Evolution of ties INDIA – NEPAL


NEPAL is India’s unique neighbour. The two countries are closely bound together in a complex web of linkages and contiguities that span across civilizational, historical, socio-cultural, economic, geostrategic, and political terrains.

 Historic connect:

  • If one goes into the Hindu mythology of Ramayan, Lord Ram, the prince of Ayodhya, married the princess Sita of Janakpur, which is a part of modern Nepal.
  • The Lichhavies of India came to ancient Nepal in 300 AD. They overthrew the Kirantis that ruled the present-day Kathmandu region.
  • The Shah Kings of Nepal (1769–2008) were Sisodia Rajput’s of Rajasthan.


India’s fertile and densely populated Indo-Gangetic heartland flows smoothly into Nepal’s densely populated Terai flatland reinforcing their territorial bonds as one sub- Himalayan strategic entity.

Cultural affinity:

  • Like India, Nepal is a dominantly Hindu society (82 per cent of the population according to the 2011 census)with Buddhism and Islam as major minority religions. Lord Buddha was born as a prince (Siddharth) in the Lumbini/Kapilvastu area of Nepal Terai but gained enlightenment in India.
  • The dominant languages of Nepal—Nepali, Maithili, and Bhojpuri etc.—are rooted in Indian languages: Sanskrit, Pali, Hindi, and their regional variations.
  • Thus the two countries are therefore said to be lodged into each other’s intestines, each sharing the spill over of turbulence and tenacity from the other.

However there are many reasons behind the breakdowns in India’s Nepal policy and diplomacy. To begin with, there was a congenital flaw in India’s policy being driven by a strong sense of inherent insecurity, bordering on paranoia. This insecurity arose from two developments;

One was the victory of the communists in China and its military assertion in Tibet and; The other was the unfolding of the Cold War which, to India’s discomfiture, crept into the South Asian region.

Between 1950–1 and 2005–6, Nepal has witnessed four major transformational political uprisings:

(a) 1950–1: the anti-Rana revolution;

(b) 1960: the King’s coup against representative democratic government;

(c) 1989–90: the ‘Jan Andolan-I’ people’s movement to change Nepal’s monarchical Panchayat system;

(d) 2005–6: Nepal’s ‘Jan Andolan-II’ against autocratic monarchy. In all four cases, India got actively involved and played a decisive role on the side of the opponents of the Nepali state.

However, in all the four cases, India’s diplomatic breakthroughs in resolving the revolts were eventually turned into massive diplomatic breakdowns which prevented India building political capital in Nepal for its vital national interests.


  • There arose a strong domestic political resistance in Nepal to these Indian moves with a change in Nepalese monarchy in 1955; from King Tribhuwan to his son King Mahendra, who even as a Crown prince was strongly resentful of India’s massive presence in Nepal.
  • He opened up Nepal’s external relations and forced India to start winding up specific initiatives in the areas of Nepal’s foreign policy and defence matters.
  • The growing presence of the third countries and erosion of its mutual security arrangements with Nepal irritated Indian policy-makers.
  • When persuasion for political reforms failed, India decided to support Nepali popular revolt against the Ranas.
  • This was the beginning of India’s active involvement in the subsequent transformational political movements in Nepal. This involvement was driven by India’s interest in a stable and progressive political order in Nepal.
  • After the success of the anti-Rana revolution, India failed to ensure a stable political order in Nepal and democratic institutionalization


  • The new King Mahendra managed to subvert India’s goal of ‘special relations’, of consolidating mutual security arrangements and keeping foreign influences out of the kingdom.
  • In 1960, India even supported the Nepali Congress’s armed struggle against King Mahendra’s coup.
  • However, India failed to make the King reverse his autocratic actions, first due to the China’s war on India and Nepal’s successful playing of the China card, and then due to India’s own internal troubles
  • India’s security and economic interests suffered most during the decades of Nepal’s monarchical supremacy in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.


  • During 1988–90, India’s pressures on Nepal in reaction to King Birendra’s (successor of King Mahendra) purchase of Chinese arms and efforts to erode 1950 Treaty arrangements, as also the lapse of the trade treaty facilitated the Jan Andolan-I. India’s open and active popular support for the Jan Andolan-I eventually led King Birendra to abandon the Panchayat system and reintroduce multi-party democracy under constitutional monarchy.
  • However within just one decade, the King could re- establish himself in 2002 as the principal center of power and authority in Nepal.


  • During 2005–6, Nepal’s Jan Andolan-II, in the midst of much internal divide among policy-makers, India succeeded in helping the mainstreaming of the Maoists.
  • However, panicked by the Maoists’ electoral success in Nepal in 2008 and their attempts to dominate the state (as they could have become shelter to Indian Maoists and could have aligned to China)
  • India pitted itself against them and its diplomacy degenerated to the extent that most of the good will earned was lost.
  •  A fall- out of discord between India and the dominant political forces in Nepal was the derailment of its constitution-making process.
  • Maoist entered into democratic process and they won and their relation with China started strengthening and deteriorating with India. The breakdowns in India’s policy and diplomacy adversely affected its immediate and short-term interest in Nepal. More than six decades of such breakdowns have left India’s interests eroded and its capacity to pursue them crippled.
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