Victims of a treaty gone wrong?

One of the great fall outs of the recent visit of the Indian PM to Nepal was reviewing the Indo- Nepal treaty of peace and friendship. This has been a constant request from Nepal and has been used by the Nepali elite for anti-India bashing. It is thus in India’s interest to review this treaty.

The atmosphere when this treaty was signed between the two nations has changed, and so have the circumstances for the two nations. There needs to be a reality check of situation on the ground, as also, the hopes and aspirations of the people of these two countries. There is a need to clear this baggage of recent history keeping the past in view, and looking at the future, while embracing the current situation, as also, ensuring that the two nations live in peace and harmony, while respecting their cultural harmony and enjoy the special historical relationship.

India and Nepal have excellent people to people contact, Jeet Bahadur the PM’s foster son is a living example, yet poor government to government understanding, and the treaty of 1950 allows them to harness each other’s citizens. 

Nepal is a source of the great Gorkha regiment of the army, but these men do not serve under the 1950 treaty but the 1947 Tripartite Agreement, between the United Kingdom, India and Nepal concerning the rights of Gurkhas in military service.

The 1950 treaty essentially consists of ten articles. The first four articles are foreign policy centric and Nepal feels it curtails its freedom and allows undue advantage to India. Nepal has charted an independent policy of keeping India and China equidistant, this has upset New Delhi which is very legitimate. Article five allows Nepal to   import, through Indian Territory, arms, ammunition or warlike material and equipment necessary as it deems fit. China is now trying to provide Nepal this facility of a port, thus jeopardizing India’s special status.

Article six and seven are people centric and allows reciprocal rights to the nationals of one country in the territories of the other the same privileges in the matter residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and privileges of a similar nature. These two articles are people centric but have also become a bone of contention. Article 8 cancels all previous treaties, while article 9 deals with the date and article 10 give a one year dead line for change terminated by either party.

At the time of signing the treaty in 1950 there were only two stake holders, the two respective governments. In their respective judgments’ they thought well of each other’s people, however, foreign policy wise the stakes were loaded in India’s favor. The Gorkha tradition of soldiering was ensured by the 1947 Tripartite Agreement. Article 6 and 7 allowed these people to settle down in India and own property as has been the historical precedence. Similarly across the border are Madhesi people who are of Indian origin but citizens of Nepal. Historically there has been a free flow of people in these mountainous regions, but the Westphalia states created boundaries, and now there is documentation, Adhar cards, National Population Register, voter identity cards, and the fact that Gorkha from a nation became a tradition in Nepal and an  identity sometime after the treaty of Treaty of Sauguali signed on 02.12.1815. Today Gorkha is an identity in India and the one crore twenty five lac plus people who are citizens of India want a state, to differentiate them from those who come in by paras, six and seven of the 1950 treaty.

They are mixed up with migrant labor who come in search of work, thus there is a mix between Gorkha and Nepali, how does it matter feels an outsider they are both chinky eyed.  It matters because identity is the core, the very essence of a person’s being and even if one person’s identity is affected the nation needs to take note, as every drop fills an ocean, and a chain is as weak and strong as the weakest link.

In order to sort out things the government of India in 1988 issued a Gazette Notification on issue of Citizenship issue of Gorkhas. This granted them citizenship for those who came prior to 1950 and the last census was held in 1931 because of the war in 1941, and how does one prove in 2006 that his parents came before 1950.

The problem area remains for the stake holders as now as far as the treaty is concerned there are four stake holders, the two governments, the Gorkhas, and the people of Nepal.

To my mind there is the fifth stake holder the Gorkha soldier. He while in service is taken as an Indian citizen, but those who go back to Nepal become citizens of that country. Those who are ready to lay down their life need to be given a choice for nation building here in India. This ambiguity needs to be sorted out.

India must maintain an open border with Nepal but there needs to be a monitoring process. There also needs to be documentation for those who come in as migrants. There should be a special process for citizens of Nepal, and not one process good enough for SARRC region.

The Nepali does not upset the demographic divide. The identity of the Gorkha people needs to be ensured; currently it seems they are children of lesser gods. Gorkhas have never been good at vote bank politics, spread thin over the hill states, they lack political punch, and thus in India vote bank politics brings political identity.

India needs to take all people on board and ensure the treaty satisfies all sections of stake holders, and this can only be done by being magnanimous and not bureaucratic.

The author is a retired brigadier
Next Story
Share it