Nepal- India Alignment: A Study of 1950 Treaty as an Omnibalancing

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Nepal- India Alignment: A Study of 1950 Treaty as an Omnibalancing

Tika Ram Aryal
Nepal is a country which lies in South Asia and is sandwiched between two huge neighbors, China and India. Nepal and India signed a treaty in 1950 despite the fact they were not facing an explicit threat from any other countries. In this context,  this paper will mainly explore the reasons why Nepal signed the treaty even if it was not facing any explicit threat from any particular state.  This paper, first will review the 1950 treaty between Nepal and India. Secondly, it will overview the contemporary Nepalese Politics and at the end it will analyze the alignment as an Omnibalancing rather than any other structural theories of International Relations.
Nepal-India relation has often been attributed as a ‘special, and ‘natural’ bond, citing various instances like open border, cross-border marriages, cross- border cultural sharing and Nepal’s economic dependency to India. Geographically Nepal is not only landlocked but also Indialocked country because Nepal is surrounded by India from the South, East and West after the Treaty of Sugauli 1815. To the North, Himalayas posed greater challenge to have access to China (Tibet). Another significant difficulty came up with Communist takeover in 1949 and China that added more complexities to share Himalayan culture, which is predominantly Buddhist and promote balanced relation. In this background The Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed on 31 July, 1950. “Since then this treaty has remained an emotional issue in Nepal and the demand for its abrogation has regularly featured in election manifestos” ( Nayak, 579 ). Mainly the important thing is that the Rana regime fell within six months of the signing treaty and the subsequent governments in Nepal have been expressing their reservations over the treaty. 

Review of the Treaty
The treaty was signed with an objective to strengthen the relationship between the two countries by recognizing historical values and perpetuating peace in the region. It provided the foundation for India and Nepal relations. The treaty contains 10 articles and a ‘letter of exchange’. In Article 1, the two countries acknowledge each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Article 2 says that they have to inform each other in case of friction with neighboring countries. Articles 5, 6 and 7 deal with arms imports of Nepal, national treatment of each other’s citizens in economic matters, and reciprocal treatment to nationals in matters concerning residence, protection and trade. Article 8 cancels all the past treaties between Nepal and the British government. Articles 9 and 10 deal with renewal and cancellation of the treaty.  Although the treaty shows the equal benefit for both countries, “This was primarily aimed at blocking Nepal’s bid to develop relations with China,” (Hill, 2003). And it has restricted the sovereign rights of Nepal. 
Research Question 
The research question of this paper is: Why did Nepal form an alliance with India despite any explicit threat?  And my argument is that domestic politics of the contemporary Nepal was the reason for forming this alliance. As Nepal’s domestic politics was quite deteriorating at that time, the rulers had to form an alliance to resist the internal threat. “As Nepal’s northern neighbor China was geographically difficult to access and at the same time communist takeover in 1949 added more complexities”, (Sapkota, 2016).

Theoretical and Practical Significance 
This research is theoretically significant because the other researches conducted on The Treaty of friendship have not been able to adequately analyze the real issue of the treaty.  Many researches conducted on this issue are either Revisionist or as a Negotiation. That is why they are not sufficient enough in understanding the Treaty. Omnibalancing theory provides the room for understanding the Third world policies of alignment.  According to Stephen R. David Omnibalancing is a theory which explains the Third World alignment and realignment. He finds that although the balance of power theory contains important insights it is not sufficient to explain Third world alignment.  He says, “The most powerful determinant of Third World alignment behavior is the rational calculation of Third World leaders as to which outside power is most likely to do what is necessary to keep them in power”, (235).
To analyze the Treaty we need to see the some factors of contemporary Nepalese politics.  In 1950, Nepal was ruled by Rana regime sustaining on the brutality and despotism. It never got legitimacy from the people. Moreover, it had greater threat from its own Rana family. Democratic movement against Rana regime was in its pick hour. Nepali Congress, led by charismatic leader, B. P. Koirala, “launched a massive countrywide anti-Rana demonstration. It started labour movement and strike in Jute Mill in Biratnagar”, (, 2016) in 1947. This movement gained dramatic momentum. Nepali Congress’s Mukti Sena became able to capture strategic places of Terai with the wholehearted Indian support. The Rana regime faced all round attacks i.e. King Tribhuvan was also against Rana regime. Later, Tribhuvan fled India to express his support for the democratic movement. Rana ruler, Mohan Shamsher JBR, realized that family despotism, sooner and later, could be in the brink of collapse. Southern neighbor was in support of democratic change and Northern neighbor was falling under the communist takeover, so no alternative left to have better deal to save regime. The tumultuous situation was prevailing in Nepali domestic politics of 1950. Although the treaty of Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship 1950 did not have anything to do directly with the democratic revolution, despite that fact, it was the need of time to negotiate for “changes in the status quo or existing arrangements [which were] sought [by India] in [bilateral] relation” (Barston, 2006). Such compelling situation for negotiation harms the interest of defender party, Nepal. This situation shaped negotiation more towards redistributive objectives against the both parties’ interest of initiating new relation which supposed to be innovative. Rana regime, “as a defensive side [was ready to]… comply all the demands posed by offensive side,” (Iklé, 1964) India. Rana hoped to manage domestic upheaval by taking India into confidence by signing in this treaty but India had greater interest of national security. 
Since the goal of Third world leaders goal is to stay in power, they will sometimes protect themselves at the expense of the interest of the state” ( David, 236).  As he describes my argument is that Nepalese contemporary Rana regime signed the treaty at the expense of the interest of the state, for the sake of securing their position as a ruler.

My hypothesis is that the treaty was done not for any other reasons but was the manifestation of the contemporary ruler’s fear from the internal threat. That is why they signed the treaty without worrying much about the concern of the state. Because of the same reason, it is not necessary to continue this treaty anymore as the world political scenario is changed and the contemporary Nepalese society is also not like before and a legitimate rule is present there.

Barston, R. (2006). modern diplomacy. new delhi: Pearon education, ltd., p.50.
David, S. R. (1991). Explaining third world alignment. World Politics, 43(02), 233-256.
Hill, C. (2003). The changing politics of foreign policy Palgrave.
Iklé, F. C. (1964). How nations negotiate: Written under the auspices of the center for international affairs, harvard university New York: Harper & Row.
Nayak, N. (2010). India–Nepal peace and friendship treaty (1950): Does it require revision? Strategic Analysis, 34(4), 579-593., (2016). nepali congress official website | political party of nepal. [online] available at:Http:// [accessed 13  June. 2016].
Sapkota, D. (2016). Http://[accessed 13 June. 2016].