Major Indo-Nepal treaty goes ‘missing’

June 19th, 2008 - 4:09 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 19 (IANS) A major treaty signed between the governments of India and Nepal is not to be found in either the national archives or the royal palace here, giving rise to fears that other priceless documents of historical importance might have also vanished from the country, a newspaper said Wednesday. The infamous Sugauli Treaty signed in 1815 with the British East India Company, which was then ruling India, and is seen here as a major blow to Nepal, can’t be traced. It is neither in the National Archives of Nepal, the foreign affairs ministry or the royal palace, which was handed over to the government by deposed king Gyanendra June 11, the Himalayan Times said.

The Sugauli pact was signed to end the 19th century Anglo-Nepalese war and though Nepal was never annexed by the British, it had to concede about one-third of its territory.

Sikkim, Kumaon and Garhwal - which are now part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, much of the Terai plains in the south and some area that is now in India’s Himachal Pradesh, were wrested from Nepal and became part of India as per the treaty, an action that Nepalis would like to see undone.

Though the Sugauli Treaty was superseded by the Indo-Nepal Peace and Friendship Treaty signed in 1950 with an independent India, the ceded territory was not returned to Nepal.

Several parties and social organisations still support the movement for a Greater Nepal, demanding that India return the lost land to its northern neighbour. The call has been taken up now by the former Maoist guerrillas, who swept the April election and could head the next government.

The Maoists are calling for the review or abrogation of all unequal treaties with India, including the 1950 pact. India has said that it is ready to discuss the demand and talks at the foreign secretary level have already started.

At this crucial juncture, Nepal’s National Archives says it doesn’t have the Sugauli Treaty in its possession.

“We have plenty of religious, cultural and literary documents but no important documents related to great political changes,” Bhim Prasad Nepal, chief of the National Archives, told the daily.

It was believed that the Narayanhity Palace, where Nepal’s kings lived from the 19th century, was the repository of major historic documents, including international treaties.

After dethroned king Gyanendra vacated the palace and it was formally proclaimed a national museum, the government formed a committee to take inventory of the valuables left behind by the former royals.

While the committee is yet to submit its report, one of its members told the Nepali daily on condition of anonymity that the panel did not come across any documents or the fabled lal baksh, a sealed red box in which the former kings were believed to have kept secret state documents.

The palace is proving a nightmare for the government with its enormous collection of disparate objects.

Besides jewellery, statutes, wildlife trophies and objets d’art, it has dozens of cars, cows and boxes crammed with parchments that are rotting with age and are half-eaten by moths.

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