K Sarup: Nepal Border & Regional Security Issues
Nepal Border and Regional Security Issues
By Kamala Sarup
Beyond the more than 12,000 dead souls the insurgency has claimed, lies the torrid pace of small arms transactions said to be occurring between the Maoist rebels in Nepal, Northern India, merchants disposing of arms which have been upgraded from the Royal Nepali military and police forces, and armed brigands who claim, falsely, to be Maoist rebels.
Beyond the Maoist insurgency's direct costs. the small arms trafficking takes a large toll on the general population of Nepal. Crime is said to be increasing with fewer and fewer youths respecting the old ways and some even turning to murder-for-hire schemes in an effort to get rich quick. Such violence has, of course, a negative impact on the growth of tourism, which is a leading source of revenue for Nepal. Nepal's security position has been adversely affected by its status as one of the world's Lesser Developed Countries. But the ongoing political and military dimensions of the problem have exacerbated the situation.
Nepal's definition of security depends heavily upon its relationship with India, which nearly surrounds Nepalese territory. Nepal has a virtually open and unregulated border with Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal.
The India-Nepal approach to solving mutual political and military conflicts are most important to creating a secure border area between the two countries. Concerned over increasing crime-related incidents along the border, Nepal and India have agreed to mobilize special security personnel in the sensitive areas to control criminal activities. This was decided during talks between security officials from the two countries who met recently in Janakpur.
Moreover, India and Nepal are bound by treaty to assist one another in mutual security matters. The 1950 treaty and letters stated that "neither government shall tolerate any threat to the security of the other by a foreign aggressor" and obligates both sides "to inform each other of any serious friction or misunderstanding with any neighboring state likely to cause any breach in the friendly relations subsisting between the two governments".
The scaling down of tensions in the Pashupatinagar area in far eastern Nepal between Nepalese and Indians is a welcome step to help heal divisions between the two countries. The tension arose there because some misguided Indian officials unilaterally set up a border marker in an area that was in disputed territory. Under this treaty, a series of dams were constructed along the international border which submerged thousands of Nepali villages.
There are thousands of Nepali and Indians constantly visiting each other's countries, and any comprehensive border security agreement should take this into account. There should be a balancing of interests between the free flow of goods and people which benefit the economies of both countries with the opportunity such cross-border travel affords to would-be terrorists and illicit goods trafficking. To solve this problem, perhaps a strengthened permanent commission composed of authorities from both countries should be considered.
Both countries have expressed a determination to fight the scourge of violence and have decided not to allow their respective territories to be used for activities against the interest of one another.
Nepal has been fighting the violence from the Maoists for more than 10 years now, and possibly India has information about problems faced by Nepal which can be greatly useful in mutually solving this vexing problem. We Nepalis and Indians should determine that no Nepalese or Indian soil will be allowed to be used for any activity detrimental to either country.
In addition to India, Nepal shares a border with China. Nepal has also signed agreements with China such as the Treaty of Peace and Friendship in 1960, road construction project from Kathmandu to Kodari (1961) and resolving the boundary issue between the two countries (1961) which influence border security. Moreover, there ahs recently ben reopened the road between China and Nepal. The road has strategic and political importance to any comprehensive regional security efforts. Finally, China has recently begun the construction of an electric rail transport system between the two countries.
It is my personal hope that any dialogue in good faith between the Maoists and the government will result in progress towards a lasting and just peace. These developments could ease tensions and reduce violence in the Nepal Indian border region.
The first steps have already been taken on the road to peace. Nepal is small but proud country which can contribute even more to solving remaining Nepal-India border problems and help the world cut down the scourge of international terrorist activity.