Indian Military Check-post in Northern Frontier of Nepal

Indian Military Check-posts in Nepal 

(There were eighteen Indian Military Check-posts in the northern frontier of Nepal) 

After Nepal stepped into the democratic system on 18 February 1951, she began to receive all kinds of assistance from her friendly neighbour, India. Indian experts came to Nepal as advisors to the native political and administrative officials. Similarly, Indian military officers also came here to impart military education and training to their Nepali counterparts. It is reported that India also sent a number of military officers and soldiers to assist the construction of Gauchar Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. To conduct a talk by providing such assistance, an Indian goodwill delegation of 8 military officers led by Maj. Gen. Paranjape visited Nepal on 9 April 1952. [1]                

It can be seen that India at that time did not think that its borders were strong enough for her security. In particular, India was not convinced of the reliability of its northern border. In fact, India regarded the Himalayas as its northern frontier. The indication of this position of India can be seen in the paragraph of Clause 4 of the letter Sardar Ballabhbhai Patel wrote to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on November 7, 1950. (The full text of the letter is given in Appendix-3.) The relevant paragraph 4 of the letter read: 

“…Our northern or north-eastern approaches consist of Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the Tribal Areas in Assam. From the point of view of communications they are weak spots. Continuous defensive lines do not exist. There is almost an unlimited scope for infiltration. Police protection is limited to a very small number of passes. There too, our outposts do not seem to be fully manned.” 

Accordingly, Ballabhbhai’s opinion particularly of Nepal is even more appalling.   

“…3 December 1950: As Nepal’s King Tribhuvan has left Kathmandu and come to New Delhi, now there is no legitimate government in Nepal. Nepal matters to India’s security as crucial as Tibet to China’s and Korea or the Farmosa Island to the United State’s, no matter how far they may remain from the US coast. In Nepal also, like in Hyderabad, Indian nationals have been victims of inhuman treatment of the Rana regime. To stop that atrocity and anarchy, India should send its army in Nepal and take her under its control, eventually to make it yet another member of the Indian Federation, just like Kashmir and Hyderabad.”[2]            

In keeping with this bullying attitude, India established its military check posts on the Nepalese frontier of the Nepal-China borderline. This happened during the premiership of Matrika Prasad Koirala, beginning 9 June 1952, at 18 points of the Nepalese frontier (Appendix-4). In each of the checkpoints, 20 to 40 Indian army personnel equipped with arms and communication equipment were deployed, together with a few Nepali army and civilian officials. The Indian army deployment was completed in two trips to Nepal.

Ever since their deployment, Nepal’s political parties and civil society members kept on voicing their strong opposition to this issue. Once in 1959, a loud protest was launched, but the check posts remained as they were. At long last, the issue was again raised, this time more sharply, during the premiership of Kirti Nidhi Bista, and consequently, on 20 April 1969, the check-posts were removed and the Indian army personnel sent back home. But what is to be remembered here is that the Indian para-military forces stationed at Kalapani in Darchula district of Nepal ever since 1962 during Sino-Indian war are still not withdrawn. As a result, Indian military camps can still be seen in and around the Kalapani-Limpiyadhua area. The talk has been going on between Nepal and India regarding this “encroached and occupied” land of Nepal as well, but to no avail and the problem remains as it is, mainly because of no concrete dialogue and negotiation.  

Once this author had put a question to the former Prime Minister Kirti Nidhi Bista in a talk programme organised by the Committee of Intellectual and Professional Solidarity Against Border Encroachment and the State Atrocities on 4 July 1998 as to why the Indian military camps were not removed yet from the Kalapani area during his premiership, He had then replied:  

“I never knew, even when I was the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, that there were Indian military camps in the Kalapani area. It was during my premiership that Indian checkpoints were removed from Nepal’s northern border, but I did not receive any report as to why the same did not happen with regard to the Indian military camps in Kalapani. In fact, I had no idea whether there existed any such camps in Kalapani. I was never told about it by my administration. This shows how (irresponsible) is our administrative system. We will not let even an inch of our land slip out of our hand. Had I known that Indian army personnel were stationed there without our consent, I would not have kept mum. Today we have come across a big sensitive issue like border problems, and we must fully inform the people about this. The government should not hide any facts. It is clear that Indian military presence in a small country like ours is a sign of their bullying behaviour. India is powerful, but now since the Bajpayee government has come in power, this signals the arrival of a positive climate for Nepal to settle the issue for ever, just like there was a favourable situation in 1969 AD, when the check posts were removed. Nepal’s border should be demarcated and mapped accordingly as per the Sugauli treaty. Steps should be taken in this direction.”[3] 

The reason behind why Nepal’s administration was not formally aware of the existence of the Indian army posts in Kalapani was probably that there happened no correspondence between the two countries before the army was posted. It might be like this that after India lost to China in their border war in 1962, Indian soldiers gradually receded from the frontline, and when saw Kalapani area, they might have considered it as a strategically appropriate and sensitive location, so they decided to stay there. But, forgetting the fact that the place lies well within Nepal’s border, Indian soldiers have still been occupying it. When the two countries agreed to establish Indian check-posts along Nepal’s northern frontier, names of 18 such places were mentioned in the letters exchanged, excluding Kalapani. So when the checkpoints were withdrawn, Kalapani was obviously left out. 

India’s security perception at that time seemed influenced by its susceptibilities towards its neighbours, including Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and its northern neighbour, China. When the Kodari Highway that connects Kathmandu to the Tibetan province of China was underway, Indians started a propaganda that it would now increase the Chinese influence in Nepal. Some Indian newspapers went even further to criticize that the Highway was worth the load of big tanks and heavy vehicles which Nepal hardly needed to operate. It was in this context of Indian skepticism that the late King Mahendra had once said, “Communism is not something that is imported through a motorcar”.

          

Viewed from Nepal’s security perspective, the current strategy of keeping southern border open and northern border controlled is not in tune with the changing requirements of time. However, a careful and scientific balance needs to be maintained in managing border systems on both sides. For this to happen, Nepal should begin opening the northern border points for the regional balance of economic development as mentioned in Appendix- 2 and Map No. 3. It is to be recalled that a Cabinet decision has been made on 25 April 2002 for opening some previously prohibited tourist destinations as mentioned in Appendix- 5. Whatever it was in the past, Nepal must not tolerate the military activity of the countries of any part of the globe, within the nation.



[1]      Devkota, Grishma Bahadur (1959) Political Mirror of Nepal (in Devanagari) 1959, Vol-1:144.      Op.Cit : 39

[3] Samakaleen Weekly, 9 July 1998

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