No change in fundamental issues of peace & friendship treaty: Indian stakeholdersThough India has agreed in principle to revise the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Nepal, there is a uniform view among India’s ruling parties, opposition and diplomats that fundamental issues of the treaty should not be altered.
Though India has agreed in principle to revise the 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship with Nepal, there is a uniform view among India’s ruling parties, opposition and diplomats that fundamental issues of the treaty should not be altered.
In the first joint meeting of the Eminent Persons Group held in Kathmandu, Nepal had proposed a revision, to which the Indian side agreed in principle. But there are perceptions among Indian leaders that if there are any specific grievances of Nepal about the treaty they could be accommodated without changing its fundamental clauses.
The basic characters, according to the Indian side, are the provision requiring India’s consent for Nepal to purchase defence hardware, recruitment of Gorkha soldiers, free movement of people between the two countries and preference for India in the development of Nepal’s natural resources.
Though there are debates among the parties, media and civil society in Nepal, there is not much discussion in India on the issue.
“The fundamental character of Nepal-India relations as set out in the immediate aftermath of India’s independence should not be altered if any changes are made in the treaty,” said Mani Shankar Aiyar, a leader of the Indian National Congress. “There should not be unilateral proposal from Nepal. If there are any issues they should be resolved through mutual understanding,” said Aiyar.
Nepal has been raising this issue since 1993 but there had been no proper response from India. This is the first time the Indian government agreed to form the semi-governmental autonomous body to suggest ways to revise the treaty.
If Nepal has any issues regarding the treaty, they should be resolved, said Ajit Kumar, a member of the Nepal cell of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. “This issue should be sorted out through diplomatic talks between the two countries instead of making it a political one,” he said.
Nepal in particular wants to change the clause requiring India’s consent to purchase defence hardware from another country. The logic is that Nepal should be free to buy defence logistics from any country, which the Indian side has yet to agree with.
“First, there is an open border so that India should know defence hardware that it purchases from other countries. Second, Nepal would import such hardware through Indian Territory. This means weapons could be misused in Indian soil,” said Prof SD Muni. He added that it would be impossible to change only those provisions that Nepal thinks unsuitable to it or those that make it feel unequal with India as a result of the treaty.
The Indian side, however, is requesting Nepal to present a specific proposal for a revision to the treaty.