Merging Nepal and India as New Nepal
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
Nepal communist party (Maoist) senior leader, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has expressed his feeling publicly at a programme organized by young industrialists on 11 May 2008 that Nepal-India open border should be regulated, otherwise the two countries should be ‘merged.’ He further said “Nepal’s development is not possible with open border, either it must be managed or let it be merged.” Presenting his logic, he further stressed that either it should be merged or it would mean that Nepal was not an independent nation-state.
In course of his speech, Dr. Bhattarai repeated that the open border with India is one of the hindrances of Nepal’s industrialization. Put his view to the industrialists, he said- ‘the main reason of Nepalese industries knock down is the open border with India, so the border must be regulated’ (Nepal Samacharpatra Daily, May 11, 2008:1).
During his address to the Nepalese young entrepreneurs, he used the word ‘merge’ three times and he pointed out four times the need to regulate the open border of Nepal with India.
Now there may be inquisitiveness, in what sense Dr. Baburam Bhattarai used the word ‘merge.’ And what is the meaning of ‘merge’ to him in literal and political terms. In the other side of the coin, why he is so interested to transform Nepal’s open border into a regulated one.
Let me take up the second issue first. Truly speaking, it is not exactly clear as to since when and how the people in both the countries began entering each other’s country openly, directly and without any hindrances. However, it can be said that as soon as Nepal restored four districts of Banke, Bardiya, Kailalai and Kanchanpur as “New Territory” from the then British India on 1 November 1860, open border system gradually came into practice between the two countries. In fact, such an open movement across the border cannot be seen as operative after the Sugauli treaty was signed on 4 March 1816. But it can be safely concluded that after the return of the “New Territory” to Nepal, open border system was started to be in practice unknowingly between the two countries.
It seems that the British government started to keep the India-Nepal border open for two particular reasons. First, it wanted to make sure that sturdy Nepali youths might travel to India without any restrictions to get recruited in the Gorkha Regiment of the British Army. Military officers of the East India Company were fully familiar with qualities such as bravery, militancy and obedience of the Gorkha (Nepali) soldiers, and wanted to recruit them for making the force more powerful. Second, the East India Company had its hidden interest of exporting British and Indian commercial goods to Tibet via Nepal without any restrictions, and also importing Nepali timber, forest products, herbal medicines, plants, hides and skins and other raw materials to India.
Presently, open border system is creating some serious problems for both the countries. Criminals commit crime in one frontier and they cross the international border easily. They hide in the other side of the border. On the other hand, India keeps on blaming Nepal that the Urdu teachers teach in Madrasa of the Nepalese frontier. They make plan to create disturbances to India. Nepal has not been sufficiently watchful of their movement. In response, Nepal tried to convince India many times that Nepal is very much alert on this matter and there is no such activity by the teachers of Madrasa. Eventually, India is not yet satisfied.
Second, many people have blamed open border policy for the hijacking of an Indian Airlines aircraft with flight No. IC-814, which headed to Delhi from Kathmandu on 24 December 1999 from Tribhuvan International Airport. The plane was ultimately force landed at Kandhar of Afganisthan and the passengers on board were detained for a week. After this incident, a control mechanism has been enforced with regard to operating air services between the two countries, considering that the plane was hijacked because of the open border between them. Under the new system, a compulsory provision requiring the passport or identity card has been made for the air passengers.
It is memorable that the hijackers made the passengers as prisoners at Kandhar for complete one week. During that period, almost all Indian media blamed an innocent Nepali passenger on board Gajendra Tamrakar, as one of the hijackers. When the hijackers ultimately freed all the passengers, including Gajendra Tamrakar, they were brought to Delhi. A press meet was organized by the government of India at Indira Gandhi International Airport. Tamrakar presented his clarification and narrated all the matters mentioning that he was no more than a captive passenger into the hijacked airplane. At that time, it was proved that the blame was totally false and baseless. But it is the point to be noted that Indian authority did not speak a single word of excuse that an innocent Nepali passenger was psychologically tortured unnecessarily.
Third, I would like to highlight that no mention has been made free movement or open border in the Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty-1950. But it is only mentioned, the movement will be made on the reciprocal basis. Portion of Article 7 says “India and Nepal agree to grant, on reciprocal basis, to the nationals of one country in the territories of the other, movement and privileges of a similar nature.” In this context, the then Councilor, Sanjaya Verma of Indian Embassy, Kathmandu had said “In the 1950 Treaty, not a single point speaks that there must be an open border system between Nepal and India, but open border should be best construed as a symbol of intimate bond between the two neighbours (Space Times Daily, July 2, 2004 page 6). So what should be understood that there is not a single clause in any of the treaties, agreements, memorandum and understanding reached between Nepal and India that inscribes open border system. It is only an unofficial practice which has kept on going for centuries by both the nations.
Fourth, one high ranking Chinese authority has said- ‘The most important step is to regulate or control the unrestricted international border between Nepal and India to stop the unwanted activities’ (NEPAL Weekly Magazine, July 6, 2008: 29).
Realizing all these factors, Dr. Bhattarai might have come into conclusion that Nepal-India open border should be regulated and well managed to enhance Nepal’s friendship further with India. It should not be blamed each other on the background of open border system. Dr. Bhattarai must have visualized so many problems of open border such as cross-border terrorism, trafficking of narcotic drugs, smuggling of red sandal wood, revenue leakage, transaction of illegal arms and ammunition, women trafficking, kidnapping of individuals, entry of Bhutanese refugees, degeneration of political values etc. So he wanted to regulate the border to make the administration better, when they form their government.
Now let us switch to the first issue, why Dr. Bhattarai made a speech to merge two countries each other in a single country? If we have a look in the Cambridge English Dictionary ‘merge’ means to unite, combine, to lose identify by being absorbed, swallowed up etc.
Dr. Bhattarai might have a benign thought- if the two countries merge with each other into a single one, there would be no hustle bustle in the economic and political fields of Nepal. At the same time, Nepal will not have to face the problems such as shortage of petroleum products, problems of construction materials, black marketing of foodstuff etc.
If Nepal and India merge each other in a single country, neither the issue of ‘One Madhes, One Pradesh (State)’ will be raised, nor regular session of Constitution Assembly would be obstructed by Madhesi activists. Similarly, no slogan to form the other state as ‘One Himal, One Pradesh’ would be voiced as ‘Federal Himali Pradesh’ from Taplejung to Darchula, having 22 districts. On the other hand, there should not have any obstacle to link the Himalayan Rivers such as Koshi, Gandaki, Karnali to the southern rivers such as Krishna and Cauvery, to make success the River Linkage Project of India. Side by side, there will be no problem of inundation and water logging, especially at Rapti river areas of Holiya and Santaliya VDCs. By merging Nepal and India together, the problems of border encroachment, disputes and conflicts at Kalapani-Limpiyadhura, Susta etc will be automatically vanished. Shooting the films like ‘Kalapani’ by the cinema artists will be stopped and cancelled there and then. Most importantly, it would have not to contemplate any more by SD Muni, KV Rajan, Ashok Mehta, Dev Mukharjee and Sitaram Yechuri. They will be free from anxiety.
In the political field, our political leaders should not have to tolerate the grievances of Indian leaders any more. As an example, we could cite a recent statement of Indian leaders. Communist party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechuri, national congress general secretary DP Tripathi, senior leftist leader D Raja formed a pressure group in New Delhi on June 12. They have done homework to pressurize to make Maoist Chairman Prachanda to be appointed as the prime minister of Nepal. They said, Girija Prasad Koirala must resign from the post of prime minister because he is holding the post against the mandate of people of Nepal (Kantipur Daily, June 13, 2008:3). The group is exerting pressure to their Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, not to support to Koirala in any sphere. What could be understood by these statements that Indian leaders think- Nepal is a part and parcel of India like Bihar, Bengal and Uttaranchal. In this circumstance, Indian leaders should not have to take any trouble to make this type of statements, if two countries be merged with each other politically.
On the other hand, if we study the historical geography, Indian sub-continent were originated billions of years ago drifting Gondwanaland from the present Australia. Geologists believe that Indian sub-continent is still pushing underneath the Himalaya and Eurasian Tibetan plateau at the rate of two centimeters per year. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar have been geographically located on the Indian sub-continent. During British Raj all these countries were under the British dominion, except Nepal. Now the political fever has created a murmuring sound that India and Nepal should be combined or united to fulfill materialize the notion of Indian leaders. In this regard more than half a century ago Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel (India’s well known freedom fighter) had forwarded a letter to the prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru stating “The political and administrative steps which we should take to strengthen our northern and north-eastern frontiers, and this would include the whole of the border i.e. Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and the tribal territory in Assam.” This shows that there should be a single territory from the Himalaya on the north to Cape Comorin (Kanya Kumari) on the south.
In this context, it may be relevant to mention a question put by BBC London, to its listeners in October 2005. The question was- ‘If Nepal is merged to India in respect of language, culture, economic condition, geographical nearness; Nepal could be developed furthermore. What do you think on it?’ It is not disclosed what was the collected answers. But the listeners protested. At the same time, Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement against the question posed by BBC. And Director General of BBC wrote a letter asking to make him excuse.
In this perspective, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai might have used the word ‘merge’ in association with the open border, to be regulated. This is not a bad idea of Dr. Bhattarai to merge two boundaries into a single one, in the context of global village and borderless continent. But this scribe has a very serious and strong reservation on Dr. Bhattarai’s word ‘merge’ as fantasy that, in fact, Nepal should not be merged into India. However, if I recognize the ideology of Dr. Bhattarai, I must say that India must be merged into Nepal instead to eradicate economic and political troubles and to solve the problems for ever. And certainly, the merged single country, extended from Himalaya to Cape Comorin must be named as ‘Nepal’ but not ‘India’ on the globe.
There should not be any unsteadiness on it. This may be regarded as sarcasm to someone. But it can be said that it could materialize the concept of some of our political leaders to frame and design ‘New Nepal.’ The figure of New Nepal visualized by them may be something like that. It is due to the fact that, if we make a question to our leaders- ‘what should be an outline of New Nepal?’ Nobody answers in a solid manner that the concept and contour of our New Nepal is this and this. As a matter of fact, ordinary common folks are eager to know all these things from our national leaders. However, the people expect that generally, there should not be any entanglement in economic and political sectors in New Nepal.
The people of New Nepal must be prosperous economically. There should not be any shortage of job to work and food to eat. Earning of ordinary people, four thousand Rupees a month in old Nepal must be at least seven thousand in New Nepal. Basic materials such as construction materials, food stuff, petroleum and energy products should be sufficiently available. In the same manner, services such as education and health should be provided for all. In short, people of New Nepal should be exempted from shortage of materials. They should be released form scarcity of commodities. In addition they should be far away from self disappoint.
The leaders of old Nepal, entangled always in meddling and quarrel, must go hand with hand in New Nepal to drive the nation smoothly. Leaders of New Nepal will pull on our nation ahead to meet the standard of Singapore. With this, boundary of New Nepal would be extended from Himalaya to Cape Comorin, as thought by some of our leaders. So that the departed soul of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel will get eternal peace for ever.