1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship

The 1950 India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship is a bilateral pact between the Government of Nepal and Government of India aimed at establishing a close strategic relationship between the two South Asian neighbors. The treaty was inked at Kathmandu on July 31, 1950 by then Prime Minister of Nepal Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana and the then Indian ambassador to Nepal, Chadreshwar Narayan Singh.

The treaty permits free movement of people and goods between the two countries and a close relationship and collaboration on matters of defence and foreign affairs. After an unsuccessful attempt in 1952 of the Communist Party of Nepal to seize power with Chinese backing, India and Nepal intensified military and intelligence cooperation under treaty provisions, and India sent a military mission to Nepal.

The treaty has 10 articles. It envisages for eternal peace and friendship between the two nations and there is a bilateral agreement to recognize and respect the complete sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of each other.

According to Articles 6 and 7, the two governments agree to grant, on a reciprocal basis, to the citizens of one country in the territories of the other, the same privileges in the matter of residence, ownership of property, participation in trade and commerce, movement and other privileges of a similar nature. This enables the Nepali and Indian nationals to move freely across the border without passport or visa, live and work in either country and own property or do trade or business in either country. There is a significant number of Nepalis (in millions) living, owning property and working or doing business in India as a beneficial aspect of the treaty for Nepal. Similarly, many Indians live, own property and do business in Nepal.

The norm of free trans-border movement of people was there even before the 1816 Treaty of Suguali. This became somewhat restricted after 1816. After the 1860 treaty, Prime Minister Jung Bahadur allowed Indians to acquire and sell land in the Tarai and invited businessmen, traders and landlords from India. The British also kept the Nepal-India border open.

The Nepal king enacted Citizenship Act of 1952 that permitted Indians to immigrate to Nepal and acquire Nepalese citizenship.

Background

The Himalayan Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal borders northern India in the south, east and west. During British regime in India, Nepal’s ties with India were governed by the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli.

The 1923 “Treaty of perpetual peace and friendship” replaced the former treaty. After the independence of India in 1947, the two nations wanted to create close strategic, commercial and cultural ties. The emergence of Communist China in 1949 and the subsequent invasion of Tibet escalated security concerns in both India and Nepal — while India had maintained good relations with Tibet, Nepal apprehended that China would back the Communist Party of Nepal and sponsor a communist revolution toppling the state. With increasing concerns over the security threat to India presented by Communist China, which was seen as seeking to projecting power and influence over Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan and border disputes with India, the latter sought to bolster its “Himalayan frontier” by forging an alliance on defence and foreign affairs with Nepal.

Criticism of the treaty

Some Nepalese criticize this treaty by calling it unequal. They claim that Nepalese law does not allow an open border and Indians cannot buy lands and properties in Nepal and carry out businesses in their names. They claim that the 1950 treaty was signed by undemocratic rulers of Nepal and can be revoked by a one year notice. Some segments of Nepal disagree with the treaty as they often regard it as a violation of its sovereignty.

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