Nepalese in Tibet: A Case Study of Nepalese Half-Breeds (1856-1956)
Mishra, Tirtha P., Contributions to Nepalese Studies
History of Nepal-Tibet relations can be traced from the ancient period. One of the substantive attributes of historical intercourse between the two trans-Himalayan countries was the growth of Nepalese half-breeds or Khacharas. Geo-politic imperatives and the commercial considerations were the fundamental factors that effected the unique and exceptional historical development of the Khacharas system. Khacharas constituted an important factor which greatly influenced Nepal-Tibet relations during the period between 1856 to 1956. Therefore, the study of substantive aspects of the Khachara deserves our attention.
Economic factors invariably play a decisive role in the foreign policy of any country. The Nepalese foreign policy was essentially governed by economic considerations. Since ancient times commerce emerged as the main determinant phenomenon in Nepal's relation with her neighboring countries. Specially, after the opening of Kerung route in 17th century closer interaction among China, Tibet, India and Nepal had developed. Consequently Kathmandu turned into a prime center of Trans-Himalayan communications and became a meeting ground of all traders. In fact political instability in Tibet after 7th century facilitated Nepal to monopolise Tibetan trade.
Nepalese trade with Tibet further expanded during medieval period regulating trade traffic between India and Tibet. Though history of Nepal-Tibet relations had long historical background there was no defined treaty, contract, or pact which outline the statutory frame work to regularize the relationship. It was only a historical development of no contact between two countries based on oriental diplomatic pattern guided by the commercial motives. However, dimension of Nepal--Tibet intercourse was formulated in definite logistics during 17th century. Exploiting the weak political situation in Tibet, Kantipur attack and forced her to sign a treaty (1645-50) which acquired substantial privileges for Kantipur in Tibet.
1. Firstly, The Kathmandu traders were permitted to establish thirty-two trading marts at Lhasa.
2. The Kathmandu King was authorized to appoint a representative (Nayo in Newar, Nayak in Nepali) at the Court of Lhasa.
3. Tibet agreed not to impose any sort of duties on Newar merchants throughout Tibet.
4. Kathmandu obtained a right of minting coins for Tibet and Tibet agreed to pay for required quantity of silver and gold.
5. Tibet agreed to conduct all trade with India, via Nepal even though conducted by other than Newar merchants.
The most important than these was the privilege that Nepalese could marry Tibetan women, male offspring from such marriage were regarded Nepalese subjects. Contemporary documents have referred these Tibetan born Nepalese as Khacharas so the same terminology is being used in this paper. It is interesting to note that the female child from a Nepalese father and Tibetan mother was acknowledged as a Tibetan citizen. The Tibetan government agreed to accept the Khacharas as Nepalese subjects and granted them the privileges and facilities accorded to the Nepalese traders in Tibet. The Khachara system was an peculiar system and exceptional privilege which established Nepalese jurisdiction over Tibetan born Nepalese.
The Kantipur-Tibet treaty in fact was the turning point in the history of Nepal-Tibet relations. The privileges facilitated the Nepalese traders to acquire monopoly in Tibetan trade. In addition to this, it encouraged Nepalese traders to reside in Tibet. Later on these privileges were extended to the traders of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, the other principalities of Kathmandu valley. This tremendously helped to spread Nepalese trade and settlements all over Tibet. Consequently the number of Khacharas increased through the years to become an integral component of Nepal-Tibet relations. Nevertheless, no alteration was made in the status of Khacharas for centuries and the same tradition prevailed up to the mid 20th century.
During modern period, three major Nepal-Tibet treaties of 1789, 1792 and 1856 A.D. defined Nepal's relation with her northern neighbours in new prospective which regulated the dynamics of Nepal-Tibet affairs. (1) But as they remained silent regarding the question of Nepalese Khacharas. The system perpetuated as before. However, by 20th century the Khachara problem became more complex due to unsympathetic attitude of both Nepal and Tibet and it needed co-ordinated restructuring of the system. It was further complicated by increasingly assertive policy of China towards Tibet. Nepal was obliged to readjust her policy towards Tibet vis-a-vis China after Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1950. Need for a basic format of a new diplomatic structure became necessary after China and India signed Panchasheel in 1954. So Nepal China peace and friendship treaty was concluded in 1955 and 1956 which not only recognized Tibet as the autonomous region of China but also abrogated all the privileges and rights enjoyed by Nepal in Tibet. This ended Khachara system as well.
Despite the fact that Nepal Tibet trade existed since Lichchhavi period, the number of Nepali traders settled in Tibet was meager due to several causes--long distance, geo-political condition and cultural differences. But the advantages of Pratap Malla's treaty not only enhanced the volume of trade but also encouraged traders to establish settlements in Tibet. The exceptional matrimonial prerogative and Khachara system gradually multiplied the number of Nepalese traders settled in Lhasa. Subsequently Nepalese settlement extended in other strategic parts of Tibet, such as Sighatse (Digarcha), Gyantse, Yatung, Kuti, Kerung etc., and their number gradually multiplied. It was generally accepted that Nepalese traders were not permitted to take their family, specially wives along with them to Tibet. Rahul (B.S. 1990:111) Sankrityayan has remarked that Nepalese merchants and even the officials were forbidden to take their wives to Tibet. Though no such preventive documentary evidence is available as yet, it is quite intriguing to note that none of the Nepalese merchants, envoys or officials were accompanied by their wives. There seems some plausible reasons for this trend. First of all, journey to Tibet was very difficult, and the situation was equally unfavourable. Secondly traders had to travel frequently from Bhot to Muglan and vice versa leaving their family behind in Tibet. Thirdly they could conveniently marry a Tibetan girl and such marriage could be advantageous to their trade also. So it is a fact that Nepalese woman seldom accompanied their spouses. Therefore most of the …
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Publication information: Article title: Nepalese in Tibet: A Case Study of Nepalese Half-Breeds (1856-1956). Contributors: Mishra, Tirtha P. - Author. Journal title: Contributions to Nepalese Studies. Volume: 30. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2003. Page number: 1+. © 2008 Research Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies. COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group.
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