Current Status of Indo-Nepal Border

Current Status of the

Indo-Nepal Border

                                   – Buddhi N Shrestha

The demarcation of the border between India and Nepal began after the signing of the Sugauli Treaty on 4 March 1816. The work of demarcation was further accelerated when the negotiation began on another border treaty with the then British India on 1 November 1860 and was concluded in 1885. However, the delineation and demarcation of the total border area had not yet been completed. Therefore, in different places of different regions, dispute regarding the border and the no-man’s land area was experienced intermittently. 

In order to complete the border demarcation business, the work of preparing the strip-map by clearing the area and by raising necessary and additional border pillars has been taking place for the past 22 years. But border demarcation with strip-mapping has not yet been completed. Though there are 54 disputed areas altogether, and the main ones include Kalapani-Limpiyadhura, Susta, Mechi and Tanakpur. The details of places where dispute is in place regarding border violation are given in the Map.

The reason for the continuation of such dispute is basically the unavailability of old maps and documents for demarcation. But it has also been caused by mutual disregard to the maps presented by one party to the other, the failure to inspect the field mutually in time and also to make decisions on the spot after witnessing the evidences. Claims and counter claims have been put forward by both sides regarding different border areas, but neither country has shown seriousness in protecting them. There is often found an opportunistic overtone in both countries regarding the ownership of such disputed border points. Individuals and groups involved in undesirable activities have been taking undue advantage of this fragility of the border. This has greatly affected the security of both countries. It has therefore become necessary to solve without delay the confusion regarding the status of the border as it has a great bearing on the feelings of nationalism among the people on both sides.

Indian army personnel at the border

India has deputed its military in its border along with Nepal in order to watch upon undesirable activities and to conduct activities favourable to itself. Along the Indo-Nepal border, the central government of India has deputed para-military security guards of Special Services Bureau (SSB). But no essential arrangement has been made from the Nepalese side for the security of Nepal-India border line. Looked from an angle, it appears that protecting India-Nepal border and safeguarding Nepal-India borderline mean the same. But, when taken seriously, things may begin to appear different. It is natural for the Indian security personnel not to allow their border area to undergo violence, but it is difficult to say that they pay the same amount of attention when the Nepalese side of the frontier is encroached upon. Therefore, Nepal should protect its land on its own.

A press release issued by the Indian Embassy, Kathmandu on 24 September 2001 had mentioned that India had made a decision to depute ten thousand-strong special security forces of SSB in its border area with Nepal, with a view to making its external security strong. Under the scheme, India had planned to depute four battalions of security forces each in the states of Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh and also in other eastern states in a phase wise manner[1]. Three battalions of para-military forces were to be deputed in the 150 km-long Indian border area linked with Nepal’s Kapilbastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi districts, and each check post with security watch tower was decided to be established at a distance of every 5 kms in the border area [2].

The Indian Government has alerted the residents of the border area by deputing its para-military forces along the border. With the preparation of deploying the military personnel of Secret Service Bureau in the Indian border area linked with Nepal, India has also made a provision to give free of cost licenses to purchase weapons to the citizens of the village Panchayat.[3] Apart from this, based on the discussions held during the visit of the Indian military commander to Nepal, India will send its 13 army battalions to Nepal for the purpose of social services, and Indian military is planning to run health camps in the remote districts of Nepal[4]. But, for some time, India seems to have cut down the numbers of its paramilitary army for the border area linked with Nepal, as they have to be sent to Kashmir, the line of control between India and Pakistan.

It has been learnt that India has divided Nepal’s districts lying along the frontier of India into different categories from the security viewpoint. Under the scheme, India has acknowledged 570 kilometer-long plain, open borderline linked with Nepal’s 8 districts ranging from Kanchanpur to Nawalparasi as ‘security-sensitive,’ and similarly, the 765 kilometer-long plain borderline linked with 12 districts beginning from Chitwan to Jhapa in the east has been classified as ‘observation area’. Accordingly, the 215 kilometer-long area covering 3 districts to the north of Jhapa and the 258-kilometer long hilly border area encompassing 3 districts to the north of Kanchanpur have also been classified as a ‘normal area’.

Indian military posts have been established in border areas at a proportion of each post covering 3 to 5 kilometers of the borderline considered as ‘sensitive’ by India, and 30 to 50 para-military soldiers have been deployed at each post. For example, there are 15 SSB posts in the area covering 55 kilometers between Galgalia of Bihar and Pashupatinagar of West Bengal[5]. Similarly, in border areas considered as ‘under observation’, military posts have been established by taking into account the distance of 5 to 7 kilometers for each post, and deploying 20 to 50 soldiers in each post. Regarding ‘normal’ areas, military posts have been established at a rate of each post at the distance of 20 kilometers, and 40 SSB soldiers have been deployed in each of them. The following figures clarify on average as to how many and the distance at which para-military soldiers have been deployed:

1.    In the plain areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar:

·       Every 5 kilometers of the borderline     =          1 post

·       Every post                                                =          20 to 50 persons (35 soldiers on average)

·       Every one kilometer                                 =          4 to 10 persons (7 soldiers on average)

2.    In the hilly areas of Uttaranchal and Sikkim:

·         Every 20 kilometers of the borderline   = 1 post

·         Every  post                                                = 40 soldiers

·         Every  one kilometer                                = 2 soldiers (on average)

3.    The average of both sections mentioned above is as follows:

It can be inferred from above that in each of the four Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttaranchal and Sikkim, 5 para-military soldiers cover the border area covering 1 kilometer. In this manner, altogether in 260 check posts established along the borderline of 1,808 kilometers, around 9,040 para-military soldiers seem to have been deployed.

            The main objective behind deploying para-military forces by India along the open border with Nepal is stated to be the control of terrorist activities, smuggling, transport of weapons, and the activities of Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), a Pakistani intelligence agency. It is in this respect, perhaps, that the Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Bajpayee’s central government has given instruction to the concerned state governments to exercise extra vigilance along the Nepal-India border.[6]

Because the Indian para-military forces have been deputed in its border with Nepal, several Nepali passengers have to face hassles while crossing over the border. The Indian soldiers are not found to have followed neither the practice of open border, nor are they seen to have treated passengers in a manner befitting the regulated border system. Instead, they have been found treating the Nepali people whatever they deem fit as per the time and circumstances, without really following any of the above-mentioned two systems. It is an irony that most of the ordinary Nepali passengers come across a number of hassles while the clever and malicious passengers easily cross the border. Passengers without any malicious interest and of ordinary nature are first detained and then released with great delay, whereas the ones like Maoists or wounded rebels are found easily entering India and receiving treatment in various medical centres. Some passengers have to submit the identity cards mandatorily while others don’t have. As there is no provision for maintaining a record of the passengers crossing the border, Indian army seems not to have implemented any of the two-border systems regularly. It is neither an open nor controlled border system but it is discretionary. In such a situation, a word of mouth (a verbal dictate) may become as good as laws or sub-laws (rules or regulations).

Nepalese army at the border customs patrolling

Since the customs offices, located on the Nepali frontier of the Nepal-India border, have not been able to raise government revenue by checking illegal exports of goods, His Majesty’s Government of Nepal decided to mobilise the Royal Nepal Army (RNA) soldiers for customs patrolling beginning from 14 March 2001. Such patrolling teams have been deployed within the border areas of 12 customs offices and 89 sub- customs offices. The customs patrolling by the RNA soldiers has certainly helped increase the government revenue. Although patrolling is limited only to supervising the customs, these teams have by and large maintained peace and security in the border area and have somehow helped maintain border security of Nepal. In sectors where army personnel have been deployed for customs patrolling, border pillars have been protected from being destroyed, and the residents along the border have experienced that the no-man’s land area has been spared encroachments. Though no substantial improvement has taken place in respect of border encroachment, it has certainly made an impact on public mind with regard to border security.

§§


[1]    Kantipur Daily, 5 October 2001

[2]    Rajdhani Daily, 5 May 2002

[3]    Kantipur Daily, 23 September 2001

[4]    Rajdhani Daily, 17 May 2002

[5] Kantipur Daily, 13 August 2002

[6] Kantipur Daily, 29 November 2001

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