PM poll saves India from embarrassment in Nepal

August 15th, 2008 - 3:32 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Aug 15 (IANS) The republic of Nepal’s first prime ministerial election Friday saved India from embarrassment on its 62nd Independence Day by averting an anti-India protest in the capital. The organisers of a nationalist campaign in Nepal for the restoration of the Nepali territory ceded to India in the 19th century had planned a protest rally at the heart of Kathmandu Friday to be followed by a deputation to the British embassy located near the Indian embassy.

The campaign for a Greater Nepal demands the scrapping of the Sugauli Treaty signed on Dec 2, 1815 between the British East India Company that ruled India then and the then kingdom of Nepal.

Under the treaty, Nepal lost nearly one-third of its land, including Sikkim, Kumaon and Garhwal, parts of what is now Uttarakhand in India, and huge tracts of fertile land in the Terai, regarded as Nepal’s food bowl.

Later during the century, some of the Terai tracts were returned to Nepal by the British colonial rulers in appreciation of Nepal’s support to put down the so-called Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 in India, considered the first major Indian struggle for independence.

In 1950, an independent India signed a fresh Peace and Friendship Treaty with Nepal, that in theory superceded all previous treaties.

Nationalists in Nepal say that the 1950 treaty signifies the death of the Sugauli Pact. Therefore, India should return the land handed over in the past. The campaign for a Greater Nepal has received momentum in recent times.

The campaigners funded a documentary film that focuses on India’s alleged encroachment on Nepal’s territory. This week, the protesters held a rally at Thankot, the gateway to Kathmandu, where they unfurled the map of a Greater Nepal, depicting the Himalayan republic as it would look if the ceded land is returned.

On Friday, even as the Indian tricolour was hoisted at the Indian embassy in Kathmandu, the Greater Nepal campaigners had announced they would lead a delegation to the nearby British Embassy and urge the British ambassador to Nepal Sir Andrew Hall to ask his government to take diplomatic measures for scrapping the dead treaty.

“But we decided to defer our protest Friday in view of the prime ministerial election,” one of the campaign leaders, Phanindra Nepal, told IANS. “We didn’t want our campaign to be overshadowed by the election.”

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