are unique. Both countries have many things in common. Yet, recent developments over the border dispute threaten to snap these ties. Examine the border issue between the two countries. What is India’s stand on the issue? Suggest ways to resolve the issue.”

Conclusion

The more the trouble festers, those who stand to gain by deteriorating India-Nepal relations will benefit. There is need for the two countries to lower the temperature and defuse the issue. They must invest time and effort to find a solution. Raking up public controversy can only be counterproductive to the relationship.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India-Nepal dispute over Kalapani Region

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalapani Region

Mains level : India-Nepal relations and the Chinese hinderance

Nepal has protested against India’s inauguration of a Himalayan link road built in a disputed territory which falls at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China. Kathmandu claims the highly strategic areas of Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, although Indian troops have been deployed there since the 1962 war.

Practice question for mains:

Q. The India-Nepal bilateral relations these days are increasingly seen through the lens of China factor. Examine.

Kalapani Region

  • Mapped within Uttarakhand is a 372-sq km area called Kalapani, bordering far-west Nepal and Tibet.
  • A treaty signed between Nepal and British India in 1816 determined the Makhali river, that runs through Kalapani, as the boundary between the two neighbours.
  • The Treaty of Sugauli concluded between British India and the Kingdom of Nepal in the year 1816, maps the Makhali river as the western boundary with India but different British maps showed the source of the tributary at different places which was mainly due to underdeveloped and less-defined surveying techniques used at that time.
  • However, the river has many tributaries that meet at Kalapani. For this reason, India claims that the river begins at Kalapani but Nepal says that it begins from Lipu Lekh pass, which is the source of most of its tributaries.
  • While the Nepal government and political parties have protested, India has said the new map does not revise the existing boundary with Nepal.
  • India claims that the river begins at Kalapani but Nepal says that it begins from Lipu Lekh pass, which is the source of most of its tributaries.

Legal Dimension of Issue

According to International Laws, the principles of avulsion and accretion are applicable in determining the borders when a boundary river changes course.

  • Avulsion: It is the pushing back of the shoreline by sudden, violent action of the elements, perceptible while in progress. Also it can be defined as the sudden and perceptible change in the land brought about by water, which may result in the addition or removal of land from a bank or shoreline.
  • Accretion: It is the process of growth or enlargement by a gradual buildup. It is the natural, slow and gradual deposit of soil by the water.

If the change of the river course is rapid – by avulsion – the boundary does not change. But if the river changes course gradually – that is, by accretion – the boundary changes accordingly.

Since, the Gandak change of course has been gradual, India claimed Susta as part of their territory as per international laws.

  • On several occasions, India has tried to resolve the issue through friendly and peaceful negotiations, but the Nepali leadership has always shown hesitation in resolving the issue.
  • In Nepal, the issue has become a tool for arousing strong public sentiment against India. Therefore, resolving the issue may not be in the best interest of Nepal’s domestic politics.

Significance for India

  • The Lipu Lekh pass serves strategic importance for India as a key point to monitor Chinese troop movement.
  • The link road via Lipulekh Himalayan Pass is also considered one of the shortest and most feasible trade routes between India and China.
  • The Nepalese reaction would probably have triggered in response to Chinese assertion.

An undefined boundary claimed by Nepal

  • Nepal’s western boundary with India was marked out in the Treaty of Sugauli between the East India Company and Nepal in 1816.
  • Nepali authorities claim that people living in the low-density area were included in the Census of Nepal until 58 years ago.
  • Five years ago, Nepali Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pande claimed that the late King Mahendra had “handed over the territory to India”.
  • By some accounts in Nepal, this allegedly took place in the wake of India-China War of 1962.

Treaty of Saguali

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[pib] Exercise SURYA KIRAN – XIV

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the Exercise

Mains level : India-Nepal strategic realtions

Joint military exercise ‘SURYA KIRAN – XIV’ between India and Nepal will be conducted in Nepal in the coming week.

Exercise SURYA KIRAN – XIV

  • It is an annual event which is conducted alternatively in Nepal and India.
  • It is an important exercise in terms of the security challenges faced by both the nations in the realm of changing facets of global terrorism.
  • The aim of this exercise is to conduct a Battalion level combined training between Indian Army and Nepal Army to increase interoperability in jungle warfare and counter terrorist operations in mountainous terrain, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, medical and environmental conservation including aviation aspects.
  • The joint military exercise will enhance the level of defence cooperation which will further foster the bilateral relations between the two nations.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[oped of the day] India, Nepal must seek mutually acceptable solutions to controversy over new map

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : Indo-Nepal relations : Kalapani area

Context

Recently, India released maps that showed Kalapani at the India-Nepal-China trijunction to the north and Susta to the south as Indian territory.

Boundary challenge

The notion of boundaries as lines drawn on a map is significant in the Subcontinent. Here, the empires and kingdoms shaded into one another across ambiguous frontiers.

Indo-Nepal boundary

    • Neither country has allowed a political boundary to interrupt the age-old traffic of people
    • People shared ties of kinship, religion, and culture. 
    • This is being threatened by territorial nationalism on the Nepali side and a security state on the Indian side.
    • The two countries have settled about 98% of their common border and these are reflected in the 182 strip maps initiated by them. 
    • More than 8,500 boundary pillars have been installed, reflecting the agreed alignment.

Nepali side

    • Kathmandu Valley remains the crucible of Nepali politics and the arbiter of its domestic and foreign policies. 
    • In Nepal, political groupings try to project bullying and overbearing India to present themselves as custodians of national interest. 
    • Recent demonstrations in Kathmandu show how Left competed with Nepali Congress to oppose India.

Issue over maps

    • These maps have nothing to do with Nepal. 
    • They were published to reflect the recent bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into the two new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. 
    • There was no change in the depiction of the India-Nepal boundary.
    • The perception was created that the publication of the new map was a departure from the past and constituted cartographic aggression. 

Nepal – rhetoric

    • Most of the time, the Nepali side raises such issues for rhetorical purposes but is uninterested in following up through serious negotiations. 
    • The same happened with Nepali demands for the revision of the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty. 
    • The Indian side agreed in 2001 to hold talks at the foreign secretary-level to come up with a revised treaty. Only one such round of talks has taken place.

Kalapani area

    • In the past, Nepal has claimed territory in the Kalapani area and Susta as its own. 
    • The two sides agreed that these differences should be resolved through friendly negotiations. These talks are yet to take place.
    • The Kalapani controversy has arisen due to a difference in perception over the real and primary sources of the Mahakali river. 
    • The Treaty of Sugauli concluded in 1816 that locates the river as the western boundary with India but different British maps showed the source tributary at different places. 
    • Then the state of cartographic science and less-refined surveying techniques creates these problems. 
    • With regard to Susta, the problem has arisen as a result of the shifting of the course of the river. 
    • There are only two ways to deal with this challenge — either to accept a shifting border as the river itself shifts or to agree on a boundary which remains fixed despite changes in the course of the river. 

Indo-Nepal relations: Pipeline

    • The Motihari-Amlekhgang pipeline for safe, secure and assured supply of petroleum products to Nepal was launched. 
    • These supplies were trucked across the border in the past.
    • There were frequents incidents of pilferage and contamination in transit and interruptions due to natural disasters or roadblocks during political protests. 
    • This is a demonstration of what cross-border cooperation can achieve to benefit both countries. 

Bilateral relations: People-People

    • There are six to eight million Nepali citizens living and working in India. 
    • They enjoy immense goodwill and a congenial and friendly environment wherever they are. 

Way ahead

India could regularly offer to take up outstanding issues bilaterally even though the Nepali side may wish to side-step.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Kalapani Dispute

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalapani

Mains level : India-nepal border disputes


  • The new political map of India, recently released by the government to account for the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, has triggered fresh protests over an old issue in Kathmandu.

Kalapani

  • Mapped within Uttarakhand is a 372-sq km area called Kalapani, bordering far-west Nepal and Tibet.
  • While the Nepal government and political parties have protested, India has said the new map does not revise the existing boundary with Nepal.

Defining the boundaries

  • Nepal’s western boundary with India was marked out in the Treaty of Sugauli between the East India Company and Nepal in 1816.
  • Nepali authorities claim that people living in the low-density area were included in the Census of Nepal until 58 years ago.
  • Five years ago, Nepali Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pande claimed that the late King Mahendra had “handed over the territory to India”.
  • By some accounts in Nepal, this allegedly took place in the wake of India-China War of 1962.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[oped of the day] The love triangle

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India-Nepal-China triangle

Context

President Xi Jinping flew straight from Chennai to Kathmandu. It is even an affront to India. 

Quote

    •  King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of Nepal, had said in 1770 that Nepal is a root vegetable between two big boulders, calling for balance and equidistance.

Background to the trip

    • Long pending – Nepal has been waiting for Xi since 2014. China has been waiting for the right timing: For Nepal to have a full-fledged communist government. 
    • India’s marginalisation in Nepal — is largely self-inflicted. Narendra Modi chose Nepal for his first visit and promised to reset India-Nepal relations. That never happened.
    • The china-nepal relationship is to be upgraded to a long-term strategic and security cooperation. Xi pledged to safeguard Nepal’s national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. 
    • Agreements signed – 18 agreements and two letters of exchange were signed. 

Agreements & Challenges

    • Boundary Management Systems that help insulate China’s northern reaches with Nepal — is a perennial issue relating to the illegal passage of Tibetans. 
    • Anti-China activities – China’s main security concern relates to anti-China activities by 20,000 Tibetans living in Nepal who are virtually under lockdown during such visits. 
    • Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters – Beijing hopes will ultimately result in an extradition treaty. 
    • Financial assistance – Xi also announced a financial assistance package of $495 mn for the next two years which India will find difficult to match. China has overtaken India in FDI to Nepal which was about $300 mn in 2018. 
    • Connectivity – The feasibility study for the Cross Himalayan Connectivity Network of a railway from Kyirong to Kathmandu was approved.
      • This will be extended via Pokhara to Lumbini in Terai as the China-Nepal Economic Corridor component of the Belt and Road Initiative. 
    • Cost of connectivity – A preliminary study by China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group Co Ltd has noted technical, geological, scientific and engineering challenges to this. This includes its security along with high costs and risks that outweigh the benefits. 
    • One estimate puts the cost of the Kathmandu-Kyirong section which includes a 28 km tunnel at $2.7 bn.
    • Debt trap – The question of funding invokes the memory of the Hambantota debt trap. A railway line from Lhasa to Kathmandu, unless it reaches the border with India, makes little commercial sense. 
    • Strategic issues – It will raise strategic doubts and uncertainties between India and China given the state of current relations.

Nepal’s view

    • Opportunity – Nepa does not view the CNEC as a threat but an opportunity for it to play the bridge between the two fastest-growing economies, China and India.
    • Risks to Nepal – Given the great rise of China, and its involvement in Nepal’s domestic politics, Nepal may be forced to make major strategic choices.
    • India’s role – In the past, former prime ministers had sought to encourage India to join the triangular India-Nepal-China grouping. In 2016, the three countries did discuss it. But India preferred to deal bilaterally with Nepal. 
    • China-India plus one – After Wuhan, then Chinese Ambassador to India, mooted this as a new model, as the two countries agreed to jointly train Afghan diplomats. 
    • Connectivity to Nepal – the Cross-Himalayan Connectivity Network will help Nepal become land-linked from land-locked with additional entry points. This will reduce the dependence on India. 

Chinese view

    • Window to Tibet – China sees Nepal as a window to Tibet.
    • Parity with India – due to its pre-eminence in Nepal and deep pockets, China has sought parity with India including enhanced defense and military cooperation as part of the new blueprint in Nepal-China relations. 
    • CNEC – The CNEC is more strategic than economic, especially its envisaged outreach to Lumbini which will breach India’s red line on Chinese activities in Nepal. 

India 

    • India has completed its feasibility study of a railway line from Raxaul to Kathmandu. How the Kathmandu-Kyirong rail will connect with the Indian section to the south is unclear. 
    • The Indian military still views a PLA challenge through Nepal to the strategic Indo-Gangetic plains. 

Conclusion

    • Xi’s dream — to be the sole leader of the Asian century — is attainable: 
    • By keeping India anchored to the region using Pakistan China blocks India’s traditional strategic space in Nepal.
    • Geography, including the open border, is in India’s favour. 
    • Winning back Nepal and the confidence of its people is the challenge.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

First India-Nepal passenger train on broad gauge to make first run in December

Related image

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Nepal’s recent proximity to China and India’s efforts at winning back Nepal’s trust


Increasing connectivity with Nepal

  1. The first passenger train to run on broad gauge between India and Nepal is likely to run from December this year
  2. The train will run from Jayanagar in Bihar to Kurtha in Dhanusa district in Janakpur Zone of south-eastern Nepal, which is a 34 km stretch
  3. The Jayanagar-Kurtha rail line was originally built during the British Raj to transport logs from forests at Mahottari to India
  4. No visa will be required for Indian and Nepalese nationals crossing the border through this stretch

Why such move?

  1. The move is being seen as part of efforts to counter China’s plans to forge rail links with Nepal
  2. After Beijing decided to extend its railway network up to Kathmandu, New Delhi proposed the construction of new railway links during Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli’s recent visit to India

About the project

  1. Nepal and India have plans for four cross-border railway links, including one to link Raxaul to Kathmandu
  2. The Rs 5.5-billion (Nepalese Rs 8.8 billion) project is divided into three phases
  3. Of the total length, only three kilometres is in Indian territory

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India, Nepal to explore using satellite images in boundary survey work

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BWG

Mains level: Boundary Issues between India and Nepal.


News

Context

  • India and Nepal have agreed to explore the possibility of using high resolution satellite images in boundary survey work.

Agreement over Boundaries

  1. During the 5th meeting of the Nepal-India Boundary Working Group (BWG) both sides agreed to continue mapping of no-man’s land encroachment and cross-border occupation.
  2. The two countries also agreed to maintain status quo in cultivation of the disputed land until an agreement is reached between the two governments.
  3. The meeting also agreed to finalise the work schedule for the remaining field seasons.

Nepal-India Boundary Working Group

  1. The BWG is a joint body constituted by India and Nepal in 2014.
  2. Its purpose is to conduct works in the fields of construction, restoration and repair of boundary pillars, including clearance of no-man’s land and other technical tasks.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] Nepal’s snub shows up Indian coercive power

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BIMSTEC, SAARC

Mains level: Nepal’s engagement with China in recent times and why it is a cause of concern for India


Context

Nepal drifting away from India

  1. The India-Nepal relationship has seen a number of setbacks in recent times
  2. Nepal’s army did not participate in the joint military drill of the BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) member-states that is currently underway in Pune
  3. In another widely noted development, the government in Kathmandu has concluded an agreement with China to gain access to Chinese ports, including Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang
  4. In contrast, the Nepalese army is preparing to leave for a 12-day military exercise with China in Chengdu later this month

What’s brewing in Nepal?

  1. These developments can be seen as Nepal’s legitimate response to India’s economic blockade of the land-locked nation in 2015-16
  2. Nepal’s desire to get access to alternative ports is eminently understandable in this context
  3. Its abrupt withdrawal from the Bimstec military exercise caused significant diplomatic embarrassment for India, which is trying to project the regional grouping as an alternative to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)
  4. Nepal PM’s decisions seems to be a straight pick from Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen’s playbook
  5. Yameen, who doesn’t hesitate to allow Chinese warships to dock in Malé, had earlier asked India to take back its naval helicopters

Is China a feasible option for Nepal?

  1. While Nepal will have alternative trade routes via China, those will not be competitive against the Kolkata port given the geography, distance and cost involved in sending goods via Chinese ports
  2. China cannot substitute for India in Nepal
  3. India has an open border with Nepal and Nepalese citizens work in India, marry Indians and serve in the Indian Army

Way forward for India

  1. India needs to develop sharper instruments to coerce hostile leadership in the neighbourhood
  2. The blockade was a blunt instrument which caused substantial harm to the common people
  3. The recent engagement with Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Nepal’s former prime minister and current ally of Oli, is a step in the right direction

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Nepal, India agree to finalize MoU on Raxual-Kathmandu railway line

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Raxual-Kathmandu railway line

Mains level: Enhancing railway connectivity to Nepal


News

Countering China

  1. A team of Indian authorities already conducted the first round of survey to connect the Indian rail with Kathmandu.
  2. The move came at a time when there is buzz about the Chinese railway crossing the Himalayas to counter the Indian influence in Nepal.
  3. The Chinese railway line has to cross the friction of two-highly sensitive Tibetan and Indian seismic plates to reach from Kerung to Kathmandu.
  4. But the Indian railway was safe in this matter due to comfortable topography.

India-Nepal Cross Border Rail Links

  1. It is aimed to enhance people-to-people linkage and promote economic growth and development in the region.
  2. Nepal too has expeditiously resolved all the outstanding issues including making available remaining land required for completion of the ongoing rail link projects.
  3. Both sides also agreed to put concerted efforts for completion of the railway lines from Jayanagar to Janakpur-Kurtha and from Jogbani to Biratnagar Customs Yard by the October 2018.
  4. Apart from Raxual-Kathmandu railway line, India has already started building five cross-border railway lines while another railway line – Jayanagar to Janakpur-Kurtha is about to complete within a year.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Kathmandu Declaration to Root out Terror

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: BIMSTEC, Kathmandu Declaration

Mains level: Importance of Kathmandu Declaration


News

Context

  1. The BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is a regional grouping comprising India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.
  2. The regional grouping’s Kathmandu Declaration focuses on backing of terror by state and non-state actors, apart from connectivity among the member nations.

Kathmandu Declaration

  1. Describing terrorism as a “great threat” to international peace and security, India and six other BIMSTEC nations on called for identifying and holding accountable states and non-state entities that encourage, support or finance terrorism, provide sanctuaries to terrorists and falsely extol their virtues.
  2. The Kathmandu Declaration deplored terror attacks in all parts of the world, including in BIMSTEC countries, and stressed that there could be no justification for any act of terrorism.
  3. The declaration did not name any specific country, but Pakistan is often comes to light for providing safe havens to terrorists.

Other Details of the Declaration

  1. The declaration underlined the importance of multidimensional connectivity, which promotes synergy among connectivity frameworks in the region, as a key enabler to economic integration for shared prosperity.
  2. The MoU signed provides for optimisation of using energy resources in the region & promotion of efficient & secure operation of power system.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India releases additional funds for Nepal’s Postal Highway

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Postal Highway Project

Mains level:  India-Nepal Bilateral Relationship


News

Context

  1. The Government has released additional NPR 470 million for the Postal Highway being constructed in Southern Plains of Nepal.
  2. The amount has been released to maintain fund liquidity for the ongoing construction of 14 road packages under Postal Highway Project.

Postal Highway Project

  1. Postal Highway also called Hulaki Rajmarg runs across the Terai region of Nepal, from Bhadrapur in the east to Dodhara in the west, cutting across the entire width of the country.
  2. Since 1950, the Government of India has been supporting infrastructure development of Nepal.
  3. India has provided financial assistance for construction of various highways, roads, bridges, airports, etc as part of its multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional India-Nepal Economic Cooperation Programme.
  4. With this payment, a total of NPR 2.35 billion stands released to the Government of Nepal out of the total grant assistance of NPR 8.00 billion committed by the Government of India.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] Freedom from being ‘India-locked’: on Nepal-India relations

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: India’s dwindling relationship with Nepal post the 2015 blockade and ways to rejuvenate it


Context

Nepal Prime Minister’s China Trip

  1. The visit had much significance as Mr. Oli had made his first visit as Prime Minister to China in March 2016, as Nepal was just recovering from the Indian blockade that had paralyzed lives
  2. The visit was hailed as a great success

Anti-India sentiments in Nepal

  1. Whipping up anti-India sentiments as Nepali nationalism has been common since the Shah Kings and Rana rulers
  2. The blockade of 2015 was different in nature
  3. Nepalis, who had been hit by a major earthquake in April 2015, were still recovering and India started a blockade, due to its reservations about the constitution Nepal was adopting
  4. An entire generation of young Nepalis, who were already alienated from India due to the opening of newer education destinations, saw the blockade as a move against a neighbour which had not got its act right

Problem with Nepal

  1. Nepal has historically remained ‘India-locked’, rather than being termed landlocked, as it is dependent on India for transit to the seas
  2. Being landlocked is not much of an issue as one can get sea-locked, like the Maldives, but to be completely dependent on a single country for transit rights now became an issue to resolve

India’s problem only increasing with the blockade

  1. During his visit to China in 2016, Mr. Oli, for the first time, managed to push the agenda of a trade and transit agreement with China on the lines with special agreements with India
  2. With Southeast Asia well covered and inroads made in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, for China, Nepal is the obvious next country for engagement
  3. With India opting out of the BRI, Nepal continues to remain the best conduit for Indian markets for China
  4. Nepal will be connected with China through a railway network in addition to roads
  5. Rail and road networks will provide Nepal an alternative for petroleum products that continue to remain the highest imported product

What can India do?

  1. Nepal is a place of opportunity for people from the border towns of India
  2. The perspective has to change in New Delhi to factor in Nepal’s concerns on the open border
  3. It is time for India to be proactive and redefine its engagement rather than continue to be reactive
  4. The way India has been flexible with the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) meetings is a good signal

Way forward

  1. The onus is on India to rethink on a long-term basis how to recalibrate its relationship with Nepal
  2. India needs to continue to understand that there is another opportunity to rewrite bilateral and geopolitical history. It should not be squandered
  3. 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

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] India and Nepal are scaling up their ties

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: The complex issues present in the Indo-Nepal relationship.


Context

  1. The Indian PM is visiting Nepal from 11-12 May
  2. The back-and-forth visits(of both PMs) indicate that India and Nepal are working towards scaling up their bilateral relationship

What explains the frequent meetings between the premiers of the two countries?

  1. There seems to be a growing recognition in India as well as in Nepal that deterioration in relations between the two countries, with close socio-economic-cultural relations, is not desirable
  2. There is a strong opinion that India is reaching out to Kathmandu because of China’s growing presence in Nepal

Complexities of the relationship

  1. Given Nepal’s power asymmetry with India and China, it should be no surprise that it seeks to swing between the two nations to maintain autonomy
  2. However, from an Indian perspective, it appears that New Delhi has been at the receiving end of considerable animosity
  3. On the other hand, there is a strong opinion in some segments in Nepal on cultivating a robust relationship with China in response to alleged Indian interference in domestic politics
    Railway line project
  4. A railway line to Kathmandu from India was recently announced
  5. Once operationalized, it will significantly enhance the already rich people-to-people interactions
  6. Now, if the Chinese build a railway line to Kathmandu and Indians deliver on their own promise, then it would become a de facto trilateral project
  7. Given the growing trade deficit, the prospect of granting direct and greater market access to China without any reciprocal gestures will raise concerns in India

China and Nepal relationship: The issues

  1. While China does not have people-to-people interactions on a par with India, it has a long history of deploying overseas assistance to Nepal
  2. The Chinese connectivity projects need to overcome two significant limitations
  3. First, their economic viability is contingent on their ability to access the Indian market
  4. Second, they will have to traverse the Terai region, which enjoys a close socio-cultural relationship with India

Will India and China also collaborate to build connectivity projects in Nepal?

  1. It is doubtful at the moment
  2. In addition to traversing the Himalayas, such collaboration would also have to overcome a mountain of distrust

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] A new beginning with Nepal

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Complement this newscard with [op-ed snap] The Nepal reset.


News

Realization of a new beginning

  1. Nepali PM has realised that his campaign rhetoric of Nepali nationalism with overt shades of anti-Indianism is needed to be modified,
  2. and by observing the tradition of visiting Delhi, he was signalling the shift
    (It is a long-standing tradition that Nepali Prime Ministers make Delhi the first foreign port of call after taking over)
  3. In India too, there has been a growing realisation that time had come to make a new beginning with Nepal

Some crucial issues

  1. India’s openly stated reservations on the new constitution in support of the Madhesi cause
  2. and the economic disruptions caused by the undeclared blockade had fuelled anti-Indianism
  3. This anti-Indianism was cleverly exploited by Mr. Oli and he made significant electoral gains
    There are many other difficult issues which are needed to be addressed, including
    (1) review of the contentious 1950 Treaty,
    (2) recruitment of Nepali nationals in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian Army,
    (3) resolving the fallout of the 2016 demonetisation exercise which has left the Nepal Rastra Bank holding a stock of Indian currency,
    (4) long-pending hydel projects like Pancheshwar,
    (5) resumption of the SAARC summit process which remains stalled since 2016 after Jaish-e-Mohammed militants attacked the Army base in Uri, etc.

Slow pace of project implementation 

  1. For decades, India has been Nepal’s most significant development partner
  2. Yet the pace of project implementation has been slow, leading to significant time and cost over-runs
  3. To be fair, both India and Nepal share the responsibility for this and political instability in Nepal hardly helped
  4. For example, the idea of four Integrated Check Posts (ICP) on the India-Nepal border to facilitate movement of goods, vehicles and people was mooted 15 years ago and an MOU signed in 2005
  5. While preparation of surveys and project reports moved slowly on the Indian side, acquisition of land by the Nepali authorities got held up leading to delayed construction
  6. As a result, only the Raxaul-Birgunj ICP has been completed and was inaugurated last week
  7. During this time, the cost of the project went up fourfold
  8. Another example is, Motihari-Amlekhgunj cross-border petroleum products pipeline, a project for which the MOU between the two governments was signed in 2004
  9. It took another three years for the Indian Oil Corporation and the Nepal Oil Corporation to sign the follow-up MOU, eight years to convert it into an agreement and three more to begin the works

The way foreward

  1. What is now needed is effective delivery on the pending projects so that connectivity is enhanced and the idea of ‘inclusive development and prosperity’ assumes reality

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] The Nepal reset

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Suggestions for improving the relationship between India and Nepal.


News

Recent visit of the Nepali PM(K.P. Sharma Oli)

  1. The visit signals an important recalibration of bilateral ties
  2. The visit gives hope that the rupture in ties over India’s reservations about Nepal’s new constitution is being repaired

Improvement in the Indo-Nepalese relationship

  1. Mr. Oli put aside the anti-India rhetoric of his election campaign, and came to India on his first post-election visit abroad seeking ‘friendship first, and friendship second and third’
  2. Indian PM also promised support on development projects that meet “Nepal’s priorities
  3. The reset is long overdue, and should be accompanied by a transformation in the tenor of the relationship

Some issues need to be addressed

  1. Nepsl has been too susceptible to conspiracy theories about Indian meddling,
  2. while India and its diplomats in the Nepal embassy have sometimes lent credence to the theories by adopting a patronising attitude

How to further improve the bilateral relationship?

  1. A first step to the reset would be the completion of the ongoing process of updating the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship
  2. Nepal would acknowledge that its citizens have benefited from the ease of employment and residence in India that the treaty provides

What should be done?

  1. India must recognise that Nepal’s aspirational young population is also looking beyond the open Indian border for opportunities,
  2. and Mr. Oli’s desire to turn his “land-locked” country into a “land-linked” country with a merchant navy must be considered positively
  3. From now on deliverables, such as road and railway links, power projects and post-earthquake reconstruction commitments should determine the success of the partnership
    (not just the announcement of new initiatives)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

If China builds your dams, India won’t buy energy: PM Narendra Modi to tell KP Oli

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Budhi Gandaki project, Arun III project, etc.

Mains level: There is a (virtual)battle going on between India and China of securing greater influence in Nepal.


News

The battle for influence in the Nepal 

  1. The Indian PM is expected to tell Nepal counterpart that he can award as many dam projects as he likes to China, but India will not be able to buy the energy produced

The $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki project

  1. The $2.5-billion Budhi Gandaki project, on a river by the same name in central-western Nepal, is increasingly becoming the centrepiece of this tug-of-war between India and China
  2. This is because the Budhi Gandaki was awarded year to China’s Gezhouba Group, weeks after former Nepal PM (Prachanda) decided to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative
  3. But within months, Nepali Congress had taken over the Prachanda’s government, and he had cancelled the dam project
  4. But last month, Oli told the South China Morning Post that he intends to revive the Budhi Gandaki, come what may

From the point of view of Nepal

  1. According to Oli, Nepal urgently needs to develop hydropower as an alternative to the highly expensive petroleum that it fully imports, most of it from India
  2. Nepal’s fuel import bill is said to have trebled in the last five years

The Arun III project

  1. India and Nepal are going to lay the foundation stone of the $1.5 billion, 900 MW Arun III hydro-electric project in the Sankhuwasabha district of eastern Nepal
  2. It is likely that India will buy a large chunk of the power that is produced by the Arun III project, being built by the Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN)

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India, Nepal to hold joint exercise in Pithoragarh

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Surya Kiran exercise

Mains level: India-Nepal relations over the years


Surya Kiran Nepal-India Military Joint Exercise

  1. India and Nepal would hold a joint exercise in Uttarakhand that will include training on jungle warfare, anti-terrorism combat as well as disaster response activities
  2. The 13th edition of the Nepal-India joint military exercise will be held in Pithoragarh in a couple of months

About the joint exercise

  1. This is a regular military exercise being organized annually between the two armies
  2. Last year, the 12th edition of Surya Kiran military exercise was held in Kathmandu

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

[op-ed snap] Next Door Nepal: Virtues of soft power

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union, Lumbini (relation with Buddhism)

Mains level: Importance of Nepal for India


Context

India-Nepal relations under stress

  1. A major thread that has linked India and Nepal for centuries is under stress
  2. Some refer to it as religious, but the ties that link people to people in the two countries have a strong civilizational and cultural underpinning
  3. This “soft diplomacy” is increasingly weakening

China getting advantage

  1. China seems to have picked up a thread that India abandoned when it began to pursue a radical path in Nepal from 2006
  2. India’s preference for radical political agendas have undermined, and even demolished, the institutions that facilitated cultural linkages between the two countries
  3. This has contributed to the distrust between Kathmandu and New Delhi

What India did?

  1. India, with the support of the European Union, literally dictated Nepal’s political course from 2006
  2. Together, they blocked the efforts of a large but disorganized section of the Nepali populace
  3. People of Nepal wanted contentious issues like the shift from a monarchy to a republic and the adoption of secularism as state credo instead of continuing as a Hindu state to be settled through debate, and if necessary a referendum
  4. India aligned with the Maoists who were waging war against the state and asked its long-term ally, the Nepali Congress to support the Maoists

China leveraging Buddhism

  1. Buddhism has immensely contributed in making Hindu-majority Nepal respectful towards all religions
  2. Hinduism and Buddhism have coexisted in harmony
  3. China’s keen interest to develop Lumbini and build a railway line to Sigatse in Tibet via Kerung is an attempt on the part of Beijing to leverage soft power in bilateral relations
  4. China recognises that Buddhism can be a binding thread between the two countries

Anti-India sentiment in Nepal

  1. The current anti-India sentiment in Nepal, which will also reflect in the mandate, is to a large part due to the 2015 economic blockade the Modi government imposed on Nepal
  2. Nepal had yet to recover from a devastating earthquake
  3. K.P. Oli, then the prime minister, stood up to India and turned to China for help

Way forward

  1. India is unclear about how to repair the damage diplomacy has done to its soft power and the resultant confusion in the bilateral relations
  2. It should try to restore the ties with focus on cultural and religious linkages

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

Won’t allow any activity against friendly neighbour India: Nepal PM

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Pancheshwar project , Arun III irrigation project

Mains level: India-Nepal relations


News

Context

  1. Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba on Thursday assured Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his country would not allow any activity against its “friendly neighbour”
  2. However, two leaders have not discussed “Doklam” and the current tension between India and China during the visit

India-Nepal cooperation

  1. Modi stressed on closer cooperation between the security and defence forces of the two countries in order to avoid misuse of the open border between India and Nepal.
  2. Deuba gave an assurance of “every support, every help and cooperationon the “defence and security” aspect.
  3. Acknowledging “issues” in the implementation of the Constitution, Deuba expressed confidence that a Constitution “encompassing” the views of the people from all sections and ethnicities would be a reality.
  4. The two leaders jointly inaugurated the Kataiya- Kusaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross border power transmission lines. Modi said this would give an additional 100 MW of power to Nepal, apart from the current 350 MW.
  5. The two sides agreed on development of the Ramayana and Buddhist tourism circuits through better connectivity.
  6. Flood management and irrigation projects was a focal point in the talks between the two countries.
  7. Detailed Project Report for the Pancheshwar project on the Uttarakhand border of the Indian side would be finalised soon, Deuba stressed that it would help in flood control and crop irrigation
  8. Modi said Deuba had informed him that the land acquisition issues for Arun III irrigation project had been addressed and the Nepalese Prime Minister had invited him for the ground-breaking ceremony.
  9. The two sides signed eight pacts, including on cooperation in countering drug trafficking and post-earthquake reconstruction in the Himalayan nation.

 

Brief History of Kingdom Of Nepal

Gorkha rule

  • After decades of rivalry between the medieval kingdoms, modern Nepal was reunified in the latter half of the 18th century, when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley and the creation of a single state, which he achieved in 1768.
  • The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom. It is a misconception that the Gorkhali took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal; actually, the region was given its name after the Gorkhali had established their control of these areas.
  • After Shah’s death, the Shah dynasty began to expand their kingdom into much of South Asia. Between 1788 and 1791, during the Sino-Nepalese War, Nepal invaded Tibet and robbed Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. Alarmed, the Qianlong Emperor of the Chinese Qing Dynasty appointed Fuk’anggan commander-in-chief of the Tibetan campaign; Fuk’anggan defeated the Gorkhali army and halted their northward expansion.
  • After 1800, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved unable to maintain firm political control over Nepal. A period of internal turmoil followed.
  • Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the princely states bordering Nepal and British-India eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), in which Nepal suffered a heavy defeat. The Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, ceding large parts of the Nepali territories of Terai, (nearly one-third of the country), to the British.

Rana rule

Jung Bahadur Rana was the first ruler from this dynasty. Rana rulers were titled “Shri Teen” and “Maharaja”, whereas Shah Kings were “Shri Panch” and “Maharajdiraj”. Both the Rana dynasty and Shah Dynasty are Rajput caste in the Hindu tradition. Jung Bahadur codified laws and modernized the state’s bureaucracy.

In the coup d’état of 1885, the nephews of Jung Bahadur and Ranodip Singh (the Shumsher J.B., S.J.B. or Satra Family) murdered Ranodip Singh and the sons of Jung Bahadur, stole the name of Jung Bahadur and took control of Nepal. Nine Rana rulers took the hereditary office of Prime Minister. All were styled (self proclaimed) Maharaja of Lamjung and Kaski.

20th century

  • In December 1923 Britain and Nepal formally signed a “treaty of perpetual peace and friendship” superseding the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 and upgrading the British resident in Kathmandu to an envoy.
  • Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.

Revolution of 1951

The revolution of 1951 started when dissatisfaction against the family rule of the Ranas had started emerging from among the few educated people, who had studied in various South Asian schools and colleges, and also from within the Ranas, many of whom were marginalized within the ruling Rana hierarchy.

Many of these Nepalese in exile had actively taken part in the Indian Independence struggle and wanted to liberate Nepal as well from the autocratic Rana occupation. The political parties such as The Prajaparishad and Nepali Congress were already formed in exile by leaders such as B. P. Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Subarna Shumsher Rana, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Girija Prasad Koirala, and many other patriotic-minded Nepalis who urged the military and popular political movement in Nepal to overthrow the autocratic Rana Regime. Thus Nepali congress formed a military wing Nepali Congress’s Liberation Army Among the prominent martyrs to die for the cause, executed at the hands of the Ranas, were Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Shukraraj Shastri, Gangalal Shrestha, and Dasharath Chand.

This turmoil culminated in King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi Narayan Shah, fleeing from his “palace prison” in 1950, to newly created country called India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana administration. This eventually ended in the return of the Shah family to power and the appointment of a non-Rana as prime minister.

A period of quasi-constitutional rule followed, during which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling political parties, governed the country. During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution for Nepal that would establish a representative form of government, based on a British model.

Royal coup by King Mahendra

  • Declaring parliamentary democracy a failure, King Mahendra carried out a royal coup 18 months later, in 1960. He dismissed the elected Koirala government, declared that a “partyless” Panchayat system would govern Nepal, and promulgated another new constitution on December 16, 1960.
  • Subsequently, the elected Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and hundreds of democratic activists were arrested. (In fact, this trend of arrest of political activists and democratic supporters continued for the entire 30-year period of partyless Panchayati System under King Mahendra and then his son, King Birendra).
  • The new constitution established a “partyless” system of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered to be a democratic form of government, closer to Nepalese traditions. As a pyramidal structure, progressing from village assemblies to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the Panchayat system constitutionalized the absolute power of the monarchy and kept the King as head of state with sole authority over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) and the Parliament.
  • One-state-one-language became the national policy in an effort to carry out state unification, uniting various ethnic and regional groups into a singular Nepali nationalist bond. The Back to the Village National Campaign, launched in 1967, was one of the main rural development programs of the Panchayat system.
  • King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27-year-old son, King Birendra, in 1972. Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities in 1979, King Birendra called for a national referendum to decide on the nature of Nepal’s government: either the continuation of the panchayat system along with democratic reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system. The referendum was held in May 1980, and the panchayat system won a narrow victory. The king carried out the promised reforms, including selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat.

Multiparty parliament

People in rural areas had expected that their interests would be better represented after the adoption of parliamentary democracy in 1990. The Nepali Congress with the support of “Alliance of leftist parties” decided to launch a decisive agitation movement, Jana Andolan, which forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections in nearly 50 years. The Nepali Congress won 110 of the 205 seats and formed the first elected government in 32 years.

Civil strike

  • In 1992, in a situation of economic crisis and chaos, with spiraling prices as a result of the implementation of changes in policy of the new Congress government, the radical left stepped up their political agitation. A Joint People’s Agitation Committee was set up by the various groups. A general strike was called for April 6.
  • Violent incidents began to occur on the evening before the strike. The Joint People’s Agitation Committee had called for a 30-minute ‘lights out’ in the capital, and violence erupted outside Bir Hospital when activists tried to enforce the ‘lights out’. At dawn on April 6, clashes between strike activists and police, outside a police station in Pulchok (Patan), left two activists dead.
  • Later in the day, a mass rally of the Agitation Committee at Tundikhel in the capital Kathmandu was attacked by police forces. As a result, riots broke out and the Nepal Telecommunications building was set on fire; police opened fire at the crowd, killing several persons. The Human Rights Organisation of Nepal estimated that 14 persons, including several onlookers, had been killed in police firing.
  • When Promised Land reforms failed to appear, people in some districts started to organize to enact their own land reform and to gain some power over their lives in the face of usurious landlords. However, this movement was repressed by the Nepali government, in “Operation Romeo” and “Operation Kilo Sera II”, which took the lives of many of the leading activists of the struggle. As a result, many witnesses to this repression became radicalized.

Nepalese Civil War

In February 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the parliamentary monarchy with a people’s new democratic republic, through a Maoist revolutionary strategy known as the people’s war, which led to the Nepalese Civil War. Led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as “Prachanda”), the insurgency began in five districts in Nepal: Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha, and Sindhuli. The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) established a provisional “people’s government” at the district level in several locations.

On June 1, 2001, Prince Dipendra went on a shooting-spree, assassinating 9 members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, before shooting himself. Due to his survival he temporarily became king before dying of his wounds, after which Prince Gyanendra (Birendra’s brother) inherited the throne, according to tradition. Meanwhile, the rebellion escalated, and in October 2002 the king temporarily deposed the government and took complete control of it. A week later he reappointed another government, but the country was still very unstable.

In the face of unstable governments and a siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy began to wane. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers, declaring a “state of emergency” to quash the revolution. Politicians were placed under house arrest, phone and internet lines were cut, and freedom of the press was severely curtailed.

The king’s new regime made little progress in his stated aim to suppress the insurgents. Municipal elections in February 2006 were described by the European Union as “a backward step for democracy”, as the major parties boycotted the election and some candidates were forced to run for office by the army.

In April 2006 strikes and street protests in Kathmandu forced the king to reinstate the parliament. A seven-party coalition resumed control of the government and stripped the king of most of his powers. As of 15 January 2007, Nepal was governed by an unicameral legislature under an interim constitution. On December 24, 2007, seven parties, including the former Maoist rebels and the ruling party, agreed to abolish the monarchy and declare Nepal a Federal Republic. In the elections held on 10 April 2008, the Maoists secured a simple majority, with the prospect of forming a government to rule the proposed ‘Republic of Nepal’.

Federal Democratic Republic

On May 28, 2008, the newly elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal as Federal Democratic Republic, abolishing the 240-year-old monarchy. The motion for abolition of monarchy was carried by a huge majority; out of 564 members present in the assembly, 560 voted for the motion while 4 members voted against it.

Finally, on June 11, 2008, King Gyanendra left the palace. Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress became the first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal on July 23, 2008. Similarly, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was elected as the first Prime Minister on August 15, 2008, defeating Sher Bahadur Deuba of the Nepali Congress Party.

After failure to draft a constitution before the deadline, the existing constitution constituent assembly was dissolved and new interim government was formed under prime-minister-ship of Supreme Court judge. The election was held and Nepali Congress won the election largest votes but still failed to get a majority.

A conclusion was reached to form a coalition government between UML and Nepali Congress and Sushil Koirala of Nepali Congress was elected as Prime-minister with support from UML.

Importance of Nepal for India

Nepal importance for India can be classified under following heads:

POLITICAL

  • Important cog in the pursuit of regional integration & cooperation viz. bay of Bengal initiative for multi-sectoral technical & economic cooperation(BIMSTEC),Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal(BBIN) initiative.
  • Vindicate the prudence of Gujral doctrine & exhort the continuance of the same vis-à-vis other neighbors.
  • Comprises large sections of Madhesi population which has familial & ethnic ties with states of Bihar, UP. Thus any mishap on either side has significant political repercussions

SECURITY

  • Both nations share an open & porous border which makes India extremely vulnerable to any major agitations, revolts that can lead to huge influx of people.
  • other threats emanating from open border-insurgency, trafficking, counter-fiet currency flow, drugs smuggling
  • Nepal shares a long open border with India. There is alleged link between Naxalits and Maoist in Nepal thus coordination with Nepal is important to check the spread of naxalism in the red corridor.
  • To counter terrorist activities close to border areas: Many hard core terrorists had been apprehended in Nepal close to India’s border.

STRATEGIC

  • Nepal is a buffer state between India and china. Buffer state is a small neutral country situated between two larger hostile countries and serving to prevent the outbreak of regional conflict.
  • By virtue of 1950 treaty provisions, India & Nepal jointly man Nepal-Tibet border.
  • Significant Gorkha regiments of Indian army trace their roots to Nepali Gorkha ethnicity.

ECONOMIC

  • India is the largest exporter of petroleum products, thus Nepal forms one of the reliable export markets
  • India is the largest destination of Nepalese migrant which over a period of time has assimilated in our social milieu & are contributing to the Indian economy
  • Numerous Himalayan rivers flowing into the Nepal presents significant opportunity for joint power project development for hydropower generation. This can bring economic prosperity to border states like Bihar,UP

 CULTURAL

  • Important Landmarks of Buddhism(eg lumbini) is located in Nepal which foregrounds its cultural significance to India.
  • Nepal constitutes a significant pillar in furthering its diplomatic outreach in south Asia by completing Buddhist circuit that covers lumbini-bodh gaya-sarnath-kusinagar In all, Nepal shares a multidimensional relationship with India whose degree of success is significant for India’s rise in the region & large

Background of Indo-Nepal Relations

Indian strategists and policy makers consider Nepal as critical to India’s security. The British Indian Empire saw Nepal as the buffer with China and after 1947 India continued with that policy. Any signs of close ties between Nepal and China are anathema to New Delhi.

While Nepal and India have close historical, religious and cultural ties, Nepal’s strategic ties with India date back to the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 which was signed between the Nepalese monarch and the British East India Company.

As per the treaty, large parts of the Nepalese kingdom (including parts of present day Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim) were annexed by the British empire, a British resident was stationed at Kathmandu, Nepal agreed to refer to the British with respect to its foreign policy and Gorkhas were recruited in large numbers by the British for military service. Nepal regained some of the lost territory when the monarch helped the British during the 1857 uprising. However, even today Nepal lays claim to certain parts of Indian territory, like Kalapani, along the India-Nepal border.

1950–1970

In the 1950s, the Rana rulers of Nepal welcomed close relations with India. Rana rule in Nepal however collapsed within 3 months of signing the PFT. As the number of Indians living and working in Nepal’s Terai region increased and the involvement of India in Nepal’s politics deepened in the 1960s and after, so too did Nepal’s discomfort with the special relationship. India’s influence over Nepal increased throughout the 1950s.

The Nepalese Citizenship Act of 1952 allowed Indians to immigrate to Nepal and acquire Nepalese citizenship with ease—a source of huge resentment in Nepal (This policy was not changed until 1962 when several restrictive clauses were added to the Nepalese constitution).

Also in 1952, an Indian military mission was established in Nepal. At the same time, Nepal’s dissatisfaction with India’s growing influence began to emerge, and overtures to China were initiated as a counterweight to India.

Treaty of Peace and Friendship, 1950:

Background of the treaty

The Himalaya Nation of Nepal borders northern India in the south, east and west. During British rule in India, Nepal’s ties with the British Government were governed by the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli that was replaced by the 1923 “Treaty of perpetual peace and friendship”. After the independence of India in 1947, the two nations sought to forge close strategic, commercial and cultural relations.

The rise of Communist China in 1949 and the subsequent invasion of Tibet heightened security concerns in both India and Nepal — while India had maintained good relations with Tibet, the Rana rulers of Nepal feared that China would support the Communist Party of Nepal and sponsor a communist revolution overthrowing their autocratic regime. With heightening concerns over the security threat to India presented by Communist China, which was seen as seeking to projecting power and influence over Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan and border disputes with India, the latter sought to strengthen its “Himalayan frontier” by forging an alliance on defense and foreign affairs with the Rana rulers of Nepal

Key Provisions of the treaty

The India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed by the last Rana Prime Minister of Nepal, Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, and the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Chandreshwor Narayan Singh on 31 July 1950 and came into force the same day. It has ten articles.

  • The treaty provides for everlasting peace and friendship between the two countries and the two governments agree mutually to acknowledge and respect the complete sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each other.
  • As per Articles 6 and 7, the two governments agree to grant, on a reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country 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. This enables Nepali 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. There are a large number of Indians living, owning property and working or doing business in Nepal as a beneficial aspect of the treaty for India. Reciprocally, many Nepalese live, own property and conduct business freely in India.
  • For centuries, Nepal remained in self-imposed isolation. After the 1860 treaty with the East India Company, Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal allowed Indians to purchase and sell land in Nepal’s Terai. After the ascent of Mt. Everest by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, Nepal completely lifted its ban on foreigners.
  • The King of Nepal enacted the Citizenship Act of 1952 that allowed Indians to emigrate to Nepal and acquire Nepalese citizenship. But as more and more Indian immigrants from Bihar started acquiring Nepalese citizenship, most Nepalese became resentful of this provision.
  • It was clearly provided in the Treaty that, “neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor,” and the two countries promised to “consult each other and device effective counter-measures” in case of any threat from a third country. Nepal would ordinarily purchase war equipment from India.
  • The treaty provided that Nepal would consult India before buying war material from any other country. After such consultation Nepal would “import from or through the territory of India, arms, ammunitions, or warlike material and equipment necessary for the security of Nepal.” Indo-Nepalese relations have been based on this treaty.

Following the 1962 Sino-Indian border war, the relationship between Kathmandu and New Delhi thawed significantly. India suspended its support to India-based Nepalese opposition forces which India had been doing in violation of 1950’s PFT, which clearly stated ‘not to allow any country’s soil to be used against the other’.

The defeat of Indian forces in 1962 provided Nepal with the breathing space and Nepal extracted several concessions, including transit rights with other countries through India. In exchange, through a secret accord concluded in 1965, similar to an arrangement that had been suspended in 1963, India won a monopoly on arms sales to Nepal.

In 1969 relations again became stressful as Nepal challenged the existing mutual security arrangement and asked that the Indian security checkposts and liaison group be withdrawn. Resentment also was expressed against the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950. India withdrew its military checkposts and liaison group, although the treaty was not abrogated.

1970–1980

Tensions came to a head in the mid-1970s, when Nepal pressed for substantial changes in the trade and transit treaty and openly criticized Sikkim’s 1975 annexation by India. In 1975 King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev against the backdrop of Indian annexation of Nepal’s close neighbor ‘The Kingdom of Sikkim’ proposed Nepal to be recognized internationally as a ‘Zone of Peace’ where military competition would be off limits.

Nepal’s proposal received support from China and Pakistan but not from India In New Delhi’s view, if the king’s proposal did not contradict the 1950 treaty that the-then Indian government had signed with the Rana rulers of Nepal, it was unnecessary; if it was a repudiation of the special relationship, it represented a possible threat to India’s security and could not be endorsed. In 1984 Nepal repeated the proposal, but there was no reaction from India. Nepal continually promoted the proposal in international forums and by 1990 it had won the support of 112 countries including the USA, the UK, and France.

In 1978 after the formal acknowledgement of the Himalayan Kingdom of Sikkim being an Indian state by Nepal, India agreed to separate trade and transit treaties, satisfying a long-term Nepalese demand. However, much to the annoyance of Nepalese government and in continued violation of the 1950s PFT, India consistently allowed the opposition parties of Nepal to use Indian soil to launch agitation against the Nepalese government and refused to endorse Nepal as a Zone of Peace.

In 1987 India urged expulsion of Nepalese settlers from neighboring Indian states that led to expulsion of thousands of Nepali-speaking people from Meghalaya, and Nepal tried to retaliate by introducing a work permit system for Indians working in Nepal but the Nepalese government failed to implement the provision because of the protest from Madheshis.

In 1988, when two treaties were up for renewal, Nepal refused to accommodate India’s wishes for a single trade and transit treaty stating that it violates the principle of freedom to trade. Thereafter, both India and Nepal took a hard-line position that led to a serious crisis in India–Nepal relations.

Nepalese leaders asserted the position that as per the UN charter, transit privileges were “a fundamental and a permanent right of a land-locked country” and thus India’s demand for a single treaty was unacceptable. So, after two extensions, the two treaties expired on 23 March 1989, resulting in a virtual Indian economic blockade of Nepal that lasted until late April 1990.

As time passed Indian economic sanctions over Nepal steadily widened. For example, preferential customs and transit duties on Nepalese goods entering or passing through India (whether imports or exports) were discontinued. Thereafter India let agreements relating to oil processing and warehouse space in Calcutta for goods destined to Nepal expire. Aside from these sanctions, India cancelled all trade credits it had previously extended to Nepal on a routine basis.

To withstand the renewed Indian pressure, Nepal undertook a major diplomatic initiative to present its case on trade and transit matters to the world community. The relationship with India was further strained in 1989 when Nepal decoupled its rupee from the Indian rupee which previously had circulated freely in Nepal.

India retaliated by denying port facilities in Calcutta to Nepal, thereby preventing delivery of oil supplies from Singapore and other sources. In historian Enayetur Rahim’s view, “the economic consequences of the dispute… were enormous. Nepal’s GDP growth rate plummeted from 9.7% in 1988 to 1.5% in 1989. This had a lot to do with the decreased availability of goods. Shortly after the imposition of sanctions, Nepal experienced serious deficiencies of important goods such as coal, fuel, oil, medicine and spare parts. Nepal also suffered economically from higher tariffs, the closure of border points and the tense political atmosphere.

From one of the most thriving economies in Asia, Nepal was now quickly finding itself in the league of World’s poorest nation.” Although economic issues were a major factor in the two countries’ confrontation, Indian dissatisfaction with Nepal’s decision to impose work permits over Indians living in Nepal and Nepal government’s attempt to acquire Chinese weaponry in 1988 played an important role.

India linked security with economic relations and insisted on reviewing India–Nepal relations as a whole. After failing to receive support from wider international community, Nepalese government backed down from its position to avoid the worsening economic conditions.

Indian government, with the help of Nepalese opposition parties operating from India, managed to bring a change in Nepal’s political system, in which the king was forced to institute a parliamentary democracy. The new government, led by pro-India parties, sought quick restoration of amicable relations with India.

1990s

The special security relationship between New Delhi and Kathmandu was re-established during the June 1990 New Delhi meeting of Nepal’s prime minister Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and Indian prime minister V.P. Singh, after India ended its 13-month-long economic blockade of Nepal. During the December 1991 visit to India by Nepalese prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, the two countries signed new, separate trade and transit treaties and other economic agreements designed to accord Nepal additional economic benefits.

Indian-Nepali relations appeared to be undergoing still more reassessment when Nepal’s prime minister Man Mohan Adhikary visited New Delhi in April 1995 and insisted on a major review of the 1950 peace and friendship treaty which Nepal believed was enabling an ongoing demographic shift in Nepal’s Terai region.

In the face of benign statements by his Indian hosts relating to the treaty, Adhikary sought greater economic independence for his landlocked nation while simultaneously striving to improve ties with China.

In June 1990, a joint Kathmandu-New Delhi communique was issued pending the finalisation of a comprehensive arrangement covering all aspects of bilateral relations, restoring trade relations, reopening transit routes for Nepal’s imports, and formalising respect of each other’s security concerns.

Essentially, the communiqué announced the restoration of the status quo ante and the reopening of all border points, and Nepal agreed to various concessions regarding India’s commercial privileges. Kathmandu also announced that lower cost was the decisive factor in its purchasing arms and personnel carriers from China and that Nepal was advising China to withhold delivery of the last shipment.

21st century

In 2005, after King Gyanendra took over, Nepalese relations with India soured. However, even after the restoration of democracy, in 2008, Prachanda, the Prime Minister of Nepal, visited India, in September 2008 only after visiting China, breaking the long held tradition of Nepalese PM making India as their first port-of-call. When in India, he spoke about a new dawn, in the bilateral relations, between the two countries. He said, “I am going back to Nepal as a satisfied person. Iwill tell Nepali citizens back home that a new era has dawned. Time has come to effect a revolutionary change in bilateral relations. On behalf of the new government, I assure you that we are committed to make a fresh start.”

In 2006, the newly formed democratic parliament of Nepal passed the controversial citizenship bill that led to distribution of Nepalese citizenship to nearly 4 million stateless immigrants in Nepal’s Terai by virtue of naturalisation. While the Indian government welcomed the reformed citizenship law, certain section of Nepalese people expressed deep concerns regarding the new citizenship act and feared that the new citizenship law might be a threat to Nepalese sovereignty. The citizenship bill passed by the Nepalese parliament in 2006 was the same bill that was rejected by Late King Birendra in 2000 before he along with his entire family was massacred. Indian government formally expressed sorrow at the death of Late King Birendra of Nepal.

In 2008, Indo-Nepal ties got a further boost with an agreement to resume water talks after a 4-year hiatus. The Nepalese Water Resources Secretary Shanker Prasad Koirala said the Nepal-India Joint Committee on Water Resources meet decided to start the reconstruction of the breached Koshi embankment after the water level went down. During the Nepal PM’s visit to New Delhi in September the two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction at the age-old close, cordial and extensive relationships between their states and expressed their support and co-operation to further consolidate the relationship.

The two issued a 22-point statement highlighting the need to review, adjust and update the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, amongst other agreements. India would also provide a credit line of up to 150 crore rupees to Nepal to ensure uninterrupted supplies of petroleum products, as well as lift bans on the export of rice, wheat, maize, sugar and sucrose for quantities agreed to with Nepal. India would also provide 20 crore as immediate flood relief.In return, Nepal will take measures for the “promotion of investor friendly, enabling business environment to encourage Indian investments in Nepal.”

In 2010 India extended a Line of credit worth US$50 million & 80,000 tonnes of foodgrains. Furthermore, a three-tier mechanism at the level of ministerial, secretary and technical levels will be built to push forward discussions on the development of water resources between the two sides. Politically, India acknowledged a willingness to promote efforts towards peace in Nepal. Indian External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee promised the Nepali Prime Minister Prachanda that he would “extend all possible help for peace and development.”

Issues and Concerns:

Political

  • Anti-India feeling in Nepal is largely politically motivated and has been present since the re-installation of monarchy in 1951. The monarchy used anti-Indianism as a rallying point, both to create a popular support-base for itself and to generate a sense of national unity amongst the people. The Nepalese monarchy viewed India’s latent support for democracy with suspicion, even though it benefited immensely from such policies, because they led to removal of the Ranas. In fact, over the years, both the monarch and the democratic forces have looked at India with suspicion, given their own interests. China has been seen as a potential support and as a countervailing force vis-à-vis India.
  • Interestingly, the anti-India feeling among certain ethnic groups in Nepal emanates from the perception that India is still backing the monarchy clandestinely. On several occasions, both the right- and leftwing political forces in Nepal (the royalists, communists and the Maoists) have generated anti-Indian sentiment for their own political benefit.
  • Since the 1990s, these elements have been frequently using the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between India and Nepal signed in 1950, as well as the Kosi, Gandaki and Mahakali Treaties, the alleged border encroachments by India, poor treatment of Nepalese workers in India, and unresolved trade issues to foment anti-India feeling for their political benefit. Even many Kathmandu-based intellectuals and journalists indulge in anti-India rhetoric to get monetary benefits from external agencies known for their adversarial position towards India.
  • Interestingly, this trend has reached new heights since the decline of monarchy in 2006 and emergence of the Communist Party of Nepal- Maoist (CPN-M) as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly (CA) elections in 2008. While this phenomenon was earlier confined to the elites in Kathmandu, it is now also being reflected in rural areas. Some Nepal army officers and the royalists believe that India is responsible for the end of the monarchy and the rise of the Maoists.
  • Senior officers in the Nepal Army point to the fact that India’s refusal to supply arms in 2005 after the royal coup d’état indirectly strengthened the Maoists.
  • On the other hand, the Maoists accuse India of not letting them come to power and also hold it responsible for the political instability in Nepal and delay in the drafting of the Constitution. The most popular narrative in Nepal at present is that Indian bureaucrats, including those from RAW and IB, are responsible for the political instability in Nepal.
  • The treaty of Peace and Friendship is called unequal by most Nepalese as Nepalese law does not permit an open border and Indians, by law, should not be able to buy lands and properties in Nepal or carry out businesses in their names.
  • They claim that the 1950 treaty was signed by undemocratic rulers of Nepal and can be scrapped by a one-year notice. The treaty has been unpopular especially among Pahari segments of Nepal, who often regard it as a breach of its sovereignty.
  • Nepal was a greater sovereign country before the East India Company’s impact on its freedom; the lands which were given to the East India Company according to the Sugauli Treaty must be returned to Nepal, because after the freedom proclamation in India, Nepalese lands should also be handed over Nepali people. Beneath this, agreements were manipulated in the favor of antidemocratic autocratic rule of Nepal where the power of the Nepali people is fragmented

 

Economic

  • Economic factors also add to the growing anti-Indianism. This phenomenon is especially noticeable in the rural areas. Every day, thousands of unskilled labourers from mid-western Nepal cross the Indian border in search of jobs and are harassed in various ways (inhuman living conditions, lower wages than their Indian counterparts,ill-treatment by employers, generalization of Nepalese as gatekeepers, and misbehavior by security force [SF] personnel while crossing the border and at airports).
  • When they share these experiences with their fellow villagers, it inevitably gives rise to a negative perception of India. In fact, many retired Gurkha soldiers from rural areas also narrate instances of harassment by Indian officers for retirement benefits. These voices were perhaps muted during the monarchy. However, with the emergence of the Maoists, who are perceived as a strong ‘pro-people’ party with the courage to stand up to India, these views are being expressed more openly. Another factor could be opening up of alternative job markets, other than India, for the Nepalese population.
  • This has, to some extent, emboldened the Nepalese people to express their views openly against India. India’s decision, in March 1989, to close all the border transit points except four in response to Chinese arms supplies is often cited as an example of Indian high-handedness. As far as bilateral economic relations are concerned, firstly, the growing trade imbalance between the two countries has led some political leaders, economists and traders to allege that this is a deliberate strategy by India to keep Nepal poor.
  • Despite a revised trade treaty in 2009 between two countries, Nepalese traders have often complained that India has not complied with the list of Nepali-manufactured goods that were given duty-free access on a non-reciprocal basis in accordance with the trade treaty in 1996. Nepal’s other major concern has been the non-tariff barriers on sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures (SPS) imposed by India.
  • Secondly, Nepal is unable to export pharmaceutical products because these companies are denied registration in India.
  • Thirdly, India does not allow Nepali entrepreneurs to send their machineries for repair and maintenance after three years of their import.
  • Fourthly, Nepalese exporters are concerned about the restrictions on the export of industrial by-products, poor infrastructural facilities at the borders, congestion and delay while importing cargo from Kolkata port, and India’s decision regarding the double seals on Nepali cargo coming via Kolkata port.

 

The Issue of Water and Hydropower Cooperation

Water has been a contentious issue between the two countries because of the controversies surrounding the water treaties on Kosi, Gandak and Mahakali . As a result, Indian investors in the hydropower sector in Nepal face problems on several counts.

There is a sentiment in Nepal that India has cheated Nepal in those treaties and Nepal’s natural resources have been sold out without taking into account its interests. Deepak Gyawali has observed that in the case of Kosi and Gandak treaties, Nepal can do nothing as all management powers have been retained by the Indian side. Despite the chronic power/electricity shortage, large sections of Nepalese, including Kathmandu-based intellectuals, are not satisfied with the level of investment made by India in the

hydro-power sector. The Nepalese perceive that the benefits from these investments may not accrue to them.

Social

Familiarity breeds contempt. Due to strong cultural linkages, certain sections in Nepal feel insecure about the demand for a separate Madheshi region. The Madheshis are commonly regarded as people of Indian origin and hence regarded as a pro-Indian constituency in Nepal.

There is a suspicion amongst the Pahadis and major political leaders in Nepal that India is out to balkanise Nepal. Reportedly, during 2002-2004, India attempted to give a political colour to Madheshi grievances which encouraged Madheshis to organise themselves politically.

As part of this initiative, the Nepal India Friendship Association was reportedly formed with the active support of India and some development projects funded by India were diverted to the Terai region to nurture this constituency. The Madheshis, on the other hand, believe that India’s policy towards Nepal is Kathmandu centric.They accuse India of neglecting the Madheshi movement. Upendra Yadav stated in a published Interview: India, especially South Block and the Indian Embassy, have been against the Madhesh and MJF. They created the TMLP [Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party] to weaken us. In fact, one of the reasons the pre election alliance did not happen was because India was trying to boost up TMLP

Role of External Forces

The role of external powers in fomenting anti-India feelings in Nepal has not been investigated so far. There are reports that both China and Pakistan are providing financial support to media houses who add fuel to the anti-India fire in Nepal. Pakistan has made its presence felt in Nepal since the 1960s and its intelligence agencies have used Nepalese territory to export terror to India, taking advantage of the open border between India and Nepal. Therefore, Pakistan’s ability to foment anti-Indianism through sponsorship should not be underestimated. Some Madheshi leaders indicated to the author that due to growing anti-India feelings in the Madheshi region, China, US and other countries have been trying to build their constituencies in the region.

Some analysts in Nepal admitted that the Nepalese often shared their resentment against India with officials from the Western embassies in Kathmandu.

There is a common view in Nepal that India’s insensitivity or overreaction to Nepal’s assertions of sovereignty (even when they do not affect legitimate Indian interests) has fuelled anti Indianism over the years.

Geographical Issues: The Case of Open Borders

  • The 1950 Treaty and the unsettled border disputes at Kalapani and Susta have contributed substantially to the anti-Indian sentiments in Nepal. The issue of open borders has also been a point of debate in Nepal in recent years.
  • A large section of people in Nepal believe that the open border is a historically unique arrangement. It symbolises the deep trust and friendship between the two countries. The livelihood of thousands of economically backward people on both side of border depends on the open border. Contrary to the belief in India, the Nepalese people argue that the India is benefiting more from it than Nepal. The fact remains that the Nepalese farmers benefit from the cheaper agricultural inputs and household products from India while the Indians benefit from better medical facilities and cheaper education in medical colleges across the Nepalese border.
  • Given the socio-cultural linkages, the open border helps in cementing ties between peoples of the two countries. The open border and 26 transit points reduce the time and cost of the transportation of goods from India to Nepal.
  • Thousands of Nepalese workers, who send remittances to Nepal, cross the border without any documents at any point of the border in search of jobs. Quoting a survey report conducted by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the EU, some commentators point out: ‘Thirty nine per cent of Nepal’s total households with one or more migrants have India as their destination.
  • On the Indian side, availability of Nepalese labour takes care of the labour scarcity in different parts of India. Considering these challenge, both the countries have formed a joint Border Monitoring Committee and deployed their security forces along the borders.
  • However, given the political instability in Nepal, these mechanisms are not sufficient. The infrastructure for patrolling and management of the border is very poor. The joint patrolling arrangement is not operational at this moment. Both sides believe that there should be some regulation of the border but there are also other views.
  • One section in Nepal, including the Maoists, argues that the open border has been responsible for the underdevelopment of Nepal and that it should be closed. On the contrary, people living in the border districts of Nepal feel that it should be regulated and kept open.

Psychological

There is also a psychological factor at play the asymmetry in size between the two countries. Nepal feels vulnerable and insecure because it is landlocked, and its sense of insecurity is ironically fuelled by the very cultural affinities which are also touted as a great asset in the relationship. Trailokya Raj Aryal argued in an analytical piece in Republica on April 25, 2010: ‘With so many similarities between Nepal and India, naturally, Nepal had no other options but to contrast itself with India.

Recent development in bilateral relations

The Recent Visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi

  • In a first in the last 17 years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two day visit to Nepal, marked a new beginning in Indo-Nepal relations. Publicity of the visit to Nepal was taking a momentum after Sushma Swaraj, the Foreign Minister of India, visited Nepal as a preparation for the schedule.
  • The reception event itself in the international airport could be perceived as a revealing example of how much enthusiastic the Nepalese Parliamentarians and political leaders were towards their guest. Against the international protocol, Sushil Koirala, the Prime Minister of Nepal, came to airport himself to receive his Indian counterpart.
  • The Prime Minister of India expressed his commitment to Nepal’s development and promised to take all necessary steps to take the relations to a new height. Moreover, with repeated emphasis on sovereignty and assurance of non-interference in internal affairs of Nepal, a successful attempt was made to make it clear, both in words and spirit, about India’s intention and dispelling the image of the country as a hegemonic power to a certain extent.
  • The willingness of India to revise the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship was showcased and clearly stated and a statement to this effect was made that India is ready to consider suggestions from government of Nepal, if any, to review the treaty.
  • Nepal considers the treaty, unequal, and in the past, has raised the issue of revision of treaty and tried to place it as a key agenda in bilateral talks, but without any suggestions. Nepal’s reservation to the 1950 Treaty is primarily based on the premise that the treaty weakens its ability to practice, sovereign foreign and security policy. Now it is for Kathmandu, to take up the offer and undertake necessary action to initiate the negotiations for a change.
  • The Prime Minister extended his support to Nepalese constitution makers and political leaders and conveyed best wishes of the government and people of India to the Nepalese leadership and people for their commitment to promulgate the new constitution by early next year. Nepal is facing constitutional crisis since the Constituent Assembly was dissolved without drafting a new constitution in 2012. It was hoped that the Constituent Assembly would draft a constitution to support federal and democratic political structure and promote equality in the country.
  • The address by the Indian Prime Minister to the Constituent Assembly of Nepal was appreciated by Nepalese leaders, across the political spectrum. Interestingly, Pushpa Kumar Dahal alias Prachanda, chairman of the United Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (UCPNM), who has been a strong critic of India, praised Prime Minister Modi for his touching, inspiring and encouraging speech and expressed confidence that, a new chapter has begun in Indo Nepal relations.
  • A joint statement issued at the end of the visit clearly underlined the need to explore ways to enhance economic and trade cooperation. The Indian Prime Minister outlined the new concept of HIT-to help Nepal through development of Highway, Information technology and Transmission lines for electricity (H. I. T.).
  • The dilapidated condition of roads in Indo-Nepal frontier region, huge gap of demand and supply of electricity in bordering states and poor and pathetic state of communication networks in Nepal and border areas of Indian side need steps to improve the condition of roads, information ways and electricity on a priority basis. Nepal has approximately 83,000 megawatts (MW) of potential hydroelectricity capacity, out of which about 40,000 MW is technically and economically feasible, offering significant export potential and, obviously, a great opportunity to gain huge sum of foreign exchange.
  • Concerned over stalled projects, it was urged by the Indian side that the 5600 MW Pancheswar multipurpose project on Mahakali River should be initiated quickly. According to a joint statement issued at the end of the visit both sides expressed desire for early conclusion of other three Project Development Agreements (PDA), namely Arun III, Upper Marsyangdi and Tamakoshi III.
  • The joint statement reaffirmed the commitment of the respective governments, not to allow their territories to be used against each other. Despite repeated assurances, both sides have not succeeded to reduce the misuse of open border by transnational criminals.
  • To reduce the trans-border crime, both countries need to develop an effective joint border management system. Situation along the border can be improved through constant vigilance, joint patrolling and creation of joint task force to combat the transnational crimes.
  • Aiming to improve cross border trade and transit, both countries are planning to construct border railways along all five agreed border points and the four Integrated Check Posts (ICP’s). According to the Joint statement, two Prime Ministers directed competent officials to expedite construction of cross border railway. This is a welcome step which must be appreciated. Improved infrastructures of roads and railways in Indo-Nepal frontier region would complement India’s vision of greater economic engagement with Nepal.

Comment

The visit opened a fresh chapter in Indo-Nepal relations. By endorsing the idea of federal and democratic republic, the Indian Prime Minister dispelled fears in Nepal that the new government in India might work for the restoration of monarchy. His momentous speech in Nepal’s Parliament won the hearts and minds of Nepalese.

Both countries endorsed new developmental projects, showed their willingness to improve the peace and security at border, promised to improve border infrastructure, and expressed concern over the slow pace of implementation of many projects. In fact, a momentum has already been generated in Indo-Nepal relations and it must be continued with better follow up and implementations

Nepal Earthquake & India’s assistance

  • When a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, the Government of India swiftly dispatched National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) teams and special aircrafts with rescue and relief materials to Nepal.
  • The total Indian relief assistance to Nepal amounted to approx. US$ 67 million.
  • At an International Donors’ Conference organized by the Government of Nepal in Kathmandu on 25 June 2015 towards post-earthquake reconstruction, India announced Indian assistance of US$ 1 billion to Nepal, one-fourth of which would be as grant.

Nepal PM visit to India

Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli paid his first state visit to India. In accordance with tradition, Mr. Oli made India his first destination abroad after becoming Prime Minister in October 2015. India and Nepal signed seven agreements.

List of the agreements

  • MoU on utilisation of USD 250 million grant component of Government of India’s assistance package for post-earthquake reconstruction assistance to Nepal:
  • The MoU includes four sectors — housing, health, education and cultural heritage have been identified. MoU on strengthening of road infrastructure in Tarai area of Nepal:
  • MoU between Nepal Academy of Music and Drama and Sangeet Natak Academy∙ This MoU aims to enhance relations between India and Nepal in the field of performing arts through∙ exchanges of experts, exponents, dancers, scholars and intellectuals.

Letters of Exchange on Transit Routes:

  • Transit between Nepal and Bangladesh through Kakadbhitta-Banglabandh corridor aims at simplification of modalities for traffic of goods between Nepal and Bangladesh while transiting through India, through the Kakadbhitta (Nepal) and Banglabandha (Bangladesh) corridor.
  • Operationalisation of Vishakhapatnam Port would provide transit facilities for Nepal through the Vishakhapatnam port.
  • Inauguration of Muzaffarpur-Dhalkebar transmission line
  • Establishment of Eminent Persons Group
  • At the third meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission held at Kathmandu in July 2014, it was decided to establish an Eminent Persons Group (EPG). Its mandate would be to comprehensively review bilateral relations and recommend measures including institutional frameworks to further enhance bilateral ties.

Significance of visit

In August 2015, Nepal adopted new constitution since then there is continuous blocked at the indo-Nepal border by Madhesi. Nepal-India tensions spiked last year with the promulgation of a constitution that was perceived as non-inclusive of ethnic Madhesi and Tharu groups.

The Nepal government accused India for imposing the blockade that led to a severe humanitarian crisis in Nepal. The Nepali government alleged that the Indian government had encouraged the blockade to apply leverage on Kathmandu to pursue constitutional reform.

India refuted those allegations, stressing that the border tensions were caused by the Madhesi parties and were the outcome of internal protests in Nepal. India also accused Nepal of stoking ‘anti-India’ sentiment and has been irritated about Nepal’s attempt to use the ‘China card’.

Nepal PM visit in such circumstance had provided opportunity to both sides to minimize misunderstanding.

During the visit India conveyed that Kathmandu should urgently resolve the issue to create a sense of “security and harmony” in the Terai region and ensure “uninterrupted commerce.”

Peace and stability in Nepal is vital for India’s economic development and security. Prolonged conflict in∙ Nepal will have spillover effect especially in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh that share open border with Nepal.

Anti-India feeling in Nepal may provide opportunity for china to exploit the volatile situation.

NEPAL: ADOPTION OF NEW CONSTITUTION

Nepal adopted its first democratic Constitution, a historic step for a nation that has seen war, a palace massacre and devastating earthquakes since a campaign to create a modern state began more than 65 years ago.

Important features of constitution:

  • The constitution defines Nepal as a secular country, despite widespread protests for it to be declared a Hindu state.
  • Federal system: It creates seven states in a secular, federal system. Nepal’s constitution divided the country into seven provinces. o Kathmandu, the capital district, lies in province No. 2 and except this all other provinces have three geographical divisions, mountain region, hilly region and southern plains.
  • “Nepal’s new constitution has been based on the “entitlement approach” to rights.
  • It guarantees fundamental rights as well as the right to food, right to education and right to protection from environmental degradation. In a move loaded with meaning, the constitution gives right of protection from human trafficking.
  • The needs of marginalised communities, including the Dalits, the disabled and those from the LGBT community, are addressed.
  • Confirming social and economic rights as fundamental
  • Rejecting the death penalty
  • Amendments can be adopted with relative ease over the next two years and four months, as the Constituent Assembly enjoys a kind of afterlife as a Parliament.

Discontent over the new constitution

  • At a time when Nepal should be celebrating its most awaited Constitution, people in the southern plains (known as Madhesis) who constitute almost half the population, are revolting against it. The Constitution, aimed at establishing lasting peace, has instead triggered fresh conflicts as it is being shunned by the marginalised communities such as Madhesis, Tharus, Janajatis, Dalits and women. The Government of Nepal has mobilised the Army as well as the Armed Police Force and has declared a curfew in several parts of the southern plains as the conflict has escalated and resulted in the tragic death of more than 40 people.

Madhes and Madhesis

  • Madhes refers to the low-lying land in Nepal bordering India. It consists of about a quarter of the country’s total land area, stretching horizontally for about 885 km from the Mahakali River in the west to the Mechi River in the east, with a width varying from four to 52 km. It also includes the lower reaches of the Himalayas, known as the Siwalik range, with its valleys in certain areas in the north (the inner Madhes).
  • The Madhes region, alternately called the Terai, is now home to half the country’s population, although the Madhesis residing in the region are only one third of the total population.
  • The American scholar Fredrick H. Gaige projects the importance of Madhes thus: it contains 87 per cent of forest resources and generates 75 per cent of land revenue, 93 per cent of excise duty and 70 per cent of customs duty. In effect, Madhes generates about 77 per cent of the public revenue of the state.
  • The Madhesi question underlying the politics of victimhood is complicated: Given the diverse demographics of the Terai, is Madhes a geographical entity or an ethnic entity?
  • The Tharus, the largest group of original settlers, are some 16 lakh in number. Other hill castes who have been living here for several generations are around 60 lakh. Those who are referred to as Madhesis number around 56 lakh (2011 Census). Tharus do not like to be called Madhesis, and those of Hill origin are still identified as Pahadis. The Madhesis have castes and ethnicity similar to Bihar and eastern UP, with frequent inter-marriages between families on either side of the border.
  • The Madhes has historically been part of the larger Mithila region. Most of the affluent of the Terai are educated in India, and the democracy on the other side of the border has kept levels of political awareness high. Most of the 11 Indian ambassadors to Nepal since 1990 have been from Bihar — and about half of them belong to a sizeable caste in Nepal’s Terai. Their interest, and visible concern, in the region’s politics has attracted suspicion in Kathmandu.

Integration Efforts 

  • Efforts have been made over time to integrate Madhes in processes of policy formulation. In 1947, just before India became independent, Prime Minister Padma Shumsher suggested four representatives from the Terai in the Constitution Reforms Committee. From the 50s onward, some ministerial or key constitutional posts have gone to Madhesis. Bhadrakali Mishra, whose cousin Shyam Nandan Mishra was India’s External Affairs Minister in 1978, was a minister in Nepal in 1951 and, in the early 80s, chief of the King’s advisory body. He was succeeded by Parshunarayan Choudhary, a Tharu.

Political Struggle

  • The question of Terai rights was raised first by Bedananda Jha in the early 60s, but his movement ended with his co-option in the power centre. He became a Minister and Nepal’s ambassador to India in the late 70s.
  • After the advent of democracy in 1990, leaders like Gajendra Narayan Singh demanded a fair share to Madhes. Since 2007, more regional parties, aggressive and vocal, have come into the picture. The Madhes-centric leaders were discredited after failing to push their agenda during their time in power in 2008. They started to press for greater autonomy as per the March 2007 agreement only after they had fallen out with the major parties over power-sharing in late 2014.

The Present Crisis 

  • A new Constitution was promulgated in Nepal on 20 September 2015. It has failed to satisfy the Madheshis and Tharus who constitute 70 per cent of the Terai population, who regard the formation of seven federal provinces as per the Constitution as grossly unfair to them.
  • Initially, six provinces were proposed; but later, the number was increased to seven. Yet, such proposals have failed to calm the Tharus and the Madhesis. Rather, they only instigated violent protests around the country and the only Madhesi party that had supported the 16-point agreement, the MJF-D, had to reverse its stance.
  • Unfazed by such opposition, Nepal’s top leadership chose to move ahead with the constitution making process by ignoring the disgruntled forces.
  • The promulgation of the Constitution on September 20 further inflamed the Madhesis and Tharus and their agitation has gathered further momentum since then. The voices for a separate Madhes are now getting stronger by the day and gaining a firm hold among the youth.
  • The new Constitution has a provision for a 165-member Parliament, but the constituencies have been demarcated in such a way that the people of the hill and mountain region would get 100 seats, despite the fact that their share in Nepal’s total population is less than 50 per cent. On the other hand, the Terai region constituting over half of the country’s population has been allocated only 65 seats.
  • Because of the insensitivity shown towards the demands of the Madheshi parties, a call was given by the Unified Democratic Madheshi Front and Tharuhat/Tharuwan Joint Struggle Committee for an indefinite strike in Terai beginning August 8. Security Forces personnel used excessive force to suppress the agitation. Even the army was mobilized for this purpose. But the situation deteriorated fast. During the last month and half of protests, over 46 people, including 10 security personnel, have been killed. Besides, hundreds of protesters have been injured. Almost all the Terai districts have turned into war-like zones.
  • If the Government of Nepal does not make a sincere effort to reach out to the people and the discontented parties and address their genuine demands and resolve the problem amicably, it may lead to disastrous consequences. The implementation of the Constitution can be possible only by generating a consensus to accommodate dissent rather than by shutting out differences through majoritarian bullying.

Demands of Madhesis

The major demands that are being raised by the Madhesis that have not been accommodated in the new Constitution are:

  • Group the 20 districts of Madhes in two federal provinces. The present federal structure separates five Madhes districts (Kanchanpur, Kailali, Sunsari, Jhapa and Morang) from Madhesh provinces and merges them with other proposed neighbouring provinces.
  • Delineate electoral constituencies based on population, geography and special characteristics which were accepted by the Interim Constitution after the Madhesh Movement of 2008.
  • Incorporate the right to participate in state structures on the basis of principles of proportional inclusion, which was accepted by the Interim Constitution. Similarly, seats in the national assembly should be allocated on a proportional basis. Since Madhes has 51 per cent of the population, out of the proposed 165 electoral constituencies being proposed for direct elections, 83 should be allocated to the provinces in the Madhes region.
  • Interim Constitution had provided for re-demarcation of electoral constituencies every 10 years, as per the census; the new constitution has increased it to 20 years. The Madhesi parties do not approve of this change.
  • Citizenship should be passed on through the name of the mother as well. There should be no discrimination based on citizenship acquired by descent or naturalisation. The new Constitution states that only citizens by descent will be entitled to hold the posts of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker of Parliament, Chairperson of National Assembly, Head of Province, Chief Minister, Speaker of Provincial Assembly and Chief of Security Bodies.

India’s Cold Response

  • India neither ‘welcomed’ nor ‘congratulated’ Nepal on this occasion. Rather, there was a press release titled “Statement on the situation in Nepal”, which stated: “We note the promulgation in Nepal today of a Constitution.
  • We are concerned that the situation in several parts of the country bordering India continues to be violent …We urge that issues on which there are differences should be resolved through dialogue in an atmosphere free from violence and intimidation, and institutionalized in a manner that would enable broad-based ownership and acceptance.”India’s cold response indicated that Nepal’s southern and most important neighbour was not happy with the way the Constitution was drafted. India has been following a ‘hands-off’ policy, i.e., not interfering in the Constitution drafting process and encouraging a ‘Nepali grown model’ to generate consensus, ever since the process was set in motion in May 2010.
  • However, in the immediate aftermath of the finalisation of Nepal’s Constitution and especially with the increase in violence and political asylum seekers entering Indian Territory, India has found itself embroiled in Nepal’s domestic issues. As informed observers have noted, Nepal’s political leadership has ignored India’s concerns and suggestions which have been periodically shared ever since Prime Minister Modi visited Nepal in August 2014.
  • In this backdrop, the Indian reaction appears quite natural because prolonged conflict in Nepal is certainly not in India’s interest. Anticipating a Sri Lanka like situation on its northern border and genuinely concerned about the durability of the Constitution which has already become embroiled in controversy, India did not welcome Nepal’s new Constitution.Second, India has felt that it has been let down by Nepal’s leadership. Apparently, top Nepalese leaders — including K. P. OIi, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, P. K. Dahal (Prachanda) and Sher Bahadur Deuba — had, during private meetings with Modi and other senior Indian officials, assured them that the Constitution would be promulgated on the basis of consensus. In fact, India had all along hoped that Nepalese leaders would keep their promise. When that did not happen, it was but natural for the Indian government to feel betrayed.Thirdly, although many Nepalese commentators linked India’s reactions to its traditional support to the Madhesi cause over the years, the aversion of the present government to the word secularism in Nepal’s constitution and its apprehensions about the spill-over effect of the Terai violence on the upcoming Bihar elections, the fact of the matter is that the Indian foreign office has been particularly worried about the growing ‘united front’ among the left political parties of Nepal — especially between the Maoists and the Communists —against India, backed by external powers opposed to Indian influence in Nepal. India had already apprehended such an alignment of forces against it when it was kept in the dark about the 16-point deal signed in June 2015 among the top four political parties.India had reflexively interpreted this development as a major strategic challenge for it in its Himalayan backyard. Its suspicions were further confirmed when the three-party alliance ignored India’s suggestions about preparing a broad-based document by accommodating the demands of the marginalised groups. Even India’s suggestions during Foreign Secretary Jaishankar’s visit to Nepal on September 18, to delay the Constitution making process by 10 to 15 days and initiate dialogue with the agitating groups, was rejected by the top leaders.Deepening distrust
  • Trust deficit and mutual suspicion between India and Nepal have deepened further after India issued its third note on Nepal on September 21, which said: “We are deeply concerned over the incidents of violence… Our freight companies and transporters have also voiced complaints about the difficulties they are facing in movement within Nepal…” This note gave rise to fears in Nepal that India might resort to an economic blockade like it had done earlier in 1988-89. Anti-India elements took full advantage of the growing fear of Indian retribution in Nepal. Most significantly, India was surprised to see the level of anti-India sentiments posted on Nepalese print, electronic and social media.The Indian reaction has, in the meanwhile, led to notes of caution by some of the major international actors. China, which had welcomed and congratulated Nepal over the new Constitution, has now suggested to Nepalese leaders that they should make the Constitution broad based so as to accommodate the voices of the marginalised groups.
  • A press briefing by the Chinese foreign office on September 21 stated: “China sincerely hopes that all political parties in Nepal can bear in mind the fundamental interests of their country and the people, address the differences through dialogue and consultation, realize enduring development of the country and bring happiness to the people.” The observation by the United States was also along similar lines.
  • Given the fact that India shares an open border with Nepal, the consequences of violence and instability in the Terai would have consequences for India’s security and may threaten the security of Indian businessmen and traders who are engaged in business in Nepal. Moreover, cross border ethnic linkages and familial ties makes India an interested party. While Nepali political leaders blame India and Indian ‘interference’ and try to arouse anti-Indianism, the same political leaders use New Delhi to further their political ambitions and do not hesitate to take New Delhi’s help to entrench themselves in power. If Nepal does not want India’s involvement, it needs to not only ensure that developments in the Terai do not have a spill over effect but also stop courting the Indian establishment to gain political power.

India Government Response

According to the government, there are three major problems with the Constitution which prevents India from warmly welcoming the document.

  • The federal-provincial demarcation is perceived to be unfair to the people of the Terai region;
  • Secondly, the constituency delimitation is skewed against the Madhes population as half the population, that is the Pahadi (Hill) community gets 100 seats but the other half consisting of the Madhesi and the Janjatis get only 65 seats. Finally the ‘proportional inclusion’ clause, for reservation includes many forward castes of the Pahadi region, which negates the principle of affirmative action.
  • India also feels let down that many of the commitments given by Nepal during the framing of the 2007∙ interim Constitution have been forgotten.

Amendment to constitution: Present Situation

The Constituency Delimitation Commission (Article 286) shall consider population the first priority and geography the second while fixing 165 electoral constituencies (Article 84) as per the federal laws. o It also covers Article 42 to ensure more inclusive social justice.

However, the amendment process did not include the main demand of the Madhesis for the creation of two separate Madhesi provinces on the plains of Nepal.

India’s response–

India has described the first amendment of the Nepali Constitution as welcome development and hoped that other outstanding issues will be similarly addressed in a constructive spirit.

Madhesi’s View – The United Democratic Madhesi Front rejected a constitutional amendment passed by the Parliament to resolve the ongoing political crisis..

Growing proximity between Nepal & China: An Analysis

Nepal has just come out of its two greatest crises namely natural crisis in the form of earthquake & constitutional crisis. Both the events have shaken the roots of Himalayan country.

However, two events had contrastingly affected the India-Nepal relations. Cooperation & timely support during the earthquake proved India’s worth for Nepal & its irreplaceable geostrategic position. However, forming of new constitution & its implementation created a tense scenario between the two nations & overshadowed the Indian rescue efforts during earthquake.

In both the events China took advantage to deepen its ties with Nepal & put India on the strategically disadvantageous position, whereas, Nepal also seems to play the China card with India on India’s suggestions for the demands of Terai people and constitutional reforms i.e. for more representation of Terai people in parliament, provincial territory demarcations and issues related to citizenship rights.

Now it is necessary to analyze the current situation whether growing proximity of China & Nepal is a real threat for India or it’s just an overemphasized perception and if it’s a new reality in triangular relations how India is going to be affected by it.

Evolution of China Nepal relations:

For it a brief overview of these triangular relations would help to focus the areas of analysis & discussion. India and Nepal are not only linked due to the proximity of land, but it is the cultural affinity that binds the two nations. The common linguistic and ethnic identities, Hindu religious practices, similar festivals, affinity of food, resemblance of dresses, and the overall way of thinking, all make inseparable ties between India and Nepal.

While China-Nepal relations dwell into the border conflicts that resulted in Nepal-Tibet-China war (1789-1792) over territorial dispute. Further advancement in time will give even grimmer picture of Nepal-Tibetan war of 1855 that was concluded in 1856 with the Treaty of Thapathali with the special status of China as a mediator.

Thereafter, by the early 19th century, Nepal broke all relations with China. Can such hostile relations shake the foundation of two thousand year old ties between India and Nepal? Not really, unless we see the developments of Nepal-China relations in the present times and reassess the grounds on which the current relations are established.

Nepal and China resumed diplomatic relations in the mid 1950s. The basis of signing the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1960 was Nepal’s recognition of Tibet as a part of China and a resolution to the long-standing border problem. Thereafter, China has constantly spread its sphere of influence on the Himalayan Kingdom by expanding greater economic linkages and extending substantial military assistance to Nepal. In the 1970s, when King Birendra of Nepal proposed Nepal as a “zone of peace” between India and China, India did not show keen interest, while China was quite supportive. These and many such issues created a rift in Nepal-India ties; while at the same time China has been pro-active to support and aid Nepal.

Why China is keen to increase the proximity now & its efforts in this direction:

Although Nepal and India have an open border and free mobility of populace across borders; it is China that is increasingly working to take over India’s position of the largest trading partner of Nepal. As India is largest economy of south Asia & has been emerging as a leader of south Asian countries, China wants to contain the India’s growing power & status which may become a threat to Chinese dream of becoming the superpower.

  • In 2011-2012, India-Nepal trade was USD 3 billion and the total volume of trade between Nepal and China amounted to USD 1.2 billion. To enhance these ties, China has offered zero-tariff treatment to 60 per cent products of Nepal.
  • When there was blockade of fuel & necessary supplies on India-Nepal border due to protest by Madhesi, Beijing gave 1.3 million litres of petrol to Nepal as a grant, with the promise of following up after a commercial arrangement was signed between companies on the two sides.
  • In 2014, China overtook India as the biggest source of Nepal’s foreign investment. Nepalis see Chinese aid as positive because of its focus on infrastructure development, an area in which Chinese seem to have done a good job.
  • China’s open diplomatic policy in Nepal remains to exploit the resources of Nepal and take advantage of Indian market. Hence, it has completed 22-km road in central Nepal connecting its southern plains with Kyirong, county of Tibet, making the shortest motorable overland route between China and India.
  • China also has deeper motives than just business cooperation. The Tibetan community in Nepal is a serious concern for the Chinese authorities. In particular, the clandestine operations that have its roots in Nepal pose greater challenges for the unity of China’s southern periphery. In April 2008, China could use its influence on Nepalese administration to crackdown on Tibetan activities. Hence, it is not wrong to posit that China’s business ties are redefining the power equations with that of Nepal.
  • Simultaneously there is added emphasis on boosting cultural exchanges. There are now almost 19 China Study Centers (CSC) and Confucius Institutes in Nepal to promote Chinese language and culture.
  • Beijing has announced Nepal as an “official destination” for its nationals. The town of Pokhara became a hot attraction after Chinese online guidebooks described it as one of the top ten places “to see before you die”. Signboards in Mandarin are now a common sight in Pokhara. More than a dozen hotels in the town have Chinese owners.
  • The aim now is to have a comprehensive cooperation that serves mutual development and prosperity with the promotion of trade and tourism, joint border management, development of hydropower projects, building infrastructure for greater connectivity, and bringing in overall socio-economic growth of Nepal.

Why Nepal is increasing its interests in China?

  • For Nepal, China serves as a potential supplier of goods and assistance that it badly needs in order to recover its economy. Almost half the population of Nepal is unemployed and more than half is illiterate. At the same time, more than 30 per cent of the people in Nepal live in abject poverty. To deal with its internal problems, Nepal surely has serious business to engage with China to overcome its poverty & unemployment.
  • Another factor to increase the interest is China card which most of the south Asian counties are playing with India to gain the mileage in negotiations & counter India’s Big Brother approach.

Why China cannot replace India?

  • Most strong argument in this is the deep linguistic & cultural similarity, religious affinity, historical ties & geographical proximity and family connections between Nepal and India — whose trade or economic ties with China alone cannot entirely overwhelm. People-to-people contacts of India & Nepal is way ahead than contact on Chinese side.
  • China-Nepal relations are also limited as of now by certain practical problems. Even if Nepal Oil Corporation and Petro China Company Ltd. were to sign an agreement, the issue of dual taxation in Tibet which raises the cost of fuel — remains unresolved. While the Indian refinery of Barauni is only 374 km away, the nearest Chinese refinery is more than 2,000 km from Nepal. Assuming China sees no reason for a massive oil subsidy to Nepal, this distance alone will make Chinese fuel more expensive than Indian.
  • Another factor is difficult border terrain between China & Nepal. Routes are frequently obstructed by landslides so keeping the routes open & maintenance of it a difficult & expansive task.

Areas of Common Interest & Way forward:

  • Both China and India would like Nepal to have a constitution and political stability. China’s security concerns are related to stability in Tibet & India’s security concern include smuggling of fake currency, drugs & terrorism so India and China have realized that only a stable Nepal can take care of their security concerns.
  • China proposed the establishment of an economic corridor among the three countries to promote trilateral cooperation and common prosperity. Nepal can become a stage for mutually beneficial cooperation between China and India, rather than an arena for competition.
  • However, India should take care the special relation that it has with Nepal by focusing on resolving issues through negotiations, development activities & investment in Nepal to reduce the trade distortion for which Nepalese are accusing India.
  • In this direction Nepal and India had agreed to form the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) with four members each from Nepal and India and set up secretariats in respective countries mandated to look into Nepal-India ties in totality and reviewing all bilateral treaties.
  • The panel will also make necessary recommendation to the respective countries about the measures to be taken to review or adjust or replace all bilateral treaties, including the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 and others. The panel will visit both sides for necessary consultations and study.
  • The panel will make specific suggestions to settle the outstanding issues and other concerns of both sides, will give non-government and people’s level perspective to both sides that is required to revisit the bilateral relations. Apart from this India should also refrain from the acts which pose him as a Big Brother in the region & work to resolve the issues through diplomacy & mutual cooperation.

Recommendations to Improve Relations

It is obvious that every country has its own interests and it tries to pursue the policy which serves its interests. But, when it comes to the matter of a stable relationship between any two countries, both need to find convergence of interests.

Some recommendations for improving the relationship, which will also help in addressing the main issues being examined in this chapter, are listed below.

  • India needs to formulate a comprehensive and long-term Nepal policy. Shaping of perceptions should be an integral part of this strategy. Instead of playing favourites amongst the political parties, India should engage with all of them and with other stake India’s Neighbourhood holders like the Army and civil society.
  • It needs to be recognized that Nepal will have to be helped to grow along with India lest it should be a drag on India’s own growth.
  • India has to resist the temptation to micro-manage Nepalese politics. It is too messy to do so and the outcome will be just the opposite of the one that it desires. It will take considerable time for Nepal’s democracy to stabilise and its leaders to start thinking of the country before them. They have to be allowed to make mistakes and learn.
  • Conventional security certainly cannot be the sole basis of India- Nepal relations. Therefore, the 1950 Treaty should be revisited to not only address Nepal’s concerns but also to include India’s concerns about non-conventional threats that have emerged in recent years.
  • One cannot erase the anti-India sentiment in Nepal; however, this can be minimised considerably.
  • Firstly, India has to identify the anti-India forces and engage them. These elements are also present within the Nepal Army.
  • It is perceived in Nepal, as the author gathered from his interlocutors during his fieldtrip, many top officers of Army are, perhaps, not very happy with India’s arms supplies because the arrangement does not allow them to make money. Secondly, India should try to correct the perception through a Track- II dialogue with Nepal, which should extend beyond Kathmandu. India’s 26 pension paying camps across Nepal should be utilised for this purpose. A special emphasis should be given to the Terai region to counter Chinese influence in the region. Thirdly, India should highlight its developmental activities in Nepal.
  • Surveys by academic and non-governmental organisations should be commissioned to identify projects both small and large which most people want to be implemented. Only those projects which find public acceptance must be taken up. New Delhi need to connect to Kathmandu via rail and run special trains till Raxaul or Gorakhpur (Nautanwa-Sunouli) for people visiting Nepal. That will generate goodwill for India and strengthen people-to-people contacts further. The train can be named the ‘Nepal-India Maitri’ train.
  • There is a need to shape the perceptions of the people of Nepal regarding the benefits to be gained by them from joint hydropower projects. Efforts must be made to dispel unreasonable Fears/suspicions about India’s intentions. The welfare and development orientation of the projects need to be highlighted.
  • Transparency levels about project details have to be improved in order to allay peoples’ misconceptions. Last, but not least, keeping Nepalese sensitivities in mind, India must be ready to revise/ modify some of the existing contentious water treaties with Nepal. For future hydro-power treaties, funding from multinational agencies and involvement of companies from third countries as lead developers may help.
  • In case of hydro-cooperation, it should make a beginning with low-risk, quick-yield, less-controversial projects. Gradually, medium-size hydro-electric projects can also be started. Participation of the private sector in hydro-power development and power trading should be encouraged, and finance can be mobilized jointly by involving the private sectors of both countries.
  • Closing the border is an impractical proposition due to the nature of the terrain and the likely, adverse, public reaction on both sides of the border. However, given the emerging security situation, there is a need for regulation of the border due to the prevailing political and economic situation in Nepal and the costs involved. Nepal may not fulfil India’s expectations on the joint-patrolling issue. Therefore, the capacity of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) needs to be enhanced for effective patrolling and regulation. Special attention should be given to the intelligence-gathering capacity related to border issues of security forces in the region.
  • In terms of infrastructure, there is an urgent need for developing motorable border roads in most, if not all sectors, to facilitate bike patrolling by the SSB; India could also reduce the distance between SSB posts (presently there is one post at every 10-15 km), provide lighting facilities in sensitive areas, watch-towers every kilometre, and fencing of some sections of the border which are not being used for cultural, economic and social purposes. An adequate number of border posts with well-regulated markets and public services need to be developed. Given the heavy transaction at Bhairwa, there is an urgent need of a world-class Integrated Check Post (ICP) there and on other important trading routes/ points between both the countries.
  • Many people on both sides of the border do not have proper documents to prove nationality. As is the case on the Nepal-China border, where locals have border passes, a similar system can be introduced on the Indo-Nepal border also.
  • Reciprocity in all matters will not work. Nepal would expect India to be generous while retaining its right to criticize India. Prickliness on our part will have to be replaced by large-heartedness and accommodation.
  • The greatest change has to seen in the behaviour of our diplomats and officials who deal with officials and people of Nepal on a regular basis.
  • India should undertake capacity building programmes— commando training, intelligence gathering, supply of terrorist tracking modern equipments, etc.—with the Nepal armed and civil police for aviation security and for dealing with trans-border criminals.
  • Besides continuing to undertake big projects which are in the pipeline, e.g., hydro-power projects, transmission lines, construction of roads and bridges, etc., there is immediate need to give a fresh look at the likely dividends from cooperation in new sectors. From the business point of view, growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Nepal has better prospects for balanced growth that can favourably impact on the middle and lower population strata.
  • Extension of educational facilities on the Indian pattern should be considered as a long-term strategy.
  • This will help mould young minds to be inclined towards India in the long run. Both academic and vocational institutions should be facilitated.
  • Despite the Maoists success in 2008, China is yet to take them into confidence due to their long association with India during their armed struggle period. Therefore, India’s engagement with Maoists at this moment will keep them away from China. India must engage all the factions of Maoists at the political level to get them away from China. Along with engaging the Maoists, India should reengage with the Nepal Army.
  • Since 2005, the relationship between India and the Nepal Army has not been warm. India needs to Strengthen its defense cooperation with Nepal and also address the factors responsible for eroding of the relationship.
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