INDIA-NEPAL MILITARY RELATIONS

THE GROWTH OF THE GURKHA KINGDOM

INDIA-NEPAL MILITARY RELATIONS-A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

 

Around the middle of the eighteenth century, the Himalayan region between the Teesta River in the east and the Satluj River in the west was under the control of a large number of independent principalities. It is possible to count at least sixty such principalities, although a complete, authentic list is not yet available. The eastern section of the Himalayan region was less fragmented than the western. It was comprised of two small states, Sikkim and Bhutan, which were dissected by numerous rivers, including the Teesta. The territories west of Sikkim, up to the Dudhkosi river, a tributary of the Kosi, were divided into the three comparatively large principalities of Vijayapur, Chaudandi and Makwanpur. These principalities controlled extensive agricultural and forest areas in the Tarai, comprising the modem districts of Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Bara, Parsa and Rautahat, while the borders of Vijayapur and Chaudandi also touched Tibet in the north.
The valley of Kathmandu was the centre of three independent states, namely, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgaun. These states also owned territories in the hill areas of the Trishuli river, a tributary of the Gandaki river in the west, and the Dudhkosi in the east. The boundaries of both Kathmandu and Bhadgaun touched Tibet in the north, while in the east they included parts of the modern districts of Kabhrepalanchok, Sindhupalchok and Dolakha. In the west, Nuwakot and Dhading belonged to Kathmandu and Patan respectively. Patan’s disadvantage in not having a direct link with Tibet was compensated by its proximity to the Bhirnphedi-Hitaura route leading to the southern plains through the Kingdom of Makwanpur. The valley was of great importance from the economic point of view, for it accommodated important trade routes connecting northern India with central Tibet.
Farther west, beyond the Trishuli River, was the Gorkha Kingdom which was destined to bring the whole of the Teesta-Satluj region under its control by the first decade of the nineteenth century. Unlike most of the principalities of the west, Gorkha has had a recorded history from the time of its establishment in 1559, when Drabya Shah, a prince of the royal house of the adjoining principality of Lamjung, wrested the territory from local tribal chiefs and brought it under the authority of a Hindu king for the first time. Gorkha comprised an area of about 2,500 square kilometres in a triangular area east of Lamlung and Tanahu, with Tibet in the north and the inner Tarai region of Chitwan in the south. Lamjung and Tanahu belonged to a cluster of 24 principalities, or Chaubisi, situated between the Marsyangdi river, a tributary of the Gandaki, in the east and the Bheri river, a tributary of the Karnali, in the west. Other important principalities in that region which have affected the course of modern Nepali history during the late eighteenth century were Kaski, Parbat and Palpa. Palpa, the biggest and most powerful among the Chaubisi principalities, possessed Butwal and other territories in the western Tarai, which it had obtained on lease from the Nawab of the Indian state of Awadh. Farther to the west of the Chaubisi states lay another group of states collectively known as Baisi, which included Jumla, Doti, Jajarkot, Salyan, Dullu and Dailekh. Two small states in the mountain region across the Mahakali river, Juhar and Dharma, were also traditionally regarded as constituents of the Baisi group, having once formed parts of the territories of Jumla.
The Himalayan region situated west of the Mahakali river and east of the Jamuna river contained two states, Kumaun and Garhwal. Kumaun had possessed some territory in the Tarai, but that territory had come under the control of the Nawab of Awadh during the late 1770s. The territories of Garhwal, on the other hand, extended to the Doon Valley, north of the Siwaliks. The Jamuna-Satluj region encompassed approximately 14,000 square kilometres but was divided into nearly 34 independent principalities during the late eighteenth century. Four of these principalities outstripped the others in size and strength, namely, Sirmur, adjoining Garhwal on the west, Hindu, Bilaspur and Besahar hi the north. Between Besahar and Bilaspur were situated two groups of tiny principalities collectively known as Barha Thakurai and Atthara Thakurai. Beyond the Satluj river lay the principality of Katoch, which boasted Kangra, the most renowned fort in the Himalayan region. During the latter part of the 18th century, a new state was founded in the Himalayan region in the north of the Indian subcontinent. That state, formed through the expansion of Gorkha, a small principality in the western part of that region, was the forerunner of the modern Kingdom of Nepal. The fledgeling state faced innumerable trials and challenges in the process of expansion, the most serious being a war with the British East India Company during 1814-16, which resulted in the loss of extensive territories. Only after that did Nepal emerge as an independent state within clearly demarcated boundaries.

The Indian Connection
The Chand dynasty of Kumaon had two rival noble families in court, namely the the Maras and the Phartyals. “When the Chand dynasty began fading out, the Phartyals and the Maras were at loggerheads to seize the throne. The Joshis represented the Maras. The Chand family king, Lal Singh Phartyal overtook the Joshis and positioned his son Mohan Singh on the throne, renaming him Moha Chand, King of Kumaon. The Phartyal and Joshi families began quarrelling and his family, including his son, Harsh Dev, were incarcerated. Obsessed with taking revenge, Harsh Dev spent the next twenty-six years, finding ways to oust Mohan Chand and the entire Phartyal clan from Kumaon. Powerless by himself, Harsh Dev resorted to seeking help. In 1788, Harsh Dev managed to kill Raja Mohan Chand with the help of mercenaries. But Lal Singh Phartyal positioned his nephew, Mahendra Chand on the throne and Harsh Dev lost again. In 1789, Harsh Dev invited the Gorkha Sena to defeat and expel Raja Mahendra Chand.”
In 1790, “under the command of General Amar Singh Thapa, the Gorkha Sena crossed the Mahakali river to Kumaon. Overpowering all resistance, they reached Almora where Harsh Dev joined them providing all support. Almora soon fell to the Gorkhas. Meanwhile, the Gorkhas also received a call for help from Bajhang against Doti, and so a plan was made to conquer Doti, westward of Mahakali river. In 1790, the Gorkhas attacked Doti and expelled the ruler Prithvi Pad Shahi (who would later befriend the British against the Gorkhas in the 1814 Battle of Nalapani). The Gorkha conquest over Doti strengthened their kingdom till the banks of the Mahakali river”.
After the successful ouster of the Phartyal king of Kumaon in 1790, “Harsh Dev now wanted the Gorkha Sena to subjugate Garhwal. He was also to be ceremoniously appointed as the agent of Kumaon by Nepal. This ceremony had to be cancelled since the Gorkha forces received news that China had attacked Nepal, and the troops had to rush back to Kathmandu”.
Before the Gorkhas returned, “the King of Garhwal, Pradyumna Shah, approached the Gorkhas to formalise a peace and diplomatic accord with Nepal. He would pay an annual tribute, and the Gorkhas would treat Garhwal as a protectorate state. The Gorkhas accepted the proposal. Already discomfited at the cancellation of his appointment ceremony, the dejected Harsh Dev reacted jealously to the confederation between Garhwal and Nepal. While the Gorkha Sena was away, he began a hate campaign, planting seeds of ill-will against the Gorkhalis in the Kumaon-Garhwal region”.
In 1795, “King Pradyumna Shah of Garhwal stopped paying tribute to Nepal, and as a result, the war was declared on Pradyumna Shah. By this time, the Gorkha army was free from its engagements in Nepal and returned to the Garhwal-Kumaon region, under the command of Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa”.
In October 1803, “the Gorkhali army concentrated forty-five companies in Kumaon. Each company had 200 soldiers bringing the total to 9,000 soldiers. Except for the superior and junior officers who were Nepalese, most of the soldiers were Kumaonis, Rohillas, Mohammedans, Garhwalis, etc. Such a congregation of mercenary soldiers was a usual practice with armies at that time.  Crossing the Pindari river, the Gorkhas reached the banks of the Mandakini river. King Pradyumna Shah retreated towards Saharanpur with Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa close on his heels. Finally, the two forces clashed at Khurbura on 8 June 1804, near Dehradun. Unfortunately for Garhwal, on the first day itself, Pradyumna Shah was fatally wounded, following which his son Parakram Shah abandoned the battlefield.” “The Garhwali defences fell, and it was a victory for the Gorkhas. Amar Singh Thapa arranged for Pradyumna Shah’s body to be wrapped in an expensive shawl and under full escort, carried it to Haridwar for a cremation befitting a king”.
One of Pradyumna Shah’s sons, “Pritam Shah was taken as a hostage to Nepal (where he was married to the daughter of Barn Shah, the Gorkha Governor of Kumaon), while another, Sudarshan Shah was granted asylum by the British with whom he allied to assault the Gorkhas later. Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa returned to the west, and the Gorkhas had gained fifty-four Garhwal forts, including Languar Garhi, Lobha, Chandpur Garhi, Jhapleshwar, Badhangarhi, Gorkhagiri, Sirgur Garhi, Dewalgarh, Nawalgarh, Chilgarh, Naithana, Khurkhuree, and others during this campaign. Dehradun also now came under Nepal.”
The Gorkha Sena after Garhwal and Kumaon campaigns moved further away from Nepal. “Their encounters brought them face to face with many of the greatest armies in the region, including that of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and Raja Sansar Chand II. Maharaja Ranjit Singh ruled the Kangra Fort territory under administration from Lahore. Across River Sutlej, the Gorkhas ruled from Arid, capital of Baghal State (whose ruling family had been displaced to Ropar) over their territories till the boundaries of the Garhwal kingdom and Kumaon Kingdom.”
The army of the East India Company at that time “comprised of a large number of Scottish and Irish mercenaries. Controlling India necessitated a larger regular and standing army. The army also provided great ancillary opportunities for blacksmiths, horse breeders, gold and silversmiths, tailors, gun houses, etc. Further, they borrowed many ideas from the armies of the many Indian Kingdoms that they had fought against and won. The pomp and glory of the imperial army was borrowed from Tipu Sultan’s army, the Marathas and other great armies. One of the best ideas they incorporated from the armies of various Indian rulers was the use of elephants to haul heavy guns atop hilltops during the Anglo-Gorkha wars. The tame, strong and trainable pachyderms were useful graduation from native porters or mules to carry their loads. Another advantage, the British had been of acquiring troops starting with the Plainsmen such as the Buccaneers and the Poorabiyas (Eastern Indians). Since the entire region consisted of big and small separate kingdoms that were perpetually at war with each other, it was not difficult to get soldiers from one kingdom to battle against their arch enemies of the other. The Poorabiyas had no reason not to fight against Deccaneers and so on and so forth.” “The Indian sentiment of oneness would exhibit much later when for the first time they became slaves under British India and realised that to gain independence, they had to unite as one. The British colonisation of the multitude of Indian States inadvertently played a role in bringing about the sensitivity of bringing in a feeling being a single people from the north, south, east, and west under a region larger than ever.”
Anglo- Nepal wars
“The East India Company had a skirmish with Nepal during the office of Governor-General Minto. It was over a disputed tract of land in the Terai region. By the time Lord Francis Rawdon Hastings, the Earl of Moira took over as British Governor-General of India from 4 October 1813, matters had snowballed to a situation where Francis Hastings found it inevitable to declare war. The debacle over a wasteland at Butwal Terai, also called the Hastings bluff, was instigated. The growing stature of the Gorkha Sena of a hitherto unknown kingdom of Nepal had reached challenging heights for the British. By 1804, Nepal’s western section included Kumaon-Garhwal extending across the hill states of Sirmour, Nalagarh (Hindur), Bilaspur and Bushahr including the petty states of Bahra and Athara Thakurais till the eastern territory of southern Sikkim. The East India Company, on the other hand, had taken over Hindustan and more. Nepal’s clash with the Company began as their territories started overlapping each other. With new acquisitions, old disputes were also inherited, particularly in the Terai area, which ran across the state of Oudh where the Company had started establishing protectorates under its administration. The Terai Arc, which forms the southern strip of Nepal, was a no man’s land where only local natives could survive. For Nepal, the Terai was not only the source of agriculture but was also habitat to wild animals like tigers, rhinos and elephants. Kathmandu dwellers owned land there from where they derived income from the crops while royals visited for personal or diplomatic hunting trips. For the same reasons, the Terai was also of interest to the Company.”
In 1795, “Lord Cornwallis had assured the Raja of Nepal of defining the borders along Morang and Purnea districts, but the work had not materialised since records were inaccurate and the cultivators did not permit revenue collectors to enter their territories. This region was an exceedingly hostile area with no Company functionary wanting to go there for any legal landmarking. In 1804, when General Amar Singh Thapa conquered Palpa, he expected continuance of rents from Butawal near Gorakhpur. But when Nepalese officers went to Butawal to collect the same, they were shocked to know that the Nawab of Oudh had ceded Gorakhpur to the Company. The Nepalese offer to retain Butawal with the rental to the Company was rejected. A year passed, and as the Company did not press its claim, the Nepalese continued to visit the Butawal villages, with an interpretation that as long as they paid rent to the local zamindars (who also received it), they were at liberty to continue farming. Eventually, the Company revenue collectors accused Nepal of unlawful land occupation.” In 1806, “Bhimsen Thapa believed the Company was a threat and built a fort at Kheri (east of the Kali river) between Oudh and the hills.” In 1811, “the Magistrate of Bareilly reported that the Gorkhas had built a fort in an area which had been assessed as ceded and was a part of the conquered provinces of the Company and therefore no revenues had been actualised. Discussions on these border issues were held in Calcutta, and it was decided that Nepal had no rights on the border areas till they were finalised. Earlier, in 1765, the Company had acquired rights over Bettiah with hundreds of villages, of which Nepal claimed the lowlands of Makwanpur. The Raja of Bettiah, now a Company zamindar, took law in his hands and sent armed mercenaries to murder the Nepalese Subba or Governor there. Nepal’s appeal for justice to the Patna and Saran courts was responded with the verdict that the zamindar could not be blamed since the Nepalese Subba was guilty of unlawful possession. Nepal, displeased at the favouritism shown to the Raja, consented to a joint commission to inspect the border issue, claiming ownership of twenty-two more of the Saran villages, besides the ones in dispute.” “This border dispute brought Nepal in conflict with the Company and the need to tame Nepal was considered. With Nepal’s expansion over the west and east, it was seen as an expansionist power with a formidable presence towards the Northwest Frontier.”
Any conflict across the Terai had to be seasonal, “as it was endurable only for a restricted time. During the monsoon months from April to October, the fatal malaria fever was deadly in the Terai. The ominous campaign of 1766 led by Capt. Kinloch through the Terai to Kathmandu was remembered. The idea of one decisive battle was too perilous contemplating the Gorkhas’ agility in their countryside. Nepal’s long, narrow and horizontal shape was useful for the British war strategists. It would have to be pierced at various points simultaneously like a worm being pinned down with a four-pronged fork. Francis Hastings planned a campaign, dividing his forces into separate and simultaneous assault. Fighting at several places over a prolonged stretch and period would break the Gorkha defences stretched over extended ranges. The veteran Gorkha Commander Kazi Amar Singh Thapa and the capital at Kathmandu were the cardinal targets the British were gunning for. Amar Singh had to be kept away from Kathmandu, and the two blocked from contact at any point. Two columns were assigned to assault Amar Singh’s stronghold in the western Himalayas. Another two would attack from the south of Nepal. By October 1814, merely a few months after the last skirmish at Butawal, the British columns were in position at the four points of assault. The Gorkhas, on the other hand, were not able to complete their preparations in the time that Hastings had expeditiously drawn up”.
On 31 October 1814, “the British column led by Major-General Robert Rollo Gillespie attacked the Gorkha stockade called the Khalanga Fort commanded by Balbhadra Kunwar. Gillespie was killed on the first day. The Gorkhas put up such a robust fight that the British side had to resort to blocking off their clandestine water supply to defeat them.” The staunch Gorkha defence, hit by lack of water, ultimately crumbled. “Balbhadra and his men evacuated the fortress and sped westwards to Jythuck in Sirmour. On 30 November 1814, when the British troops entered the fort, they found dead or dying Gorkhas. Major-General Martindell with his troops then moved towards Jythuck.”
The Treaty of Sugauli between Nepal and East India Company was signed on 2 December 1815. “Of the two transcripts of the Treaty signed, one went to Hastings and the other to King Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah Dev for ratification. Hastings endorsed his transcript with great relief. The loan of Rs 2 crore that he had taken from the Nawab of Oudh for the war could now be taken care of. He had been under flak from the Board of Directors for the colossal war expense. Now he planned to recompense half the loan amount by giving the Terai on the Oudh border to the Nawab, and much of Nepal’s territories in the west were in his possession. Nepal was granted only fifteen days to ratify the treaty but was not ready to give up without another fight. Nepal did not ratify the treaty, and the Treaty of Sugauli did not return from Kathmandu with ratification, and the deadline concluded.” “Bada Kazi Amar Singh Thapa who had been called to Kathmandu to endorse the Treaty, had protested against the inclusion of the Article 4 which stated, “With a view to indemnify the Chiefs and Bharadars of the State of Nepal, whose interests will suffer by the alienation of the lands ceded by the foregoing Article, the British Government agrees to settle pensions to the aggregate amount of two lakhs of rupees per annum on such Chiefs as may be selected by the Rajah of Nipal, and in the proportions which the Rajah may fix. As soon as the selection is made, Sunnuds shall be granted under the seal and signature of the Governor-General for the pensions respectively.” “It meant that chosen Nepalese would be allowed to retain jagirs or pensions in the Terai. Amar Singh Thapa was against any Nepalese being pensioners or jagirdars under British government as it meant they would still be puppets under British rule. He insisted that there should be no grey area and prevailed upon all not to consent to any such clauses. “‘Bradshaw agreed to amend the Treaty and confer the estates in the Terai west up to River Rapti, permanently to the Nepalese. On 28 December 1815, Chandrasekhar Upadhyaya and Gajraj Mishra returned to Kathmandu to bring the Treaty duly ratified. By this time, Hastings had appointed as the new Political Agent and Military Commander to resume the Treaty talks. On 25 January 1816, the relationship of the East India Company and Nepal was in its third year; when Ochterlony assumed charge of military preparations to not only capture the forts of Makwanpur but also attack Kathmandu if the Nepalese did not ratify the Treaty. On 27 January 1816, when Gajraj Mishra arrived at Sugauli from Kathmandu without the ratified Treaty, he was told to apprise his government that all negotiations had ceased and war declared.”
On 27 January 1816, “a year after he led his campaign against Amar Singh Thapa from Nalagarh in the west, Ochterlony was at it again, this time from the Terai, close to Kathmandu. Nine km from the periphery of the Terai, the little hamlet of Balwi, at the edge of Saran, bustled with activity as British troops congregated in numbers never seen before. Thousands of soldiers marched in with artillery of guns and cannons, elephants and all kinds of support personnel. The planned points of attack were the three forts at Hethaura, Makwanpur and Harcharpur. Major General David Ochterlony with four brigades consisting of 20,000 men and eighty-three guns would target Makwanpur.” On Ochterlony’s left, “the column led by Major General John Wood (recalled again) with 5,000 men and artillery was to advance from the Terai towards Palpa and Tansen. On Wood’s left, Jasper Nicholls, along with Edward Gardner, would lead 6,500 men with twenty field guns. Lt Colonel Adams was to advance from Kumaon to the Gorkha position in the west. 0n 3 February 1816 the British troops were back to heaving, chopping, blasting and cleaving paths for their guns on elephants again, through the forests of the Terai and up the hills towards the extremely formidable Bichakori Pass. On 14 February 1816, Ochterlony and his men began negotiating the arduous climb up the 300 feet high, cliff face of Bichakori Pass. They clung on to shrubs, branches and rocks, whatever they could hold on to, hauling up their baggage with ropes. It took them twenty-five hours to accomplish this herculean task. Ochterlony marched on westwards, to Hethaura, crossing the Karara river. He camped there for a week till Burnet and his troops caught up with him. The Raja or Chogyal of Sikkim offered Tibetan soldiers and full co-operation to Major Barre Latter for his campaign against Nepal’s strongholds in southern Sikkim. Latter already had 35,000 regulars and 100 pieces of artillery. After marching eastwards across the River Kosi, Latter reached Titalia, where he added 2,000 Tibetan soldiers. They marched the distance of 370 km from River Kosi to the Gorkha fort at Nagri which was well defended. Surrounding the fort, Latter held it to siege and tried unsuccessfully to persuade the Governor of the fort, Jayanti Khatri to surrender.”

Fig.3.1: Map of Nepal

This Nepal-East India Company war was a terrible ordeal for Nepal. This resulted in the loss of approximately half of the Nepalese territory. However, the conflict also manifested and proved to British of the fighting mettle of the Nepalese under severely adverse circumstances.
Earlier, the Nepali invasion of Tibet in 1855 too resulted in a disaster for the Kingdom of Nepal and once again resulted in great losses once China intervened. The resultant was the signing of the Treaty of Thapathali, concluded in March 1856, which forced “Nepal to acknowledge the special status of China in Tibet and also committed Nepal to assisting Tibet in the event of any foreign intrusion. In the 19th century, Nepal aligned itself with the British Raj in India and supported its invasion of Tibet in 1908. When China sought to claim Tibet in 1910, Nepal sided with Tibet and Britain and broke relations with China after Tibet drove Chinese forces out in 1911”.
“The 1950–1951 invasion of Tibet by the People’s Liberation Army resulted in significant changes in the Chinese relationship with Nepal. China ordered restrictions on the entry of Nepalese pilgrims and contacts with Tibet and increased its support for the Communist Party of Nepal, which was opposed to the Nepalese monarchy.Mao repeatedly said that from 1950 onwards, that Taiwan, Tibet, and Hainan Islands were Chinese territories and would be re-possessed. The predominant trait in this claim was the advent of maps showing large parts of Korea, Indo-China, Mongolia, Burma, Malaysia, Eastern Turkestan, India, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan as Chinese territories.” “In fact, Mao repeatedly stated publicly, that Tibet was the palm of a hand, with its five fingers as Ladakh, Sikkim, Nepal, Bhutan, and North East Frontier Agency.”
“This statement of Mao worried King Tribhuwan of Nepal who invited an Indian Military Mission (IMM) to Nepal for reorganizing and modernising his army. Before King Tribhuvan’s takeover, Nepal had no regular army or soldiers. They were kept part-time and when not on duty followed other professions. Periodically, they were called for parades in Kathmandu. This army was ill-equipped and ill-paid.”
The IMM arrived at Kathmandu “on February 28, 1952, and was tasked to assist in the reorganization of the Nepali Army, formulating defence plans against internal and external threats, and improving intelligence and administrative establishments. The IMM was considered a sell out to India, by various political parties including the B. P. Koirala faction of the Nepalese Congress Party. The IMM comprised of a Major General assisted by 20 Indian army officers. In December 1953, its strength was a total of 197, all ranks. On its recommendations, by April 1952, the RNA was downsized from 25,000 ill-organised, ill-paid and indisciplined soldiers to 6000 better trained and equipped ones.”
In the meanwhile, “in September 1951, 17 check posts were established, with Nepalese concurrence, along with Nepal’s northern borders with China. These were manned jointly by 75 Indian technicians and Nepalese Army personnel. In mid-1958, the King asked India to withdraw the IMM. As a result, India agreed to reduce its strength to 23 in all and to retain it under the name of Indian Military Training and Advisory Group (IMTAG). On June 5, 1969, the Nepalese PM asked for the withdrawal of the check posts and IMTAG and stressed that Nepal could not compromise its sovereignty for India’s so-called security.” “The withdrawal of military personnel was completed by August 1970. In practice, Nepal remains in close touch with India in matters of defence and security.”
In 1965, “consequent to the arms agreement, India was required to supply arms, ammunition and equipment to the entire Nepalese Army of 17,000 personnel, comprising four re-organised brigades. It catered for replacement of existing weapons as well as training.” “Military relations soured with the withdrawal of the IMTAG. After the restoration of amicable relations, post-1989 crisis, the Nepalese sought India’s help in raising large-scale military formations by reorganising the existing army from its battalions and independent companies into brigades and divisions. The Maoists rebellion in Nepal forced the Government of Nepal to relook at the equipping of its army and make it capable of fighting these Maoists. Once again Nepal requested assistance from India and a host of other nations including the USA, the UK, and China, the EU, and Pakistan, all of whom reacted in various ways and provided Nepal with diverse military equipment.” From India, “under a 70% assistance scheme, and through a series of defence-purchase negotiations”, “the Nepal Army (NA) received more than 26,000 weapons of various kinds including 21000 Indian-made INSAS rifles, 81 and 51 mm mortars and other military hardware including landmines, detonators, safety fuses and time pencils. India also provided four Advanced Light Helicopters.” Post the ‘Jan Andolan’ and under admonition of the Government of Nepal, “India suspended military aid and supply of lethal equipment but continued with the supply of non lethal weapons to include 216 light vehicles, 154 heavy vehicles, including 58 trucks of 7.5 tons capacity, 67 trucks of 2.5 tons capacity, 4 ambulances, and 25 multi-purpose armoured vehicles, among others.”
The “Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government and the then Maoist rebels stopped both parties from procuring arms and ammunitions until the completion of the peace process. After the conclusion of the peace process and with the integration of the former Maoist combatants into the Nepal Army, the government of Nepal wrote to all countries having diplomatic relations stating that there was no obstruction for procurement of arms and ammunition.”
Nepal continues to request “arms assistance/ weapons from India under the Nepal-India Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950. Article 5 of the said treaty mentions that Nepal was free to import arms from any third country but needed to consult before the Indian government.” This clause Nepal continues to disregard.
This clause has remained “a divisive and debated issue among the leaders, experts and analysts and has often been termed as unequal while some politicians have maintained that this treaty compelled Nepal to depend on India. Several people want a re-examination of the treaty while some have been demanding that the accord is scrapped in the changed geopolitical scenario.”
“Since the reinstatement of Democracy, post the Jan Andolan in Nepal, military relations and cooperation between the two countries gradually improved. Likewise, India’s concern and ascendency, after Nepal’s peace process, has increased dramatically”.
Military Relations India and Nepal Post Independence
At the time of Independence, there were ten Gorkha Regiments in the Indian Army. Although Pakistan also made a bid for the surplus Gorkha regiments, they did not press their claim, and, of course, Nepal could not be expected to go along with that claim. Six Gorkha Regiments were earmarked for the Indian Army and four for the British Army. It was also decided that a referendum be held in all Gorkha units for the Gorkha soldier to give his choice for service in the Indian or the British Army. Till 1947, the British had debarred Indians from joining the officer cadre of Gorkha Regiment. Even when Gorkha soldiers from Gorkha Regiments got promoted to commissioned ranks, they were not accommodated in Gorkha Regiments. They were posted to different Indian Regiments. British officers fervently believed that, as the Gorkha soldiers had been serving only under them and they had no contact with Indian Officers, the result of the referendum among Gorkha soldiers was a foregone conclusion. But the results of the referendum came as a great shock to them. Well over 90 per cent of Gorkha soldiers opted for service with the Indian Army. Non-optees from Gorkha Regiments earmarked for service with the British Army were drafted into newly raised Battalions of Gorkha Regiment allotted to the Indian Army. A new Gorkha Regiment, namely the 11 Gorkha Rifles, had also to be raised for these non-optees. After Independence, Indian officers were posted to Gorkha units for the first time. It took a few months for these units to settle down with a completely new set of officers. Thus, in the initial months of the 1947-48 war in Jammu and Kashmir, there was no participation of Gorkha units. However, later they more than made up for it in Kashmir. The Gorkhas distinguished themselves in the assault on 10,000 feet Pir Kanthi Hill and in the epic battle of Zojila. During the advance to Kargil, Subedar Harka Bahadur Gurung swam across an icy cold swift flowing river in winter to enable a rope bridge to be built. Even today the concrete bridge at that site bears his name. There were many gallantry awards of Maha Vir Chakras and Vir Chakras earned by Gorkha units in Kashmir. They also earned an Ashok Chakra, the highest gallantry award in peace during the Police Action in Hyderabad. In every war fought by the Indian Army after Independence, the Gorkhas have played a gallant role. They have earned several Param Vir Chakras, the highest award for gallantry.
Since 1965, both the countries confer the title of “honorary general” to each other’s army chief. “The two armies exchange goodwill visits since 1950, when the then Chief of Indian Army, General Cariappa visited Nepal. Since then, 21 Indian Army Chiefs visited Nepal while 16 Nepal Army Chiefs have visited their southern neighbour.” “The relationship between the Nepal Army (NA) and the Indian Army is excellent. A large number of officers and men undergo professional military courses in India. Further, a large number also have close relations (both serving and retired) with their kith and kin who serve/served in the Indian Army.”
Traditionally, “the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) of the NA visits India at the earliest after assumption of the post, during which he is conferred with the rank of an Honorary General of the Indian Army by the President of India”. In 2016, the NA Chief, General Rajendra Chettri visited was conferred with the rank of ‘Honorary General in the Indian army and the Indian Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat has conferred this rank in the Nepali army in 2017.
In 1995, “India had in principle accepted the request of the Government of Nepal to assist the NA in its ‘Modernisation and re-organisation’ process. During 2004-2007, defence stores worth IRs.2, 12,85,8,333 were provided to the Nepalese Army gratis. Apart from the stores supplied under ‘Modernisation Programme’, NA also purchases defence stores on payment. Due to recent political changes in Nepal, the quantum of supply of defence stores supplied to the NA has considerably reduced.”
Based on “an agreement during the 7th Nepal-India Bilateral Consultative Group on Security, the two countries commenced joint training at platoon level (30 men each) in 2011. The first two joint exercises focused primarily on jungle warfare and counterinsurgency operations. Troops shared their experiences and exhibited skill sets during joint training at Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School at Vairangate in Mizoram and a similar school at Amlekhganj in Nepal. This level of joint training was upgraded to a company level in 2012”.
Subsequently, “Indian and Nepalese Armies crossed another historic milestone, when a battalion from each of the countries took part in a combined training programme to ensure inter-operability in the disaster-prone region of Uttarakhand. The Indo-Nepal Joint Military Training Exercise Surya Kiran-V was conducted at Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand from September 23 to October 6, 2013. This was the first of the battalion level combined training exercises between the two countries, and at least 400 soldiers from each Army participated at Pithoragarh where the focus was on ‘Disaster Response’ in the geological disaster-prone zones of the Himalayas.” In February 2016, “the Ninth Indo-Nepal Combined Battalion level Military Training Exercise SURYA KIRAN was conducted at Pithoragarh. During this exercise, the Indian Army and the Nepalese Army trained together and shared their experiences of Counter Terrorism operations and Jungle Warfare in mountain terrain.”
These Surya Kiran series of exercises “are bi-annual events which are conducted alternatively in Nepal and India. The aim of these combined training exercises is to enhance interoperability between the Indian and the Nepalese Army units. The training also focuses on Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief including medical and aviation support.” “Both the Armies stand to benefit mutually from these shared experiences, and this combined training, mutual interaction and sharing of experiences between both the countries further invigorates the continuing historical military and strategic ties, giving further fillip to the bilateral relations and existing strong bonding between both countries.”