Nepali Times Asian Paints
From The Nepali Press
A pound of flesh

Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba's India visit comes at a time when Nepal is weak and in crisis. Nepal has had bitter experiences of negotiating with India at such times. Former Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher signed the 1950 treaty with India during a time of crisis for the Rana regime.The arms and ammunitions treaty in 1965 came after an internal conflict in the country. Immediately after the 1990 movement, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai visited India and signed a joint statement which was against Nepal's national interest in the long run.

The Tanakpur treaty after Girija Prasad Koirala's visit is yet another bitter experience. Everbody knows about the Mahakali Treaty which Deuba and the UML signed in New Delhi. It was because of Deuba had agreed on the categorisation of Bhutani refugees that humanitarian crisis was prolonged. Mistakes like these have always kept Nepal-India relations from improving and prevented economic progress here. The laws prepared by parliament can be changed by the next parliament, but treaties can't be changed without the consent of the other country involved. And why should the other country agree to change the treaty when it knows that it is reaping benefits from it?

Most countries have units specialising in international law in their foreign ministries, but there is no such unit in ours. There is also a need to include an international legal expert in the team that makes an official visit. King Birendra had begun that tradition but it was not continued. At a time when Nepal is besieged with all sorts of problems, Deuba must understand that if Nepal tries to get Indian help to solve the Maoist problem, it may have to pay a pound of flesh. The Maoist problem may not remain, Deuba may no longer be prime minister, but the agreements he signs in Delhi will remain. He should not sign a water resource or any other deal with India. It would be better if our agenda is limited to existing problems like the 1950 treaty, Kalapani, Mahakali treaty and Bhutani refugee problem.

At a time when we have no parliament, the government should avoid dealing with new issues that would have a longterm effect. There is a need for an initiative to make the Nepal-India relation transparent, democratic, equal in sovereignty, and based on mutual benefit.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)