Practical Consideration: An Immediate Exigency in the Indo-Nepal Relation

Amit Kumar Gupta

Cross border threats, which involve influx of counterfeit currencies, illegal arms, smuggling of narcotics, illegal wildlife trade and its derivatives and cross border terrorism, are gaining momentum along the 726 kilometer long porous India-Nepal border. It is a grave concern for India considering the present political instability in Nepal. Despite a broad agreement on not to allow respective territory to be used against one another and to form a Bilateral Consultative Group on security related issues between two Prime Ministers in August 2009, both countries have failed to sign the vital extradition treaty. The treaty has been delayed due to non compliance from Nepal government. It is believed that China has been strongly opposing the treaty for strategic reason.

In retrospective, the two countries entered into a strategic partnership by signing a treaty in 1950. The terms of which set the tone of the nature of relationship that they share at present. The border was opened for free movement of people and goods, and also close collaboration was sought in matters of defense and foreign affairs. However, certain provisions in the 1950 Friendship Treaty, such as Nepal need to take the permission of India before it could buy weapons from any other country, which has been recently looked upon with resentment by the Nepalese.

The resentments have been so strong that it reached the zenith of demanding to scrap the treaty. Subsequently, many Nepali leaders used the so called 'China card' against India with the hope that India would discard its highfaluting conduct towards the Himalayan country. These Nepali leaders conceive that India views China to be its adversary, as was evident in the Nehruvian speech, “We cannot allow that barrier [Himalayas] to be penetrated. Therefore, much as we appreciate the independence of Nepal, we cannot allow anything to go wrong in Nepal[…] because that would be a risk to our own security.”

On the same breadth, some Nepali think tanks also aware of over indulgence into the Chinese factor could prove detrimental to it as experience shows that Chinese extract more than they contribute, For that reason Nepal continues to maintain affable relations with India.

Hence, India has been playing the role of a big brother, giving Nepal as much largesse and favor as any other country would do. India has now agreed to condescend to Nepal’s much yearning solicitation of reviewing the 1950 Treaty and further strengthening the bilateral relationship. This step of reviewing the treaty is a very welcome step as the new treaty can address the contemporary issues that loom, and benefit both.

Among all contemporary issues, that concerns India, is that Nepal is being used as a transit point by terrorists. The security and intelligence agencies of India have gathered ample evidence of the Pakistan's engagements in pushing terrorists into India by using the porous India-Nepal border. The arrest of Mohammed Umer Madani, a top operative of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in June 2009 confirmed this claim. Madani headed the operation in Nepal, and is also said to be a close aid of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed. He provided Lashkar operatives with passports, cash and communications facilities that allowed them to travel from Pakistan to India through Kathmandu, and then also secured their escape. Other terrorist groups like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), among many others are also said to have been functioning from Nepal.

Nepal no-doubt is in no position to make concrete action in this regard, citing their political disturbances. Nonetheless, India is very capable of annihilating the terrorist network active in Nepal. The only requirement is the same will and determination which was used in flushing out the separatist group, United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), from Bhutan.

Seeking concerted global action against terrorism is a distant mirage. India should realize that its problems are its own, and not that of the world. It will have to take decisive actions on its own. Practical considerations limit India from taking any step against the terrorists’ working against it in Pakistan. But India can definitely do that in Nepal with the help of the Government in Kathmandu. Zero tolerance should be the tone from the Indian side. Whatever the political situation in Nepal, India cannot compromise with its security concerns. It can’t wait until the Maoist in Nepal develops reverence towards India. The Maoists have to be brought into confidence. And it is then and only then, the two countries will move forward, towards becoming friendly neighbors.

Author Note
Amit Kumar Gupta, Doctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi