Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Nepal-India Relations Gaining Ground

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

Nepal-India Relations Gaining Ground

Article excerpt

No two countries of the world are as close as Nepal and India. The open border system between the two countries has generated immense opportunities for the movement of people from one country to the other. By providing national treatment to the citizens of one country in the other, the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Nepal and India has allowed each other's citizens to engage in business, trade and several other economic activities, which is unique in itself.

By virtue of the 1950 Treaty, people benefit a lot from gainful employment in each other's country. They also move to the other country hassle free for education, health, pilgrimage, and other purposes. Cross border marriages taking place between the two countries on a massive scale make the relations between the two countries younger each successive year. It is on this account that the people-to-people relations between the two countries have always remained most cordial, despite the ups and downs in the relations at the government level. In view of this uniqueness, it is often said that the relations between the two countries is deeper than the Indian Ocean and higher than the Himalayas.

However, the Chinese inroads in Tibet in 1950 changed the geo-strategic relations in the region. Soon afterwards, Nepal took major initiative to sign a security pact with India through the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and allowed the Indian military to guard its northern frontier to check any possible encroachment of its territory from the north. Each country agreed to support the other in case of any threat from the third world countries. Nepal's Prime Minister Matrika Prasad Koirala even went to the extent of saying that India's defence was Nepal's defence.1

However, the honeymoon in Nepal-India relations discontinued after the death of King Tribhuvan in 1955. Nepal established diplomatic relations with China in 1956. Soon afterwards Nepal's tilt towards China started growing. Nepal accepted the Chinese claim over Tibet and the status of Nepal's embassy in Lhasa was reduced to a consulate general office. Each country set up embassies in the other country. In 1961, Nepal allowed China to construct a road between Kathmandu and Lhasa. Also, during the 1962 War between India and China, Nepal adopted a neutral position despite its security pact with India.

Subsequently, Nepal imported sophisticated arms from China without any consultation with India, twice - first, in 1988-89 and second, in 2005. More recently in March this year, Nepal allowed China to extend its railway link from the Nepal-China border in Kerung to Kathmandu and further to Pokhara and Lumbini, which is at stone's throw distance from the NepalIndia border. It is well known that China is likely to bring its railway up to Kerung by 2020, which is closer to the Nepal-China border. In return, China allowed Nepal to use its sea port in Guangzhou for trade with the third world countries.2

Considering the geo-strategic importance of the Chinese railway inside the Nepalese territory, China appears to be impatient to work on this project. Therefore, the CAMC Engineering Company Ltd of China has already prepared a feasibility report for an electric railway line of 121 km from Kerung (China) to Kathmandu, apart from a 164 km railway line between Kathmandu and Pokhara and a 152 km railway line between Kurintar and Lumbini. Details have also been given in the report about the length of the tunnels and railway stations in all such routes.3 The current Nepalese budget also allocated funds for the detailed project report for the Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu-PokharaLumbini rail network so that the construction work could begin in the next two years time.4

It is not a secret that the present leadership in Nepal wants to reduce India's influence in Nepal. Relations between the two countries have touched its lowest ebb. As such, the Nepal government signed ten agreements with China during Prime Minister Oli's visit to this country early this year; recalled its ambassador from New Delhi; and cancelled the visit of Nepalese President Bidya Bhandari to India. …

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