Indian Ambassador Rakesh Sood Yelled
During a seminar on the topic
60th Years of 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
A seminar on the ’60th year of 1950 treaty of peace and friendship’ was held from 11-13 September 2010 in Kathmandu. It was organized by Nepal Center for Contemporary Studies in collaboration with the Embassy of India, Kathmandu, Nepal. The seminar was attended by forty participants, ranging from scholars, academicians, intellectuals, diplomats, journalists to political leaders. Nepali political leaders like Baburam Bhattarai, Pradeep Gyawali, Kamal Thapa, Anil Jha, some other political party men, Constitution Assembly Members, Ambassador of India Rakesh Sood, former Nepali Ambassador to India and this scribe attended the seminar. From India, there were more than eight distinguished scholars and former Ambassador. The seminar was inaugurated by Hon’ble Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms. Sujata Koirala.
During the inauguration, the DPM as the chief guest mentioned that the 1950 treaty of peace and friendship has still working to strengthen the relation between Nepal and India. She further said, this type of seminar will help to understand and interpret the treaty which has been existed since sixty years ago, and it still has its value. Ambassador of India to Nepal HE Rakesh Sood mentioned the significance of the treaty to maintain the age old relation between India and Nepal. He further said, relationship has been existed from the general people to the government level of both the countries.
As the co-organizer of the seminar, Prof. Dr. Lok Raj Baral highlighted the importance and various aspects of the seminar. He mentioned during the inaugural function that Nepal-India relation is very deep and complex. The relation between two countries will be the same, where there are treaties or not. Sometimes, circumstances dictate treaty. Every treaty, including 1950 treaty says the sovereignty of Nepal. But no serious studies have been done on the treaty. There is no in-depth study of various Articles of the treaty. It needs thorough study of the treaty concerning economy, security and various development activities. He also mentioned that India and China are competitive and at the same time co-operative powers. Nepal has to balance the friendship with both countries in a wiseful manner.
HE Ambassador Rakesh Sood yelling
The seminar organizer had managed a cock-tail dinner at the first day evening (11 September). During the cock-tail, I was introduced to Mr. Sood by Dr. Lok Raj Baral. The Ambassador asked me suddenly, why 98 percent completed Indo-Nepal border strip-maps have not to be signed? It was his abrupt expression, as I was introduced. I started to answer him saying as: this is the business of the government and it should be according to the international boundary principle. While I was about to add further more, at the very moment, retired Lt. General Balananda Sharma came and talked for long and other participants like Ms. Leela Ponappa, Prof C. Rajamohan also came to talk to the Ambassador. And I could not complete my version as they were talking for long with the Ambassador. I tried for a number of times to continue my answer, but there was the dinner time. Next day before starting the deliberation, I took some time to tell my opinion about the strip-maps to HE Rakesh Sood, though he was busy talking to so many participants and his Embassy staff, including Apoorva Srivastava for the smooth management of the program.
I told him that the border strip-maps and documents must be signed by the plani-potenceries of both the governments. So far as the signature on 98 percent completed border maps is concerned, there are two points regarding this issue. The first is the international boundary principle; and second is the customary practice.
According to the international boundary principle and practice, border maps and related documents must be signed jointly after the completion of total border business. It has to make signatures on the Boundary Protocol as a symbol of completion of all boundaries works between the two countries. If Nepal and India sign on an incomplete document (only 98 percent work), there will be no way to prepare the Boundary Protocol. When the protocol is not possible, why it has to hurry to sign on the partial document? There is no meaning to sign on the 98 percent of the strip-map on the contrary of the international norms, practice and convention. He was nodding his head, but did not yell. I continued my version.
Second, according to customary practice, border strip-maps (official document) could be signed in a phase wise basis, if it is mutually agreed by both the governments. But this condition should have been mentioned before starting the boundary demarcation work by the technical level boundary committee. Here lies a question, whether there is a mutually accepted agreement in 1981 (when the joint team was formed), having a provision to sign on the document, even if it is not completed fully? So far as I know, there is none. With the background of this fact, this is beyond the international practice to sign on the incomplete and incorrect border strip-maps, as an official document of two countries.
It is important to be recognized that I am not the government official person. So I am not the authority, but just a border researcher. Your Excellency, this yelling question should be asked to the authority of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the mean time, he was talking and instructing his supporting staff, time and often for the conference management work. But he did not yelled any more and then I entered into the conference hall. This is more or less a short story of the answer of the yelling of HE Rakesh Sood.
In fact, on the span of remaining 2 percent, there are encroachments, disputes, claims and counter-claims in 54 places in various spots along the patches of 37 km. The total area of unresolved portion in various places is near about 60,000 hectare. Kalapani (37,000 ha) and Susta (14,000 ha) are the major encroachment areas.
It may be relevant to mention that during the visit of Indian Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee to Kathmandu on 25 November 2008; he had said, 98 percent demarcation has been completed as far as border dispute were concerned. One or two corrective measures suggested by Nepal will be carried out shortly. He further said ‘we have agreed to resolve the long standing border disputes between the two countries at various places, including Kalapani and Susta through further discussions. Differences and divergence of view within the spectra of Susta and Kalapani are to be resolved and officers from both the sides will be asked to meet and resolve this issue soon’ (Himalayan Times Daily, November 26, 2008). It indicates that there must have some corrections on some spots of the 98 percent completed strip-maps. And it is not yet corrected that spots. So it should not have signed on the incorrect and incomplete maps.
During an informal talk with Dr. Nihar Nayak, Prof. B. C. Upreti and some other participants in group in leisure time, I narrated the yelling of Ambassador Mr. Sood, and also highlighted my answer given to Sood regarding the pending issue of the signature on the strip maps, prepared jointly by both Nepal and India.
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha during the discussion session
I would like to mention another incidence. During the question-answer discussion session on the first day, this scribe had obtained some chances to speak and express opinion and also to highlight on the issues of the 1950 treaty and on some points raised by the paper presenters. Following is the synopsis of my expression.
There is a talk in town for long, whether the 1950 treaty should be revised or abrogated. When I studied the treaty, some of the Articles have been ignored by Nepal. And some other Articles have been neglected by India. For example, Nepal has ignored one of the items of Article-VII. The item goes like this: ‘the government of India and Nepal agree, on a reciprocal basis to the nationals of each other in the matter of residence, ownership of property, movement and other privileges of a similar nature.’ But the government of Nepal has restricted the privilege in the matter of ownership of property and residence in Nepal for the Indian nationals.
Furthermore, government of Nepal has imported arms and ammunitions directly from other countries. Prime Minister Marich Man Singh bought arms from China. Similarly, Sher Bahadur Deuba, as the Prime Minister imported arms from Belgium. Whereas Article-V of the treaty and item number-2 of the Letter of Exchange says: ‘Government of Nepal shall be free to import, from or through the territory of India.’ However, Nepal ignored this section of the treaty and imported the arms from other than India.
In the same way, India has not implemented the provision of Article-II of the treaty. This Article says- ‘the two governments undertake to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighboring state.’ As a matter of fact, there was a border war between India and China in 1962. But India did not inform Nepal about this war. Similarly, Indo-Pakistan confrontation was occurred at the Kashmiri Line of Control area. Neither India notified nor did Nepal ask for notification. This is one of the examples that India neglected to inform Nepal, as per treaty. So various Articles of the treaty have not been materialized.
The other fact is interesting to note. Regarding the treaty, India has said many times: ‘What does Nepal want regarding 1950 Treaty? India is ready to talk any time.’ But Nepal has not responded well. This is the weakness of Nepal.
During the discussion I opined, we need some treaty to maintain peace and security in both the nations. There is no doubt on it. The present treaty has to be discussed among the Nepali political parties and Track-II diplomats and intellectuals. A national consensus has to be built, as one voice of Nepal making the concluding point, whether the 1950 treaty should be revised / reviewed or replaced / abrogated.
So far as the expression of HE Rakesh Sood is concerned, I would like to mention here one more incident. I think it will not be irrelevant to relate here. The matter goes like this.
After the presentation of Prof. B C Upreti, there was a floor discussion session. The session was chaired by Daman Nath Dhungana. I narrated as a participant; ‘I am fully agreed with Dr. Nayak that Nepal-India border should be regulated.’ I added that it should be in a piece-meal basis to maintain peace and security for the people of both the frontiers, introducing ID card. It has to be studied deeply and thoroughly the wish and need of the people of both frontiers, before implementing the ID card system. As regulated border system has been already introduced and implemented on the air route from October 1, 2000, after the hijacking of Indian Airline aircraft from Kathmandu on 24 December 1999. Now why not to implement the same system also in the land route in a phase wise basis?
As I completed my expression, Indian Ambassador HE Rakesh Sood suddenly grabbed the microphone and spoke there and then as the reply of my expression. He said, regulated border system was introduced at Nautanuwa-Belhi crossing point as a pilot program. But it failed due to Nepalese official’s unwillingness. He further narrated that 1950 treaty stands for mutual co-operation and it talks of equal treatment. As HE Sood stopped to talk for some seconds, the session chairman asked to Kanakmani Dixit there and then, as his turn to speak. This is more or less a picture of the instant expressions of the conference organizer and participant.
Now I go to conference presentation business. There were eight papers presented during two days, four sessions, which are as follows:
|Dr. Nihar Nayak, India||Open border security challenges for India|
|Dr. Deepak Prakash Bhatta, India||Security challenges for Nepal|
|Prof. B C Upreti, India.||India-Nepal peace and friendship treaty (1950) : An overview of the working of the treaty in the context of national treatment for ‘nationals’ and ‘business’|
|Prof. Abhi Subedi, Nepal||Socio-cultural Relations and free movement of people : An empirical survey of literature and arts|
|Prof. Bishwa Nath Tiwari, Nepal||Impact of remittance from India on Nepalese economy|
|Sujeev Shakya, Nepal||India-Nepal economic future|
|Prof. Lok Raj Baral, Nepal||Nepal-India security relations : global and regional context|
|Prof. Ms. Sangeeta Thapaliyal, India||India-Nepal security interests and the treaty of peace and friendship|
Almost all the paper presenters mentioned that the 1950 treaty has acknowledged each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The treaty has recognized Nepal as an independent and sovereign state; mutually agreed security relationship, economic aspects and people to people relations. Nepal and India share a history from the rest of the South Asian countries. In the same way, they expressed concerns over border security and border management which are necessary for both the nations. Most of the speakers highlighted on the positive aspect of the treaty as one side of the coin, whereas few some others mentioned the negative aspect, as other side of the same coin.
At the conference, political scientists, politicians, economists, journalists and border researchers from Nepal and India cited data, figures and incidents that expressed concerns over border security. It is very important to note that almost all the speakers and participants mentioned about the open border existed between two nations. Some of them expressed that the open border is the virtue for two countries, and some others opined that it is going to be an allegation. Their expression revealed that border management system is an important element in terms of security and to maintain and strengthen the mutual relationship between Nepal and India.
The papers presented by scholars and questions raised by academicians, researchers, politicians and journalists at the seminar were important and meaningful. During the two days deliberation, paper presenters and participants highlighted on the following points:
1. Dr. Nihar Nayak (Associate Fellow, IDSA, India)
Dr. Nayak has divided his paper into different sub-headings such as; purpose of open border, advantages of open border, misuse of open border, joint border management mechanism and conclusion. Some of the important points presented through his paper are as follows:
The 1950 treaty has acknowledged each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity without altering the natural relationship. Of late, both countries have expressed their concern over misuse of the open border by anti-social elements. Some external forces have also argued against the open border for their strategic benefit. In 2008, China insisted that the India-Nepal open border should be closed to prevent the free flow of Tibetan refugees. During the colonial rule in India, the British wanted to keep the border open for recruitment of Gurkhas into the Indian Army.
Although the treaty does not mention an “open border” the word “movement” implies unrestricted movement for citizens of both countries in each other’s territory. Because of open border system, 3.5 to 6 million Nepali men and women are estimated to have been involved in gainful employment in India.
Dr. Nayak has listed both advantages and disadvantages of open border. The advantages are unrestricted movement of people, open border for jobs, open border is a symbol of mutual trust and friendship, strong cultural linkages across the border, facilities available in the other country during natural calamities and emergencies, economic opportunities in the border region.
The disadvantages have been mentioned as cross-border crime, infiltration of terrorists and insurgents, trafficking, illegal trade, border encroachment and migration. He explained that the presence of criminal groups in the border region is an enormous security challenge for both countries on account of abduction, kidnapping, extortion and trafficking in fake currency, drugs, small arms and persons. The unregulated border enables the criminal groups to cross the border to evade police action. Security in the border area is a big problem. Life is miserable in Birganj, people fear to send their children to school.
Media reports that the notorious criminal Dawood Ibrahim has visited Kathmandu several times. There are also groups like International Tigers and Nepal al-Queda World Terrorism. Nepal is believed to have become a haven for terrorists, smugglers and anti-India elements sponsored by Pakistan’s ISI. Chinese intelligence and ISI agents have also been using the Kathmandu-Delhi bus service to enter Indian territory.
According to SSB around 1,900 Madarsas have come up in the border region and security agencies are monitoring the activities of fifty or sixty ‘sensitive’ ones among them. Muslim population in the Tarai area in particular has been carrying towards anti-Indian orientation. Police arrested Aslam Ansari (Pakistani) and Nasim Ansari (Nepali) in the border town of Birganj in December 2008 for their role in the November 2008 Mumbai attack.
Groups involved in separatist movements in India also use Nepalese territory as shelter zone and for training camps. Since 2003 many north-east -based insurgent outfits like ULFA and UDFB have been crossing over to the Nepal side.
The border has become a major hub for trafficking in fake currency, small arms, drugs and persons. Both India and Nepal are losing huge amounts of revenue due to illegal trade through the open border.
Some civil society groups of Nepal have alleged that there are as many as 54 disputed land areas with approximately 60,000 hectares encroached by India. Encroachment is more a natural phenomenon than man-made. Rivers flowing from Nepal to India frequently shift their course during the monsoon, transferring some chunks of territory to either Nepal or India. Farmers from both countries encroach on this fertile land for cultivation.
The issue of border demarcation rose to prominence again only after Prachanda’s resignation. The Maoists have also accused Indian security forces of encroaching Nepalese territory in Dang district. It is believed that if the border is not regularized, the new Nepali migrants might outnumber the original inhabitants, posing a serious law-and-order threat in the near future for the hills and plains in Darjeeling district.
Pahadi Nepalese believe that the demand for one Madhesh Pradesh is supported by India, and Nepal in the future may face a situation that Sikkim faced in 1974. They believe that any such Indian design can be prevented only by closing the border and bringing changes in the 1950 treaty.
Nepalese Analysts allege that India had unilaterally imposed restrictions on Nepal in the past. India did impose trade restrictions in 1989 when Nepal bought arms and ammunition from China in 1988 and restrict Nepalese trade to two points on the border and close twenty other trading points.
The two countries formulated a joint technical level boundary committee (JTLBC) in 1981 to demarcate the border and to minimize any allegation of encroachment. The joint committee has demarcated 98 percent of the border. To complete the exercise, both countries agreed to resolve the Kalapani and Susta disputes on the basis of documents in the possession of both governments.
To prevent misuse of the border and address security-related issues, a joint working group on border management (JWGBM) was constituted in 1994. The working group decided to share intelligence on criminals, movements of insurgent groups and terrorists.
The open border has benefitted both countries immensely. On the other hand, the border is being misused by criminals and terrorist groups, which is straining the relationship between the two countries. The border is being misused due to lack of co-ordination between agencies of the two countries and, most importantly, the political instability in Nepal. The border can be regulated by bringing changes in the existing structures. It would be imprudent to expect any kind of support and co-operation from Nepal in an effective border management programme.
At the end of presentation Dr. Nayar said, border should not be closed. But border can be regulated by bringing changes in the existing structures. Border Commissions should be activated to ensure security for both the nations.
After the presentation by Dr. Nihar Nayak, I expressed some observations congratulating him as follows:
Dr. Nayak has drawn a very good picture of border crossing-point through his paper. If we stay and watch the border activity, for example at Raxaul-Birganj border crossing point for 3-4 hours, most of the points raised by Dr. Nayak can be visualized. What he has presented, that is the ground reality. We can see how Nepal-India border has been misused by the unwanted people. In this aspect he has listed these activities in page seven to twelve of his paper under the paragraph heading ‘misuse of open border’. There are sub-headings such as cross-border crime, infiltration of terrorists, trafficking, illegal trade, border encroachment and migration, joint border management mechanism etc.
2. Dr. Deepak Prakash Bhatta (India)
Bhatta has categorized his paper in external security challenges, internal security challenges, fears and concerns and concluding remarks.
Nepal is passing through one of the biggest socio-economic-political transitional phase in its whole modern history. Nepal and India have easy access to each others because of mostly plain land, porous border and age old socio-religious-cultural proximity between two countries. There are major problems in Nepal-India border encroachment, open or porous border and trade deficit. While it comes to border encroachment and open border, there are issues for the officials, diplomats and governments of the two countries. The national interest of the both countries needs to be prioritized.
In Nepal, there is a concept that India has concluded treaties with Nepal when government in Nepal is weak or political forces are divided internally. The observation of 1950 of peace and friendship has been claimed outmoded from both the parties many times. The time has come to review the treaty or replace it by a new one in changing global, sub-regional and inter-country context.
For Nepal, the most obvious sources of external threats; opportunities could be India and China, both of which are capable of military invading and occupying Nepal. But the real threat of external aggression cannot be recognized as in the horizon at the present context. Boundary disputes between Nepal and China is settled. But border dispute with India is unresolved since long time in many places. This is becoming more problematic in each region for both sides. This is not simple as just an external problem, but also has many internal technical aspect of border management.
The security system at the border is not adequate from Nepal side while India has deployed Shashstra Seema Bal (SSB) across the Nepal-India border which is maintaining vigil against infiltration from Nepal. The SSB has 449 Border Out Posts (BOPs) across the Indo-Nepal border. Computerization has also started at BOP level and modern weapons are being provided to SSB personnel.
There are disputes at more than 60 places in Nepal-India border. Nepal and India have to advocate settling pending and unresolved border demarcation through negotiations in setting confidence building mechanisms in border regions. Proper regulation of border, resolving border disputes, canceling the secret agreements will lead to higher goal of prosperity. This balanced and mutual agreed relation will help the underprivileged people of both the countries.
Nepal is facing security challenges in many fronts like poor governance, energy, cyber security and terrorism, challenges and ethno-regionalism challenges. Effective coordination among agencies can improve failure of security. First and foremost is the need to recognize our internal security that can be ensured only if there is a consensus on national security policies. Political parties need to agree and give up narrow party interests for this greater cause.
Inundation in southern border’s of Nepal tarai districts became a major problem during rainy season because of highway construction adjoining no-man’s land by Indian authorities. That has not been consulted with Nepalese authorities.
While China’s core interest in Nepal is anti-China activity of the Tibetan refugees in the name of democracy and human rights of freedom. China views this as a potential threat for its security related matters.
There are open border related problems like illegal trade, women trafficking, criminal hideouts and hit and run operations, illegal drugs-opium and ganja smuggling, wood and sandal wood trade, cattle smuggling, wheat and rice price fluctuation during the cropping season regulation of movement of vehicle across the border, currency, gold and arms trade have internal external dimensions at the same time. These problems also give rise to internal security problems; at the same time these are inter-related problems for both countries.
Water resource is always a complex issue between two countries. Mutual and well-planned hydropower resource management, utilization and profit sharing are inevitable.
3. Prof. B C Upreti (Professor and Director, South Asia Studies Centre, UOR, Jaipur, India)
Prof. Upreti has divided his paper into sub-headings, such as socio-economic dimension of the treaty, working of the treaty, Nepalese in India, Indian nationals in Nepal, ground realities: issues and challenges, question of national identity of Indian Nepalese, problems of Indian community in Nepal, Nepal’s overseas labour export, impact of open border, real beneficiaries of the treaty and conclusion. Some of the points of his paper, as presented are as followings:
Geographical continuity and other factors make India-Nepal relations closely inter-linked and intimate; and it has a strong informal dimension. It is true that many of these factors have been responsible for irritants and misunderstandings between the two countries.
Open international border between the two countries itself is a unique provision and it has played an important role in shaping India-Nepal relations, particularly informal dimension.
The 1950 treaty has proved to be a significant guiding force behind the multi-dimensional relations between the two countries. However, in recent years the treaty has become a source of irritants for Nepal. There have been demands in Nepal for revision or even abrogation of the treaty. What have been wrong with the treaty? Has it become outdated in its overall context? Have the provisions of the treaty become victim of the vested political interests? These seem to be important issues in analyzing the working of the treaty.
Government of India’s decision in 1976 restricted the movement of Nepalese nationals in some bordering regions like Darjeeling, Cooch Behar, north-eastern states, Kumaon region and Lahaul, Spiti. It became a source of India biting in Nepal. Indian Embassy at Kathmandu late clarified that a permit system had been introduced for certain specified areas (bordering China and Bangladesh) for the security reasons. It was further clarified that for the Nepali nationals wanting to visit Darjeeling, Cooch Bihar, Jalpaiguri, Malda and West Dinajpur, a 15 days permit has been issued by the Indian Embassy at Kathmandu. Permits for one week could be issued by the government of India for visit to Murshidabad, Nadia, Bangaon and Basirhat sub-divisions of 24 Parganas, north-east Lahaul and Spiti and Kumoun region. However, the decision of India was considered as a sudden restriction on the movement of Nepali in India and became a matter of criticism. Nepal thought that it should not have been done unilaterally.
In 1982 during the Panchayat regime, the Commission on Population constituted a Task Force on Migration and it submitted and recommended for regulating free movement of people across the India-Nepal border in three phases. First is the registration of names of people crossing the border; Second, entry permit system be started with a multiple entry permit being given to those living within 10 km of the border and a single entry permit to others. And third is, the two countries should start a regular passport system at an appropriate time.
The treaty has survived over the decades, yet there is a belief that the treaty has become outdated and ineffective. The first and foremost issue is whether the Nepalese ruling elite has succeeded in reaching to a national consensus over this issue? What is the perception of the people of the bordering regions? The question of national identity of Indian Nepali and the Nepali migration to India remains an important issue in India.
It is the open border which has strongly facilitated these age old socio-economic connections. There has been an influential group in Nepal at times representing the power elite, which has strongly opined that the border should either be sealed off or regulated in a manner to contain the Indian migration to Nepal. However, such a perception has ignored the other side of the coin. The large scale Nepali migration to India, the social, kinship, cultural and commercial relations across the border and the uniqueness of an open international border have to be evaluated.
It is true that in the last few years the security risks of an open border have increased. It is a question of securing the border through mutually agreed security arrangements. The open border is in a way, a safety valve for the bordering people at least. There are hundreds and thousands of people on both sides of the border who cross the border daily for employment. It has benefited the border people, especially the weaker sections of the society. These aspects have often been ignored in the debate over the amendment or abrogation of the 1950 treaty.
Any attempt to overlook the provisions of the treaty costs mutual trust and confidence. Another issue is to understand which sections of the society have actually been benefited? The treaty works as a safety valve for the common people. It is true that there are issues of illegal activities along the border. These are the security related issues which should not cost a peace and friendship treaty. Any fresh treaty today or in the future might not incorporate such provisions and facilities. At what costs? It has to be realized by the people of the two countries.
4. Prof. Abhi Subedi (Retd. Prof of Tribhuvan University, Department of English, Kathmandu)
Prof Subedi has divided his paper into five sub-headings such as, mobility and territoriality, Nepal-India unique experience, border writing, done enough? and freaks and guru.
Free movement of people across Nepal-India borders becomes most manifest in the realms of culture and literature. The year 1950 is not the sole watershed for this kind of relationship between Nepal and India. Both the countries cultural and social relations should be looked at from the new historicist perspective as a phenomenon that offers a totally non-colonial historical, if not a museumised perspective. Indo-Nepal cultural history enjoys a unique position in the study of two independent nation’s history.
The role of Banaras or Varanasi in the cultural life of the Nepali is very important indeed both in terms of religion, in terms of the publication of the literary magazines and books. 1950 opened up two possibilities for the free flow and movement of cultural and literary activities between Nepal and India. Several Nepali writers crossed the border, especially after 1950. They did emerge ‘from double strings of signifiers’ and use codes ‘from both sides of the border.’ Despite the easy access to each other’s cultural and literary realms, Nepali and Indian writers have not established very close links; they have not translated each other’s works. Nepal could discuss with the Indian publishers, distributors and sort out the publication and distribution problems.
The 1950 change of Nepal that kept Nepal-India borders open to the visitors of either country was not a millennial turning point, but it made the writers’ movement easier. It has to make the best use of this great experience that the free border has given to the people. The relations between India and Nepal cannot be entirely explained only by focusing on realpolitik.
Nepal and India share a history different from the rest of the South Asian countries. The relationship between India and Nepal is governed by many factors. Empty anti-Indianism on the part of Nepal and exaggeration of Nepal being a great threat to Indian security by India is not in keeping with Nepal-India relationship. Both countries should value each other’s historic friendship that is both realistic and unique.
5. Prof. Bishwa Nath Tiwari (Professor, Central Dept. of Economics, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)
Prof. Tiwari’s paper hears various sub-headings such as, trend and pattern of migration, trend and pattern of remittance, impact of remittance on the Nepalese economy, economic stability, growth and productivity, remittance and poverty, remittance and income equality and conclusion. During his presentation, he mentioned the following main points.
The open border between Nepal and India continued to facilitate Nepali migration to India and vice versa. Since there is no system of registration, the flow of migrant workers between two countries is at best guess estimated as 3 to 4 million.
Nepal has a long history of labor migration to India, while more recently the movement has shifted to other countries. Nepal is one of the handful countries where remittance shares a quarter of the GDP. Nepal has the highest trade deficit with India. In order to pay trade deficit it has to sell hard currencies to get Indian currency. Thus, the Indian remittance has a critical role to compensate part of the trade deficit. Remittance has been a major contributor of poverty reduction in Nepal during 1996-2009.
Although there is a lack of research on how much is the contribution of Indian remittance in the poverty reduction, it can be inferred that it has higher impact per unit of remittance compared to remittance from other countries. It is because India is the destination of the poor migrants, mainly small farm holders and casual laborers, which share about four-fifth of the total poor in Nepal. Thus, the elasticity of poverty reduction of Indian remittance could be higher that of the other countries.
In fact, income inequality can be halted if the poor masses going to India are offered skill training so that they can take the possible benefits of higher growth of the Indian economy in terms of fetching higher wages. The Indian remittance can play a significant role in reducing the negative consequences including halting the process of income inequality, maintaining economic stability through compensation, trade deficit with India, reducing poverty at a faster rate than before.
6. Sujeev Shakya (Founding CEO at Beed Management Private Limited, Nepal)
Shakya has divided his paper in sub-headings such as movement of people and the 1950 treaty, two India one Nepal, fixed exchange rate, Nepal’s failed equidistance policy, looking ahead, land-linked and not land-locked, the market of 300 million people, movement of money, people, water, tourists, and mitigating impacts of climate change. He presented the following points through his paper.
While many quarters of Nepali political rhetoric have been hell bent on scrapping the 1950 treaty, it is not different amongst the Nepali of Indian origin constantly questioning the treaty. One of the strong premises of the Gorkhaland movement is based on scrapping this so called lopsided treaty. It is definitely important to explore the review of the treaty rather than questioning the necessity of the treaty from an economic perspective and letting the political issues follow the same.
The success of a Prime Minister’s visit to either of the two countries have been judged on how much has been put into the begging bowl rather than how much of investment and trade that it got better facilitated.
The relationship between India and Nepal need to be re-explained from the perspective of how Nepal perceives its own economic growth in the next couple of debates. If the 1950 treaty is to be reviewed taking into consideration of the future of each of the country, then the onus will lie on Nepal to make recommendations as for India.
People in Nepal especially those living outside the Kathmandu valley and especially those living near the border towns assume India to the automatic safety valve be it for jobs, business opportunities, education or healthcare. Many Indians in the bordering towns are dependent on trade with Nepalese. Similarly, for Indian companies, Nepal as the 40th largest populate country with 30 million people serves an additional market for many companies and investor in the bordering states.
Regarding Nepal hydro-power potential, we need to understand that electricity like fishing is a by-product of water and if we continue to talk about down-stream benefits, then we are going to reach nowhere.
With life expectancy along with affordability increasing in India, there are more people going to pilgrimages. Nepal has not been able to do much despite having Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace and series of holy Hindu shrines.
Nepal and India therefore need to re-examine its relationship based on the fact that both countries have successfully managed relationship based on the existing 1950 treaty. No treaties are perfect and seeking perfection would be utopian. We need to rework on the treaty to develop a framework that shall facilitate long term sustainable economic relationship beneficial to both countries.
7. Prof. Lok Raj Baral, (Retd. Prof. Dept. of Political Science, Tribhuvan University, Nepal)
Prof. Baral has mentioned three sub-headings in his paper. They are Nepal-India: structure of relations, controversy over the treaty, and concluding observations. Followings are the main points, as he has presented.
Dealing with Nepal-India relations is not an easy task. Half of their relations are characterized by informalities. The 1950 treaty of peace and friendship encapsulates some of such fundamentals. Most important aspects covered by the treaty are recognition of Nepal as an independent and sovereign state; mutually agreed security relationship; economic aspects, and people to people relations through the open border.
Even the treaty of Sugauli (1815-16) had recognized Nepal as an independent country with which the victor (British) concluded the treaty, and later the 1923 treaty further clarified the international status. However, there has been a difference between the 1950 treaty and the treaty of Sugauli in one respect. The former was concluded between the victor and the vanquished; the latter was the product of mutually agreed parties for fulfilling the objectives of the two countries.
Relating to the security aspect of the treaty, the issue of imports of arms, ammunitions or warlike material and equipment for the security of Nepal bas been addressed. Yet, the spirit of the treaty and the accompanying letter allow Nepal only to import through the territory of India. Another major component of the treaty relates to the national treatment to be given to the nationals of both the countries.
The 1950 treaty is assailed as an unequal treaty as a criticism that come from the political parties or from the so-called rastravadis are based on some of these grounds. They say, it is security-related treaty putting Nepal under the umbrella of India. It has threatened the existence of the country by allowing free movement of peoples across the border; Indians have much benefitted than the Nepalis. The open border might have been used by the people coming across the border. The treaty has not diluted Nepal’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the contrary, Indian recognition of this aspect was/is more explicit even prior to the signing of the treaty.
Has Nepal developed economic capability for employing people with the country? Has not the 1950 treaty that entails open border regime helped maintain Nepal’s security? As internal security is increasingly becoming more important than external threat, it has indeed salvaged Nepal form its multiple crises.
The Indians view the 1950 treaty as unequal for them and the manner the Nepali politicians raise this issue is not based on reality. For Nepal, it has become one of the issues for political mobilization and politicians use this strategy when they are short of issues. Observations made by some scholars that Nepalis would be the sufferer by the annulment of the treaty deserve to be examined in order to find a better perspective of the treaty.
Some of the Indian experts have often cautioned Nepali leaders against opening the “Pandora Box” (1950 Treaty) without taking into account the entire gamut of bilateral relations. The security relations between Nepal and India are not likely to be fundamentally different in the future. Nepal’s domestic stability, peace and development and the maturity in thinking about the country and the people only assure its neighbours.
The abrogation of the 1950 treaty may give temporary satisfaction to some elites and leaders, but it will also open ‘Pandora box.’ If the post-abrogation phase continues the old pattern of bilateral relations (open border, opportunities to be provided to the nationals of both the countries), then no treaty regime can be possible. On the contrary, if India prefers to treat Nepal at par with other countries and seal the border or use other strategies to deal with Nepal on a variety of areas including trade and transit and other preferences that have had been provided to Nepal, it leads to catastrophe.
Similarly, China’s major concern is Tibet to which the Nepali side needs to be serious. Now with the enhanced regional and global power position of India and China, strategic dimensions are likely to be more complex for Nepal. How China is increasingly showing its concerns over Nepal’s internal and external developments has been vociferously raised by visiting Chinese dignitaries and its representatives in Nepal.
The Indian side should not also be prejudiced against certain parties and individuals or governments taking into account the changed internal political dynamics of Nepal.
It seems that difficult day are ahead for Nepal policy makers. Internal situation is in a mess with the major parties responsible for bringing about a radical change quarreling for no substantive reasons. If Nepal fails to maintain a minimum level of development keeping its own house, its aspirations to be an independent and sovereign nation would also be undermined.
8. Prof. Sangeeta Thapaliyal (Prof. Centre for South Asian Studies, JNU, India)
Ms. Thapaliyal has divided her paper into various sub-headings such as; the context, discourse in Nepal and India on the 1950 treaty and an assessment. The main and relevant topics in her paper, as presented have been mentioned below.
India-Nepal relations are so wide ranging that it cannot be covered by a treaty alone. The treaty covers provisions related to security, social, economic issues. However, the relations between the two countries have to take into consideration India’s security sensibilities and Nepal’s insistence on sovereignty and independence. Nepal has been characterized by some factors, such as desire of India for mutual security understanding that emanates from geo-strategic significances of the northern border and Nepal’s desire to reduce salience of this by pursuing policy of equidistance between India and China.
The issue of open border and movement of population has become a vexed issue. The open border served the interest of both the countries. Nepalese could enter into India unhindered in search of better employment opportunities, except in the Indian administrative service and Indian foreign service. Indians utilized the treaty provision to enter into Nepal in the wake of increasing economic development. However, with changing times the open border became a security concern for both.
The provision of free movement of people between the two countries has been misused by the smugglers, militants, terrorists and criminals. Some Pakistanis infiltration into India and was found to be having links with the Kashmiri militants. Hence, both the countries also share anxieties of the open border. It is time to discuss the issues and find answers to them within or outside the gambit on the 1950 treaty.
India and Nepal have agreed to review the treaty. However, what would be the outcome is anybody’s guess. Does the revised treaty mean Nepal’s divergence from India on the strategic perceptions, pursuing a policy of equidistance between India and China? A strained treaty brings forth more suspicion and distrust on each other affecting on cooperation in other variables involved in a relationship such as economy, trade, transit, harnessing of water resources, power trade. The onus lays on Nepal to workout cost-benefit analyses and workout the provisions that it wants to be discussed and debated. And also to be able to table the alternatives that it would want to have.
Almost all the paper presenters and participants, during the discussions did not go to various Articles of the treaty, whether the Articles have been implemented or not. So an attempt has been made in the following paragraphs whether Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty 1950 should be revised or replace or it should stand as it is.
A number of provisions of the treaty have never been implemented while some others have been partially implemented. It is also conspicuously clear that one signatory have been unscrupulously leveraging the Treaty unilaterally to serve its vested interests.
Article- 8 of the controversial treaty states “The Treaty cancels all previous treaties, agreements and engagements entered into on behalf of British Government and Government of Nepal.” But this Article has never been implemented. The unfettered prevalence of Sugauli Treaty of 4 March 1816, Nepal-Britain Friendship Treaty of 21 December 1923, and Tripartite Treaty of 9 November 1947 attests to the complete comatose state of the Article- 8. If the implementation of the 1950 Treaty has fully seen the light of the day, the boundary of Nepal would have stretched from Tista in the east and Kangada in the west.
The Article- 7 of the Treaty ensures the special privileges to the citizens of the both countries to live in each other’s land. The article says “Both the Governments agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, movement and privileges of a similar nature.” However, Indian nationals are prohibited from owning the land and property in Nepal. On the other hand, Nepali citizens are free to do such activities in the Indian terrain. It is compulsory for any person wishing to own a fixed property is legally required to produce Nepali citizenship certificate. As such, Nepal has ignored the same privileges to be provided to the Indian nationals.
In addition, the open border between Nepal and India can be well deemed as an informal means adopted for reciprocal movement of the people of the two countries in each other’s territory. But, there is not a single clause in any of the treaties (including the 19950 treaty), agreements, and understandings reached between Nepal and India that inscribes open border system. There is no mention of the word ‘border’ even in 1950 Treaty.
India had imposed ‘Economic Blockade’ to Nepal from 23 March 1989 to 30 June 1990. All the crossing-points had been closed unilaterally. There was no movement of people and goods and merchandise. This action was totally against the spirit of Article- 7 of 1950 Treaty. It has proved that the Article of the treaty is implemented in an unequal and unreciprocal manner.
The Article- 6 of the Treaty mentions that each government undertakes to give to the nationals of the other, in its territory, national treatment with regard to participation in industrial and economic development. But the section-4 of the letter of exchange related to the article stipulates that “If the Government of Nepal should decide to seek foreign assistance in regard to the development of the natural resources of, or of any industrial project in Nepal, the Government of Nepal shall give first preference to the Government or the nationals of India.” It shows that there is no other term rather than contrasting if one is to relate the Article-6 with its section-4 of the letter of exchange.
Likewise, the Article- 5 of the Treaty states that “Nepal shall be free to import from or through the territory of India, arms, ammunition or warlike materials and equipment shall be worked out in consultation.” However, section- 2 of the letter of exchange conspicuously contradicts with this article by stating, “Nepal may import through the territory of India shall be so imported with the assistance and agreement of the Government of India.” But Nepal has been overlooking the provision of the section-2 and imported arms and ammunition directly from the third country without the consent of India. Undoubtedly, many Articles stipulated by the Treaty are in limbo. In this context, how meaningful will be to let survive the unimplemented Articles of the Treaty.
The Article-2 of the Treaty mentions that the two governments undertake to inform each other of any serious friction with any neighbouring State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations. Section-1 of the letter of exchange says “To deal with any such threat, the two Governments shall consult with each other and devise effective counter-measure.” But, India has violated the provision of this agreement. For instance, in November 1962, when a border war broke out between China and India, the latter did not bother to furnish information about the same with Nepal. Nepal, too, exhibited lethargy to rope India into providing the war related information.
Similarly, the Article-1 of the letter says, “The two Governments agree mutually to acknowledge and respect the complete sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each other.” But India has not followed this section in practice. There are dispute, conflict, claim and counter-claims placed by India in 54 spots of 21 districts of Nepal along 1,808 kilometre borderline. The total disputed area has been estimated as almost 60 thousand hectares. This type of activity has virtually intended to disintegrate the territory of Nepal in contrary to the spirit of 1950 Treaty.
It is, of course, rational to discuss whether the Treaty should be only reviewed or annulled at all. Interestingly, India was in favour of annulling the treaty during the period of 1990s. Nevertheless, Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menan had expressed willingness on behalf of India to review the Treaty as per the demands of time. Former Indian envoy to Nepal, Dev Mukharjee had also opined, “In my perspective, the Treaty is not unequal. If it is so, it should be reviewed.” The other former Indian Ambassadors like Shiv Shankar Mukharjee, Shyam Saran, and KV Rajan apart from Indian communist leader Yechuri had also aired their views in favour of altering the thorny clauses of the Treaty.