Relationship between India and Nepal are very close and run through several decades. Still the relationship between the two is described to be that of mutual distrust and this is the reason why China has been able to make inroads into this Himalayan nation.
Formal relations between the Government of India and the Government of Nepal can be traced back to 1950 when the Peace and Friendship Treaty was signed. The highlights of the treaty include:
- The two Governments agree mutually to acknowledge and respect the complete sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each other (art 1).
- Both Governments undertake to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighboring State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two Governments (art 2).
- The Government of Nepal shall be free to import, from or through the territory of India, arms, ammunition or warlike material and equipment necessary for the security of Nepal (art 5).
- Each Government undertakes, in token of the neighborly friendship between India and Nepal, to give to the nationals of the other, in its territory, national treatment with regard to participation in industrial and economic development of such territory and to the grant of concessions and contracts relating to such development (art 6).
For more than half a century, this treaty was not modified and was a testimony to the close ties between the two nations. This treaty accorded a special relationship between India and Nepal that granted Nepal preferential economic and military treatment and also allowed Nepalese in India to enjoy the same rights as hose enjoyed by the Indian citizens.
The first cracks in the relationship appeared in 1996. The Mahakali Integrated Treaty was the most controversial treaty in the history of Indo-Nepali relationship. This treaty aimed to strike a water sharing deal between the two nations, but on the other hand, it divided Nepal into two distinct sections: those supporting it and those against it. This was the first time that Nepalese came out in the open against Indian hegemony. It is around this time that CPN(Maoists) declared the People’s War wherein India supported the Government of Nepal and supplied arms to the same.
After reconciliation between the warring factions, the elections in 2008 threw a complete surprise for India with overwhelming majority for CPN(Maoists). This gave China an opportunity to enter the Nepali diplomacy and submitted a draft of Peace and friendship Treaty between the two nations which will call for China not to attack Nepal and to respect sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal, as Nepal recognized the “One China” policy admitting in practice that Tibet was an inalienable part of China and Nepal would not allow that her territory be used for anti-Chinese activities.
The urgency in the efforts from India and China to bring Nepal under its fold, are brought out by the fact that eight different groups of delegates from China visited (August 15, 2008 to February 25, 2008) Nepal, whereas India’s delegates visited seven times during the same period. Compared to its actions during previous governments, China was more active towards the changing political scenario in Nepal. Similarly, mid-level Maoists leaders also visited China many times. Also by visiting China, the then PM of Nepal, Prachanda, broke the longstanding tradition of visiting India first, thus infuriating India and showing a clear tilt towards China.
The Maoists tried to write a new chapter in the history of Nepal and aimed to assert the sovereignty of Nepal and break away from the shackles of India. To do this, it identified China as a counterweight to Indian supremacy in Nepal. But even Prachanda has admitted that though there is some distrust between the two countries, he would like to resolve the issue through discussion and interaction.
With the resignation of Prachanda, India has heaved a sigh of relief since the new PM Madhav Kumar Nepal is expected to tread the middle path between India and China. It now depends on India on how to keep up the good ties with this nation which acts as a buffer zone between India and China for a small part of the border.
India should try not to be too close to Nepal because Nepal feels threatened by unusual closeness. Also all disputes must be solved by discussions keeping in mind mutual benefits rather than exclusive benefits for itself. Also India should now take notice of Nepal as an independent entity and stop taking it as its own subsidiary. An increase in confidence building measures will also help regain the lost confidence and cement the ties for the better.