As close neighbours, India and Nepal share unique ties of friendship and cooperation characterised by an open border and deep-rooted people-to-people contacts of kinship and culture. Friendship Treaty, 1950 forms the bedrock of the special relations that exist between India and Nepal. According to Ministry of External Affairs, nearly 8 million Nepalese citizens live and work in India. However, the recent developments are creating fissures in Indo-Nepal relations.
What are the issues?
1) New Constitution of Nepal :
Nepal has adopted a new constitution in the year 2015. This new constitution has a contentious clause – children of any women marrying a non-Nepali SAARC country citizen will not get citizenship. Obviously, this is against India’s interest and India objected it officially.
2 ) Madhesis issue :
There are majorly 3 communities in Nepal namely, Hill Chetris, Madhesis, Tharu’s Janjatis. Out of them Hill Chetris are politically and economically effluent community. After the adoption of the new constitution Nepal has divided the country into 7 states. It manage to divide the country in such a way that the majority population are Hill Chetris in each state. This has created a semi – civil war kind of situation in Nepal. As a result, many violent activities erupted in Nepal. Because of the violence, out migration of Madhesis into India had happened. And the bordered states like Uttarpradesh and Bihar which already has peak population has to further suffer.
3) Trade, economic and energy issues :
In protest of the constitutional discrimination strategic bridge was blocked by Madhesis. As a result, wrong perception has developed in Nepal that India is supporting Madhesis in the blockade. Even Nepal has stopped using of Indian Rupee in Nepal.There is also China factor that it set up a rail support in Nepal, it also has a Trade Transit Deal with Nepal and also helped Nepal in constructing West Seti Dam Project etc. In terms of energy it had an agreement with China in 1971 to produce 450 MW of power. These all factors has tilted Nepal towards China.
4) Kalapani Issue :
Kalapani is located in the Uttarakand – Nepal border. The area is the largest territorial dispute between Nepal and India consisting of at least 37000 hectares of land in the High Himalayas. Recently on May 8, 2020 Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has inaugurated Darchula-Lipulekh pass link road cutting across Kalapani. This triggered the problem for Nepal. Nepal claim that Kali river is the marker of boundary of Nepal according to Treaty of Sugauli , 1816 signed between Gurkha rulers of Khatmandu and East India Company after Anglo-Nepal War (1814 -1816). The dispute is mainly because of the varying interpretation of the origin of river Kali. Nepal claim that territory east of Kali river belongs to Nepal. And India says river actually takes the name Kali near Kalapani.
Way Forward :
We can select our friendly countries but we cannot select our neighbour countries. In this aspect India adopted Neighbourhood First Policy giving the first priority to the neighbouring countries. And it should build confidence building mechanism, increase people-to-people contacts, aid in the development projectsof Nepal. This will make Nepal to trust India and strengthen the longlast relations.