India and Nepal, on 31st July, 1950, signed a Treaty of Friendship and Peace. Seven decades later, clamour is now growing louder in Nepal to “revise” the pact to reflect “new changes and realities”. The call for revision was once again raised during the India-Nepal Joint Commission Meeting held this year. This came nearly seven years after both sides agreed to “review, adjust and update” the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950, during Prime Minister first visit to Nepal in 2014.
Features of the treaty
- This treaty acts as the bedrock of the relation between the two nations. The treaty extends mutual peace, friendship and sovereignty to each other while it accepts non-interference in each other’s territory.
- As per the treaty, Nepal would consult India whenever they undertake any arms imports from any nation other than India.
- The treaty lets the nations extend national treatment to each other.
- The national treatment clause also extends for industrial and economic development.
- Citizens are empowered to the same privileges for property, trade and residence and movement in both countries. That means, a Nepali
- Citizen can buy property in India while and Indian citizen can do so in Nepal
- an Indian citizen can reside anywhere in Nepal and a Nepali citizen too enjoys the right to residence in India under national treatment.
- Another important point of the treaty is open borders. As per this point, Indian citizens can move to Nepal without the need of a visa and vice versa.
- As per the treaty, either party can ask for a change in the treaty whenever demanded.
Critical Issues in Indo–Nepal Treaty
- The Treaty favours Nepal more than India, but Nepal still has certain issues with it.
- Nepal initially complained that when the treaty was concluded in 1950, India concluded the treaty with a Rana ruler. Nepal alleges that India signed the treaty with the Rana who had become unpopular.
- Certain sections in Nepal also alleged that the way treaty was signed signified that India considered Nepal as a small state and not an equal state.
- The fact that the treaty was signed on India’s behalf by someone who was in lesser designation compared to the Prime Minister of Nepal was seen by Kathmanduas an insult and disrespect for protocol.
- Besides, Nepal has always had reservations with Articles 2, 6 and 7 of the treaty. Article 2 states that both governments should “inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighbouring State likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two Governments”.
- Articles 6 and 7 stipulate India and Nepal will give the same privileges of economic activity, employment, resident and ownership of property to each other’s nationals in their territory.
- In 1994, the UML had successfully generated an anti-India plank in the election. Since then, raising anti-India slogans and alleging that the Indo–Nepal Treaty of 1950 favours India more than Nepal has become a norm for gaining political mileage.
- Many times, Nepali political parties have demanded a change in the treaty.
- Whenever Nepal has asked for a change in the treaty, India has accepted the Nepali request, but, absence of consensus in Nepal on issues that need revision prevents any meaningful engagement about the issue. This demand for revision of the treaty was recently also raised during Indian the PM’s visit to Nepal in 2014.
- India was seen interfering in the internal political matters of Nepal by brokering its first steps towards achieving democracy with the ousting of the autocratic Rana regime and restoring the monarchy.
- Nepal was also questioned, for establishing defence ties with its northern neighbor China.
- Matters only got worse during a stiff economic blockade between India and Nepal due to the agitation by the Madhesi population there over Nepal’s Constitution promulgated in 2015.
- The blockade led to the restriction of food and essential supplies from India to Nepal and New Delhi was blamedfor steering the agitation.
- Under his ‘Gujral Doctrine’, former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral assured all neighbours including Nepal that New Delhi will not interfere in their internal matters.
- In August 1997, India and Nepal held a round of discussions to review the treaty keeping in mind Nepal’s growing resentment but it was never taken further by successive Indian governments until PM Modi promised to look into the matter during his Kathmandu visit in 2014. no formal steps have been taken to review it.
- “The issue needs to be discussed keeping all stakeholders in mind and not just by a few who are aiming to do this for narrow political gains.”