TREATY OF SUGAULI, 1816
Published by: Shruti Kulshreshtha
The Sugauli Treaty is a border treaty signed between the British Indian Government and Nepal on December 2, 1815 and ratified on March 4, 1816. Raj Guru Gajraj Mishra and Chandra Shekhar Upadhyay on behalf of the King of Nepal, Maharaja Bikram Shah and Lieutenant Colonel Bradshaw on behalf of the East India Company in virtue of powers vested by His Majesty signed this treaty. The consequence of this treaty was that Nepal lost one-thirds of its land to British India. The treaty also called for the establishment of British representation in Kathmandu and rejected the employment of American and European employees in Nepal’s military service. The Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship superseded the Treaty of Sugauli in 1923 and authorised British resident to envoy in Nepal.
Prithvi Narayan Shah made the unification of Nepal possible and further attempted to expand the territory of Nepal by acquiring land from British India. He successfully conquered Sikkim, the basins of Gandaki and Karnali as well as the Uttarakhand regions of Garhwal and Kumaon. At the time, the North Indian plains were under the control of the East India Company, who conflicted the expansion of Nepal. This gave rise to the Anglo- Nepalese War also known as Gurkha war on 1 November 1814 that ended on 1 March 1816, at the ratification of the Treaty of Sugauli.
The primary cause of conflict was the economic aspect. East India Company desired to commence trade in Nepal but the Nepalese Government refused the numerous efforts made by William Kirkpatrick, Maulvi Abdul Qader and William O. Knox in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. East India Company’s financial predicament made Lord Hastings look for new approaches, when he discovered the Himalayan advantage and the superior quality wool found in western Tibet. The trade and exclusivity of this rare wool would prove to be advantageous to the Company and its cash flow.
The subsequent strategic objective of the war was political safety. While hatching pre-emptive schemes from different provinces within India, the company had the risk of being outnumbered and failure to meet military expenditure in case of war. Hence, to avoid being attacked from two fronts at the same time, Hastings planned to acquire Nepal for political safety.
The British desired to acquire the hill regions of Nepal and expand the Indian territory. The disputes arose because there were no fixed demarcations of the Indo-Nepalese border, thereby giving opportunity to each of the territories to re-examine the situation. The company imposed a border commission on Nepal, which failed to be fruitful. As the tensions increased in the Terai region, British detected that their powers were at stake and their path of communication from Calcutta to the northwest was being compromised. Hence, the confrontation between the two became inevitable resulting in the formal declaration of war on 1 November 1814.
The East India Company won the Gurkha war and all the other conflicts connected therewith. The Treaty of Sugauli marked the end of the war on 1 March 1816.
TERMS OF THE TREATY
Treaties are meant to provide an equitable remedy to the parties signing it, however, the treaty of Sugauli is an unequal treaty, which lays huge burden, and disadvantage to Nepal, whereas British India gained a much bigger advantage. International treaties pave the way to mutual goodwill and understanding but Nepal was forced to sign the treaty unwillingly. British gave a 15-day ultimatum to Nepal for signing the treaty that was refused by Nepal. The British then spread rumours to attack the capital, Kathmandu, fearing which Nepal was coerced to the sign the treaty. There are 9 articles in the treaty referred to as the terms of peace in the treaty. Each of the articles are discussed briefly below:
ARTICLE I: This article states that there shall be perpetual peace and friendship between British India and Nepal. They have acknowledged British India as the Honourable East India Company and Nepal as the King of Nepal.
ARTICLE II: Nepal repudiates the claim of all the disputed land between the two parties before the commencement of the war. From this time forth, the East India Company shall possess the right of the sovereignty of the disputed lands.
ARTICLE III: Article III further elucidates the specifics of the disputed lands, which Nepal has agreed to surrender to the Company. All these lands are to be handed over to the company in perpetuity. This includes:
The entire area of the lowlands falling between the rivers Rapti and Kali.
The entire lowlands between River Rapti and River Gunduck.
The entire lowlands between Coosah and Gunduck.
The whole area of the lowlands between Rivers Mitchee and River Teestah.
All the domains inside the slopes eastbound of the River Mitchee including the stronghold and terrains of Nagree and the Pass of Nagarcote driving from Morung into the slopes, along with the region lying between that pass and nagerr. The aforementioned region to be cleared by the Gurkha troops in forty days from this date.
ARTICLE IV: Considering the surrender of the land as mentioned in the forgoing article. The treaty mentions that the British government shall pensions to the Chiefs and Barahdars of these areas, who will be selected by the Raja of Nepal. The amount of pension shall not exceed an aggregate of rupees two lakhs per annum. The Raja of Nepal himself shall also decide the proportions, after which Sunnuds will be granted under the name and seal of the Governor General.
ARTICLE V: According to this article, the Raja of Nepal, his heirs and his successors has ceded the right to claim any of the countries towards the west of River Kali. Moreover, they cannot have any connection or concerns about the inhabitants of those regions.
ARTICLE VI: Nepal agrees not to disturb Sikkim and if any differences arise between the two, then the dispute shall be handled by way of arbitration by the British government. Nepal shall accept the award granted by the British government in such a case.
ARTICLE VII: The King of Nepal shall neither engage into a british subject nor any European or American subject without the consent of the british government.
ARTICLE VIII: Accredited Ministers from each countries shall reside at the court of the other country. As per the wordings of the treaty, this is done so as to ameliorate the relations and peace between the two countries.
ARTICLE IX: This article sets out a 15-day ultimatum for the King of Nepal to sign this treaty. The ratification shall be delivered to Lieutenant Colonel Paris Bradshaw, who shall then deliver the same to the Governor General within 20 days. Other details mentioned in this article are:
Treaty made in Sugauli
Date : 2 December 1815
Location: Received in the valley of Muckwuanpur at 2:15 PM on 4 March 1816.
This is the Map of Nepal, as altered by the Treaty of Sugauli
IMPACT OF THE TREATY ON BRITISH INDIA
There were some territorial disputes between Nepal and British India, immediately after the treaty was signed. This was primarily because Nepal was forced to sign the treaty and was utterly dissatisfied with the terms of the treaty. After Nepal lost the fields from Koshi to Kali, there were prompt questions with respect to the northern limit line of the fields. For instance, if the top Range or the southern foot or northern foot-slope of the Chure Range would be taken as limit line. In such manner, questions had ejected in the region from Dunduwa Range of Dang to Arra Nala and Taal Bagoda in 1817. Another conflict was regarding the ownership of Antu Danda of Ilam in the year 1825. Until 1838, the two countries could not concur upon the origin of the Mechi River, as to whether it originated from the northeast or the northwest. In the year 1840, there were numerous claims and counterclaims about the villages situated in Ramnagar area. There arose border disputes and the controversy of “mine and yours” in the areas of Tirhut and Sarun districts. A supplemental outcome of this treaty was that it gave the people of Nepal an opportunity to join the British army thereby strengthening its control and assuring better fighting capability to the British. The company required a strong military base to secure their interests and get closer to their objective of attaining territorial control over maximum parts of India. For this, they needed to guard and protect their trade and factories, establishing a political supremacy, which was quintessential for fulfilling their ultimate aim.
The Treaty of Sugauli failed to provide with the exact borderlines between Nepal and India. Due to this, British India was in constant dispute with Nepal. There were claims, counterclaims, discussions, arguments, conflicts in building of border pillars among many other problems that were faced by British India after this treaty.
EFFECT OF THE TREATY ON NEPAL
It is needless to say that Nepal was on the suffering end despite of this treaty and had to go through some undesirable effects. Let us discuss the consequences of Sugauli Treaty on Nepal:
Nepal lost land to British India, which made Nepal a smaller country. After the treaty, the east to west length of Nepal was cut short to 885 kilometres as compared to 1415 kilometres before. Even the total area of Nepal was reduced from 2,67,575 square kilometres to 1,47,181 square kilometres.
Nepal was pressurised to give up the land from Mechi to Teesta, even when there no war or dispute regarding that piece of land between Nepal and British India.
British entered into another treaty with Sikkim on 10 February 1817, 11 months after the Sugauli treaty and gave the land taken away from Nepal to Sikkim.
The Sugauli Treaty had substantial impact on the sovereignty of Nepal since all the policy decisions taken by Nepal were grossly influenced by the British.
The forceful terms of the treaty brought disgrace to the sacrifices made by Bir Balabhadra and Bhakti Thapa, Bahadur Shah and Amar Singh Thapa, and the diplomacy of Bhimsen Thapa for unification of Nepal.
The treaty gave rise to an internal conflict amongst the officials of Nepal. Some wanted to take back their land by another war against the british while the others believed that they would end up losing more in the war.
One of the positive impacts of this treaty was that the Nepalese could join the british army as the treaty established the principle of representation of officials in the other country. This gave rise to employment opportunities to the citizens of Nepal.
NEPAL AND INDIA – POST INDEPENDENCE
The Republic of India and the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal signed the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in the year 1950 with an aim to revive their relationship. The bilateral treaty permitted the movement of goods between the countries and established a close connection in terms of foreign policy and defence. Even after this treaty, Nepal did not take any initiative to restore those areas, which were taken by the british subsequent to the war. Article 8 of this treaty clearly stated that all the treaties, agreements and engagements entered into by the British government and Nepal stands cancelled. Still, Nepal did not unify their voices and claim all the lost territories due to the annulment of the Sugauli Treaty. People believe that due to Nepal’s weak administration and internal disputes, they could not build the courage to reclaim their own territories.
PRESENT DAY DISPUTE
A long time thereafter, writ petition in the Supreme Court was filed by Advocate Ramji Bista and nationalists Yogi Narahari and Phanindra Nepal on 4 November 1996 and 4 April 1999 respectively. These people were driven with the spirit of nationality and wanted their territories back from India. The writ petitions challenged the legality of the Sugauli Treaty and stated that it should be re-examined for establishing rights and should be quashed to the extent of its unconstitutionality. They further pleaded that in order to preserve the integrity and claim territorial rights of Nepal, the Treaty of Sugauli needs to be invalidated. The Supreme Court quashed the appeals due to insufficiency of evidence to support their notion and substantiate their rights in favour of Nepal.
In the ongoing territorial dispute between India and Nepal, in 2005, Nepal published a new political map of Nepal. In this map, the areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura were included in the territory of Nepal and not India. As a response, India inaugurated a new road Dharchula to Lipulekh, as part of the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage route. It is evident that both the countries are not willing to give up this age-old border dispute and take actions in order to claim the disputed territories. Another reason for India’s reluctance is that India perceives Nepal as joining hands with China, thereby building distrust between the two nations.
The dispute’s cause of disagreement relies upon the Kali River. Kali River, also known as Sharda River. Originates in the Himalayas and flows along the western border of Nepal. The river leaves the hill region and meets the tributaries, Ladhiya and Ramgun. Due to the absence of a clear boundary line, both the countries contend its claim over the tributaries. The following map depicts the Kali river towards the west of Nepal.
The road built in Uttarakhand, which goes up to Lipu Lekh pass on China border passes through the Pithoragath district, the same district as the Kali river. The motive of this road is purely for strategic, religious and trade reasons, as stated by the Defence Minister. This road facilitates ease of trekking for the pilgrims and for nourishing relations with China. However, Nepal was opposed the building of this road stating this unilateral act of India, against the bilateral understanding between the two nations regarding the border issues. Nepal’s Foreign Ministry asked India to avoid carrying out activities in Nepal’s territory.
The importance of this road is colossal, since it can be used in case of any distress between India and China in the future. This route also opens the doors of ease in trade with China, which will save transportation and operational costs of the Indian industries. On the other hand, even Nepal perceives this road in the same way, giving rise to a conflict between the two nations.
It is not wrong to say that the Sugauli Treaty was an unfair treaty, putting a taint on the concept of treaties as a whole. It is also true that due to the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Nepal and India, Nepal has the rights on the territories lost in the Sugauli treaty. However, there is a lack of administration and management within Nepal. Nepal is suffering the effects of not discussing the treaty before signing it. Officials in the past have not cleared out the exact border between the two countries, which has kept the dispute alive even today. In order to settle this dispute and form good relations between the two countries, the governments can come forward and come to an agreement for resolving this issue.