Nepal-India Relations: Open Secret Diplomacy

By Bishnu Pathak, PhD


The United Maoist-led Government resigned as of May 4, 2009 and its resignation has been accepted. Almost three weeks back, the senior UML leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, who failed to win people’s trust in two constituencies he challenged in the last Constituent Assembly (CA) election, was unanimously elected as the second Prime Minister of republican Nepal on May 23, 2009. The largest party with 238 members out of 601, the united Maoists, boycotted the election, protesting against the move of the president. The ceremonial president reinstated the CoAS to let him continue in his office despite the executive decision. India has now become the butt of controversy among all players – political parties, media, civil society, etc. -both in and outside the land. This article attempts to address India’s role in Nepal, its next-door neighbor in the central Himalayas.

Problem 1: Treaty of Segowlee (Sagauli Treaty)

Nepal received a draft on December 2, 1815, but only signed it 93 days later (March 4, 1816). It is marked by territorial concessions. An excerpt of the treaty has been given below:

• Peace and friendship shall be perpetual between the East India Company and the Rajah of Nipal (art. 1)

• Nipal renounces all claim to the lands which were the subject of discussion between the two States before the war and acknowledges the right of the Company to sovereignty of those lands (art. 2).

• Nipal cedes the following territories to the Company (art 3) such as

• The whole of the low lands between the Rivers Kali and Rapti (art 3.1).

• The whole of the low lands (except Butwal) lying between the Rapti and the Gunduck (art 3.2).

• The whole of the low lands between the Gunduck and Coosah (art 3.3).

• All the low lands between the Rivers Mitchee and the Teestah (art 3.4).

• All the territories within the hills eastward of the River Mitchee including the lands of Nagree and the Pass of Nagarcote leading from Morung into the hills, together with the territory lying between that Pass and Nagree. The aforesaid territory shall be evacuated by the Gurkah troops within forty days from this date (art 3.5).

• The Chiefs and Barahdars whose interest shall suffer by the alienation of the lands, the British Government agrees to
settle pensions to the aggregate amount of two lakhs of rupees per annum on such Chiefs (art 4).

• Nipal renounces for himself, his heirs, and successors, all claim lying to the west of the River Kali and engages
never to have any concern with those countries or the inhabitants thereof (art 5).

• Nipal shall not disturb the territories of Rajah of Sikkim; but agrees, if any differences shall arise between them shall
be referred to the arbitration of the British Government (art 6).

• Nipal hereby engages never to take or retain in his service any British subject, nor the subject of any European and
American State, without the consent of the British Government (art 7).

•To secure/improve the relations of amity and peace hereby established between the two States, it is agreed that
accredited Ministers from each shall reside at the Court of the other (art 8).

• This nine article treaty shall be ratified by the Rajah of Nipal within fifteen days from this date, and the ratification
shall be delivered to Lt. Colonel Bradshaw and deliver to the Rajah the ratification of the Governor-General within
twenty days, or sooner (art 9).

Observation: Buddhi Narayan Shrestha states, “The result of the treaty was that Nepal lost almost-one third of its territory on the east, south, and west.” Nepal lost its unified and expended land Tista in the east, Kangara in the west, and nearly the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna in the
south1. Sugauli has been called an unequal treaty, where Nepal only lost but the British Empire gained a huge territorial advantage, despite the equality, mutual friendliness, and understanding language within the treaty. The treaty was signed unwillingly by Nepal. Budhi Narayan writes:

“The British East India Company prepared the draft of the treaty with the signature of Lieutenant Colonel Paris Bradshaw on December 2, 1815. It was sent to Nepal with a 15-day ultimatum for counter-signature and asked to return it to them. Nepal did not like the terms and conditions of the treaty, so it did not sign within that period. The British then spread rumor that they were launching attack on the capital, Kathmandu, and
even carried out troop movement to show Nepal that it was serious. When Nepal thought that the attack on the capital was inevitable, it was forced to accept the treaty. As it was a treaty imposed on Nepal, the King and high ranking officials did not want to sign it. But as Nepal was under duress to accept its terms, Chandrashekhar Upadhyaya, who had accompanied Pandit Gajaraj Mishra to the British camp at Sugauli, put
his signature on March 4, 1816 and gave it to them. As Nepal had signed the treaty under coercion after 93 days against the 15-day ultimatum, the treaty came into effect from that day2.”

The British Governor General had a fear that Nepal might not implement the treaty fully, as the king of Nepal had not signed or followed article 9. The treaty had cumulative effects, particularly on sovereignty, due to the final decision over any conflict arising between Sikkim and Nepal resting with the British. The treaty did not last forever as per article 3, as Nepal restored its sovereignty over the plains between the Koshi to Rapti within nine months of the signing3.

By the Sugauli treaty, Nepal lost 120,394 sq. km. and was confined to 147,181 sq. km. The present clamor for greater Nepal is the concept of gaining the 45 percent more land – what had been lost by the Sugauli treaty. Wikipedia states that greater Nepal is a concept referring to the state of Nepal extending beyond present boundaries to include territories ceded to the British East India Company under the Sugauli Treaty that ended the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1814 – 16. Some
Madhes-Terai land was restored to Nepal in 1816 under a revision of the treaty and more territory was returned in 1865 to thank Nepal for helping to suppress the Indian rebellion of 18574. The idea of a modern Nepal or ‘greater Nepal’ covering the same territories is raised by some Nepali nationalist groups5.” In Prachanda’s last speech to Constituent Assembly (CA) in the capacity of Prime Minister he said Nepal has remained a semi-colonized state ever since the country signed
the Sugauli Treaty with British India and that Nepal has “failed in the historic necessity to redefine and develop bilateral relations as per the [recent] change.”6

6 Kathmandu Post. May 23, 2009. Relations with India Need Redefining. Kathmandu: Kantipur Publication




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