India and Nepal have relations like an extended family. India has kept its hand of protection, support and blessings like the proverbial big brother looking after its younger brother for decades. The message by KP Sharma Oli, Prime Minister of Nepal, on India’s 71 Republic Day, published in all newspapers of Nepal, is testimony to India’s largesse and the deep bonds between the two nations. The message states, “India is not only key development partner of Nepal, she is also largest friend in trade, transit, investment, infrastructure, technology, energy, education health care etc.” He further stated, “Our relations with India will lead to a win–win situation for both the countries. The friendship with India will translate into a vision of “Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.” Undoubtedly, bonded by a glorious common religious, culture and tradition the relationship between the two countries has remained exemplary since time immemorial.
The Treaty of Sangauli (Sugowlee) in 1816 ended the Anglo–Nepalese War of 1814-16 between the mighty forces of the East India company and Nepal. The treaty was signed between the East India company and Raj Guru Misra on behalf of Nepal. The East India’s army under the British was too powerful for Nepal and hence Nepal was defeated in a series of Anglo-Nepalese wars between 1814 and 1816. The Nepal Army surrendered and British General Ochterlony offered peace terms to Nepalese, demanding British suzerainty in the form of protected state status to Nepal and delimitation of Nepal’s territories corresponding roughly to the present-day boundaries with India. This treaty remained in force till Britishers left India.
After India’s independence, India and the Rana rulers of Nepal signed a treaty of peace, friendship, security in 1950. The treaty says: “Neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of other by a foreign aggressor and obligated both sides to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighbouring state likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations between the two countries.” This treaty cemented friendly relations between India and Nepal and the latter has been enjoying special privileges in accordance with this treaty.
<strong>Nepal Enjoys Special benefits from India</strong>
The treaty of 1950 granted Nepalese the same economic and educational opportunities in India as Indian citizens and Nepal on its part was also supposed to give preferential treatment to Indian citizens over citizens of other countries. India and Nepal borders remain open, people of both countries can move freely between the two countries without passport and visa and live and work hassle free. However, Indians were not allowed to own property and not allowed to take up government jobs whereas Nepalese could take up jobs in India except in IAS, IPS and IFS.
The treaty of 1950 was ratified in 2014. More than six million Nepalese live and work in India and about six lakh Indians work in Nepal as doctors, engineers, IT professionals, businessman and traders who have been living in Nepal for a long time. Nepal Foreign Minister Minendra Rajal said recently: “We understand the depth, profoundness and special character of our bilateral relationship with India.” He further said that the open border between the two countries is a unique feature naming it as, ‘frontiers without restrictions.’
<strong>Educational support by India</strong>
India provides more than 3,000 educational scholarship to Nepali students for various courses at secondary, graduation, post-graduation, Ph.D. levels. Indian educationists and business houses like the Birlas, Goenkas, the DPS Society and others have established quality schools in Nepal. Many schools in Nepal are affiliated to the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) boards.
<strong>Religion and culture</strong>
Though Nepal encompasses a wide diversity of groups and beliefs, Hinduism comprises 81.3% of the people. Freedom of religion is guaranteed but conversion from Hinduism to other religions is prohibited. Cow slaughter too is banned. Prior to the movement for democracy in Nepal and sacking of King Gyanendra in 2008, the country was officially a Hindu Kingdom.
Buddhism is other important religion of Nepal and is the second largest religion though consisting just nine per cent of the total population. Buddha was born in Lumbini, present day Rupandhi district, of Nepal and attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya in India. The two religions have absorbed tenets from each other. The Muktinath temple is sacred and common house of worship for both Hindus and Buddhists and is visited by Indians.
The Pashupatinath temple on the Bagmati river in the Kathmandu valley is a living example of the strong bonds that exist between India and Nepal. A UNESCO World Heritage Site it is a sprawling campus of temples. It is one of the 275 Tamil Paadal Patra Shthalams (Holy abode of Shiva). Believed to be originally constructed in 400 BC, it was reconstructed in the fifth century by Lichha King Prachanda Dev. The temple is so sacred to Indians that Prime Minter Narendra Modi donated Rs 25 crore for the restoration of the temple on his visit to Nepal. Not just the Nepalese, lakhs of Indians pay obeisance at Pashupatinath every year. A strong bond exists between the Indian and Nepali people.
There are hosts of Shiva temples and Shakti Peeth of Goddess in Nepal and in Kathmandu itself. Another important temple is the Manakamna Temple situated on a hilltop and visited through a rope way. The temple is the sacred abode of Goddess Bhagmati–an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. This temple too is thronged by Indians in large numbers.
<em><strong>(To be continued…)</strong></em>.