If Nepal seeks Indian military intervention

A treaty obligation that needs to be taken seriously

Under Article 5 of the India-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950, India allows Nepal to freely import ‘from or through the territory of India, arms, ammunition or warlike material and equipment necessary for the security of Nepal’. While a subsequent ‘exchange of letters’ obliges each party to come to the assistance of the other in case of foreign aggression, it is also believed that the treaty has some secret annexures that cover mutual assistance in case of an emergency such as the Maoist rebellion.

News Insight reports that Gen Pyar Jung Thapa, chief of the Royal Nepal Army, has hinted that Nepal may invoke the provisions of the 1950 treaty and seek Indian military support in its battle against the Maoists.

Top sources said that (Indian Ambassador) Mukherjee, after consultations with New Delhi, told the RNA chief that all military assistance would be provided to Nepal to fight the insurgents, and that in an emergency, even troops could be deployed, but he urged with General Thapa to make troops deployment the last option, and not to go public with the demand at any stage, because India was honour-bound to the treaty.

Officials said that General Thapa was not convinced with Mukherjee’s plea, and he will conceivably report his misgivings to King Gyanendra, but India finds itself embarrassed to come to the military aid of a dictatorial regime it has strongly condemned, but going by the RNA’s glorious past contribution, it cannot refuse Nepal’s request for troops, if and when they are formally made.[News Insight]

India must take its treaty obligations seriously. Should King Gyanendra seek Indian military intervention in accordance with the terms of the treaty, India must honour its commitments. Indeed, even if there is no such ‘secret annexure’ or treaty, it is in India’s interests to use its military strength to prevent Nepal from becoming a failed state.

But an Indian military intervention against the Maoists need not automatically mean an endorsement of King Gyanendra’s royal coup. The non-military part of India’s policy must continue to press the King hard on establishing a new national consensus based on multi-party democracy and not excluding a constitutional process that eventually gets rid of the monarchy.

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