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“Greater Nepal” -- A powerful slogan echoing in India's backyard

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By Syed Ali Mujtaba

The idea of Greater Nepal is a new brand of nationalism that is being packaged in the Himalayan state against India. Greater Nepal wants an idea to extend its boundaries into the territories like Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal and Kangra region of India.

Cities like Darjeeling, Nainital, Almora and Dehradun and few others are supposed to be part of Greater Nepal. They say these territories were ceded to the East India Company under the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 due to the defeat of the Gurkha king in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814–16. It was an unjust treaty that was held between shareholders of the Company and the King of a state. Such a treaty has no relevance in the age of democracy and people’s sovereignty.  

The Treaty of Sugauli in 1816 caused Nepal's rulers to lose about 105,000 km of territory and left Nepal as it is today, with 147,181 km of present total area.

The British government in December 1923 superseded the Sugauli Treaty with a "Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship.” The Indian government further ratified this Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950.
However, those behind the idea of ‘Greater Nepal’ want to scrap the 1950 agreement with India. Behind this there is a NGO called Greater Nepal Nationalist Front (GNLF) headed by Phanindra Nepal that wants to achieve the goal of Greater Nepal. There are also some political parties like Greater Nepal Nationalist Front that endorse such ideas.

The GNLF has launched a signature campaign demanding the return of territory belonging to Nepal. According to ‘The Rising Nepal', a government-owned national daily, the campaign was initiated by the Greater Nepal Nationalist Front coinciding with Nepal National Unity Day. The signatures collected were supposed to be handed over to the Nepal president Bidya Devi Bhandari, UN secretary general, the five members of the UN Security Council, and to the SAARC secretary general.  

The concept of Greater Nepal stands on two legs. One is Nepal’s treaty with the East India Company that GNLF says has become redundant. Second, the areas that form the parts of Greater Nepal are inhabited by Nepalese people who speak Gorkhali language and are ethnically and linguistically more closer to the people of Nepal than to the Indian mainland.

As far as the government of Nepal is concerned it does not subscribe to the idea of “Greater Nepal” nor do the major political parties of Nepal. However, the fact remains that “Greater Nepal” is a powerful slogan that is gaining ground in the neighboring state.

Recently, both houses of Nepal’s parliament approved a new map including territory controlled by India. The National Assembly or upper house unanimously voted to endorse the new political map issued last month that shows the disputed areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepal.

The Indian side has said Nepal’s “shifting” claims are contrary to the Treaty of Sugauli signed in 1815 by Nepal and the British, a ruling by the British governor general in 1817, and Nepal’s boundary treaty with China of 1961 and protocols signed by these two countries in 1963 and 1979.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@gmail.com] 
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