Weekly Telegraph, Page 3
Nepal: Open border and India’s security concerns
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
Nepal and India have been topographically more accessible neighbors. Both the countries have good relationship with each other at people’s level. However, there are some degrees of ups and downs in political relationship during the changing of guards in Nepal and India as well. But it wouldn’t matter much for both the nations, since transition period doesn’t last for long.
An exclusive interview of Indian Ambassador to Nepal was published some time ago. It was mainly on the security concern of India in relation to open border regime. Ambassador has indicated some of the points as misuse of open border, entrance of unwanted element to India via Nepal, need to vigil potential cross-border terrorist activities, visa-free regime enabled through 1950 Treaty etc.
It’s really a ground truth that open border between Nepal and India has been misused by criminals, terrorists, illegal traffickers of arms and ammunitions. Criminals commit crimes in one frontier and they flee across the international border without any restriction. They remain hiding on the other side of the border. Peace and security, law and order have been adversely affected on both the territories by the continuation of porous border system.
Ambassador has rightly pointed out as “open border has acted as a bridge between the people of two countries.” In one sense open border has made the life of frontier inhabitants easy. In another way people are feeling insecurity.
In the context of security concern, time has now come to ponder whether it is necessary to make alternative provisions for the open border system adopted between Nepal and India for hundreds of years. Because security concern and border management system have been linked with each other.
Now here lies a curiosity- is there any agreement or treaty to make the border open between two countries? In answer, there is none. But the Ambassador has mentioned ‘as there is 1800 km open border, there is visa free regime between India and Nepal, which emerges form provisions enable through 1950 Treaty.’
So far as Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty-1950 is concerned, Article seven of the treaty says “the government of India and Nepal agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of movement and privileges of a similar nature.” But it is not mentioned that the border between two countries ust be opened.
This fact has been confirmed by the Indian Embassy, Kathmandu. This scribe had written an article in a daily newspaper concerning the regulation of border. In response to this article, Sanjaya Verma, Counselor of Indian Embassy, Kathmandu wrote in the ‘letter to the editor’ column of the same daily supporting that “it is not mentioned open border system between two countries in any of the Articles of Nepal-India Treaty. However, open border is an emblem of close relation of friendliness, existed between two countries since ancient times to this date” (Space Time Daily, July 2, 2004). This reveals that regulated border system is not the contrary to 1950 treaty.
In addition, it is notable that Rahadani was necessary for the Nepali even to go from one part of Nepal to another via Indian territory till five decades ago, before the construction of Tribhuvan highway linking Kathmandu to Raxaul. In the same way, even the Nepalis residing for long or permanently settled down in any foreign country want to visit Kathmandu, they would require to posses the permit issued by the Embassies or Consulates of Nepal or from the Alainchikothi in Patna, India (Nepal Gazette, April 22, 1952).
On the other hand, if we make a study on the Article 3 (1) of Immigration Act-1992, it is mentioned that ‘no foreigner shall be entitled to enter into and stay in Nepal without holding passport and visa’. At the same time, Article 2 (B) defines ‘foreigner means any person who is not a citizen of Nepal for the time being.’
When we go back to the Immigration Regulations of 1975 it was mentioned that ‘obtainment of visa is not necessary generally for the Indian nationals to enter into Nepal.’ But this provision has been cancelled and deleted in the new Regulations of 1994. It means, even the Indian nationals have to follow the regulated border system. However, visa provision is not in practice for both the nationals. Unofficially, it is an indication of open border system in an informal way.
In the mean time regulated border (ID-Card) system was implemented for the air passengers, after the Indian airplane hijacked from Kathmandu on December 24, 1999. It was mainly based on India’s security concern. At that time, informal rumor was heard in Kathmandu that Pakistanis had made Indian passports in India and had come to Nepal as Indian citizens to hijack the aircraft.
Let us switch to the other point that Ambassador has raised in his interview. He says ‘last year about 17-18 terrorists having links with various terrorist organizations were apprehended in different parts of India who had entered India via Nepal.’ It indicates that Pakistanis should have been able to enter Nepal as Indians as a result of porous border. As a matter of fact, not only Pakistani, but also Bangladeshi, Mynmar, Afgani and Iraqi have infiltrated illegally through open border in the outfit of Indian and Nepali nationals. We can find them in the bazar of Thamel. This is very much deplorable.
With the background of all these facts and incidents, it could be said that open border management system is not working to maintain peace and security on both the frontiers. In this regard, there may be a question- regulated border management system has been implemented on the air route and why not to adopt the same system also for the land route in a phase wise basis?
Whatsoever may be the bygone days as it has become history. But if we have to establish peace and security for the prosperity of both nationals, there should have some reformative measures in Indo-Nepal border management system. In fact, the existing system has somehow created a muddle for the people of both nations. Keeping the border open has made it easy for unwanted elements to run their activities freely. So we have to visualize the cross-border security concern of both frontiers in an international perspective. Hassle of border management should be tackled not only in the perspective of India’s security concern, but also Nepal’s concern as well, since Nepal and India are topographically close neighbors and the border is common to both. If there are some incidents in one side, it affects on the other frontier sooner or later. Assurances must be ensured to and from each other for the security of both nationals. (Mr. Shrestha is a Border Researcher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)