Nepal PM at a business meeting
Modi and Oli have much more important work to do | PTI
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Intelligence cooperation, not border identity cards, must be the solution to improve the special relationship between India and Nepal.

An eminent persons group (EPG) set up by the prime ministers of India and Nepal two years ago has agreed to overhaul the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship, which means that the end is nigh for the “special relationship” between the two neighbours.

If the report is accepted, Nepal will be allowed to buy arms and ammunition from a third country (read: China) without having it routed through India, as stated in Clause 5 of the 1950 Treaty.

Second, the “equal treatment” clause that has governed the relationship, in terms of buying property or engaging in trade and commerce, will be abolished. Nepalis working in India – there are an estimated seven lakh – will have to get special permits, as will Indians in Nepal.

Third, India and Nepal will have no need to inform each other of any “serious friction or misunderstanding” that either of them has with any of the neighbours.

The finalisation of the India-Nepal report comes soon after Nepal PM K.P. Oli returned home from China, where the Chinese leadership promised to loosen its purse-strings and even fund a railway from Tibet to Kathmandu over the high Himalaya.

The EPG will now submit this report to their respective governments. If both Delhi and Kathmandu accept it, it will amount to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Problems with proposed changes

Certainly, it is nobody’s case that the 1950 treaty should be retained. After all, India and Bhutan have also rewritten their 1950-era agreement, in keeping with modern times. Both Nepal and India have undergone a massive transformation in these 68 years – Nepal has moved from a monarchy to a spirited republic, while India remains a rambunctious democracy.

The problem with the proposed changes is that they call for giving identity cards to those who travel across the 1,850 km-long open border. Now because of the special cultural and religious relationship between the two countries, the so-called “roti-beti ka rishta”, families get married on both sides of the border. They may eat breakfast in India and dinner in Nepal, they shop, go to school and carry out day-to-day activities in both countries without a second thought.

To transform the open border – an ideal that all of South Asia must strive for – and put thousands and thousands of people into more than a spot of bother because of the worsening security situation can hardly be the solution.

Imagine the long queues, the accompanying harassment, and the ensuing bad blood. Instead of revamping intelligence cooperation, which would ensure that the bad guys don’t take advantage of the generosity of people, it will be a sad day if India and Nepal decide to shut down that openness.

Certainly, the discontent will go up manifold. Remember the unfinished rebellion in the Madhes region three years ago? Imagine if the discontent spreads beyond Madhes and across the entire open border between India and Nepal, including the region bordering Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Uttarakhand.

Find a way

A large section of the Nepali establishment wants to be rid of the impression that just because it is still largely a Hindu country, its interests are allied with Hindu-majority India. Nothing, of course, could be further from the truth in either Kathmandu or Delhi. Nation-states don’t look at religion when they make decisions in the national interest.

Prime Minister Oli must improve ties with China if he so wishes – getting a railway from Kathmandu to Lhasa, and onwards to Beijing, would be a dream come true. Several Indians would definitely take that train.

Even if Sri Lanka is right now suffering from the nightmare of extremely high Chinese interest rates on loans – nearly 6.5 per cent, according to the The New York Times– Kathmandu must avail of the opportunities that a rising power like China offers.

After all, that is the exact argument that India makes – that it simply cannot ignore the 200-pound dragon next door – when it seeks to right topsy-turvy ties with Beijing.

It is imperative that Delhi and Kathmandu talk to each other and find a way out. Terrorism is a reality of our times, but documentation and identity cards are not.  As the largest country in South Asia, India must apply the Nepal model to the rest of its neighbours, and not diminish what is already working.

So when the EPG report is handed over to the two prime ministers, Oli and Narendra Modi, they must ensure that it goes into the bottom drawer of a cupboard in a room far away. Modi and Oli have much more important work to do.

Check out My543, our comprehensive report card of all Lok Sabha MPs.


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9 Comments Share Your Views

9 COMMENTS

  1. The 1950 treaty between India and Nepal, does not have any provision for modification. It has only a provision to cancel the whole treaty with prior notice either by India or Nepal. So what this EPG is doing goes against the treaty.
    So the only possibility is to cancel it completely, as the provision in the treaty allow,s and then make another completely new treaty.

  2. While it has been the European powers who had unleashed almost all the vicious wars mankind has known , many of these same enemy counties are now members of the European Union and signatories to the Schengen agreement that allows their nationals to freely move all over Europe without the hassle of a visa. By all accounts that should have the system also for South Asia, most notably for Nepal and India, had it not been for the fact that India, with its feudal mindset and a history of colonial subjugation have treated all these smaller neighbours as if they own them and expected them to do the bidding of these handful of feudally minded politicians and their colonially trained Babus. With China’s arrival on the scene during the last decade in particular, all of these small countries went into its embrace for the sheer experience of freeing themselves from the torturous grip of these Indian overlords. While India, now out of its newfound empathy, warns all these countries of high cost of China’s loans, for them, that has never been the consideration which was only about countervailing India. While Pakistan, Sri Lanaka and Bangladesh accomplished this feat some time ago, Nepal and the Maldives are now going through the process, the one with the latter even more embarrassingly for India. Even now, the Indian author of the article writes about the “unfinished rebellion” of the Madhesh in Nepal, whereas, as a journalist, he must be in the know that the so-called rebellion was part of the larger and longstanding Indian design to isolate Nepal’s southern plains from the rest of the country. Those first generation Indian immigrant, self-declared “Bharatbadi” Madhesi politicians, who were at the forefront of that so-called rebellion, have been nothing more than India’s Trojan horses in Nepal, who were even defiantly unpatriotic when they sat at Raxaul border to help their handlers in the South Block execute the extended blockade against what should have been their own country too in 2015. While, with China’s arrival, PM Modi had to go through the humiliation of withdrawing the blockade unconditionally, these Madhesi Indian agents now have a fate akin to those of Paksitani Muslims in Bangladesh after Pakistan’s withdrawal in 1971. They are now groveling at PM Oli’s feet to get into the government whatever the term. So, to reboot Nepal-India ties along the lines of Schengen agreement, India has much to do to allay the neighbours’ fears and distrust.

  3. Good fenses make good neighbors. Nepalese and Indians should introduce ID cards. Recording who comes and go is good and is not a biggle hassle. I have seen it work nicely in Southeast Asian countries.

  4. Nepal will realize when they get cazed by China like Pakistan and Srilanka.
    India is free destination for Nepalis where they come at will and stay there as long as they want.
    I advise Nepali citizen and their government to look around and decide.

  5. First of I would like to make it clear that, so called madeshi is not a tribal and original race in Nepal. They are imigrants from Bihar and up, now their number is big did not allow them to make separate country or talk about that, just tracing back most of them are not even 20 years old imigrants. So you Indians poking nose of Nepal in granting original citizenship to these new imigrants is not at all acceptable. Next your country India’s hipocricy , you doing trade with China and bringing FDI is ok not the other doing same is ok for you. First get out from your colonial mindset and big brother attitude. Your governments attitude towards Nepal is alienating it far from you, every Nepali knows how you are micromanaging Nepal and disturbing it’s stability. To make good relation your country should close border and start issuing passport and visa system so do Nepal’s government. There is no such relation called roti beti, that’s just cooked up politucal word to win vote of new imigrants from Bihar and up. Becoz of their presence crime has gone up, rape has gone up and number of other things. I myself being from the terai region knows the attitude of these fuc* ing imigrants, one capturing land at border another capturing neighbours lands after coming in the country of Nepal. So sir the fuc* up and get out of Nepal.

  6. Connectivity with China is no more optional for Nepal. It has become a compulsory move in a situation of ‘Do or die’. This strategic move is to protect its sovereignty and deal with any Indian threat that may arise in future again.

  7. Hahaha!! Who is this joker writer??? Here is my opinion to the writer. India will be kicked in its teeth and beaten with stick and water by all south Asian countries. Every neighbour country knows by now that India is a snake, thus should be stayed away from. India is arrogant, India should be cut down in size.
    Nepal should invade India with help of Pakistan, Maldives, srilanka and China. Indians are too easy to win. Maybe we can throw Isis in India. All neighbours countries are happy when India is attacked with terrorism because that is what India does to its neighbour rest of the time. Hahahaha. Indian media is so worthless and meaningless and childesss, that’s why this is my answer in the same way.

  8. First, the big picture. The Monroe doctrine no longer applies to South Asia. It will take a little getting used to, as each one of our neighbours builds up a large, hopefully mainly economic, relationship with China. Getting into a race to hand out goodies will be a waste of our precious resources. Our engagement with countries like Nepal and Sri Lanka should benefit both sides proportionately. 2. As far as Nepal is concerned, in a region where even purely symbolic Saarc summits cannot be held, the existing open border we share with Nepal becoming a model for the rest of South Asia lies far in the future. However, the freedom citizens of both countries enjoy to travel and work in each other’s territory is precious. It will be a big loss to both sides if it ends. Being big brother means never having to say sorry, but we should find a graceful way to do so for the blockade. That was a thoughtless act which has cost us the goodwill of the average citizen of Nepal.

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