NEPAL-BRITAINTies At 200 Years

In the history of modern Nepal, coming March 4 will markthe two hundred years since ratifying the SugauliTreaty with the United Kingdom. The treaty had ended the turmoil and turbulence in the hills and restored peace and tranquility giving Nepal a st

Feb. 20, 2016, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol:09,No 15, February 19, 2016 (Falgun 7,2072)

Every day some Nepalese pass theSugaulicity, a small city of East Champaran district in the Indian state of Bihar on the way to Patna, but only a few people notice the historical importance of the city for modern Nepal. It was this city where Britain and Nepalsigned the treaty to establish their diplomatic relations on December 2,1815.It was ratified on March 4, 2016.

With a population of over 38,000, the historically important city standsas quiet as it was following the treaty. Although the occasion has so much of historical importancefor the nation, the government of Nepal has yet to announce any major program to celebratethe bicentenary.

For the last two hundred years, Britain has maintained its cordiality all the time. Soon after presenting his credentials in November 2015, new British ambassador to Nepal Richard Morris gave high importance to Nepal-Britainties, addressing a cross section of Nepalese at areception hosted by him.

Nepal government has also initiated some programs. “We have been organizing various programs. Our Mission in United Kingdom hosted a reception last year as a tone setting,” said Tara Prasad Pokharel, spokesperson of Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Deputy Prime minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs visited United Kingdom as part of the bicentenary program."

As Nepal and United Kingdom are celebrating the bicentenary, Prince Harry will make an official visit to Nepal this spring.

While paying a courtesy visit to Speaker OnsariGharti recently, British envoy Morris welcomed the new constitution and said that the new statute has proved to be a milestone in Nepal's history. He also said that Britain is ready to support Nepal in reconstruction work in the earthquake affected areas, read a statement.

The Ambassador also informed that the British embassy is all set to celebrate 200 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between Nepal and Britain by organizing various programs next year.

As Nepal has transformed from a completely isolated Himalayan Kingdom to a modern Republic with wide international connectionsand diplomatic relations with over 110 countries around the world, the Sugauli treaty was afirst treaty signed by Nepalwith Britain as an independent and sovereign nation.

“The treaty is very significant as it recognizesNepal’s boundary as an independent nation internationally. The treaty also recognizes Nepal’s state formation process internationally,” said Professor Dr.Surendra KC, who is the chairperson of the History Association of Nepal.

British historian Alastair Lamb in his book British India and Tibet writes that the treaty revives Nepal’s status as an independent state. “In 1814, Nepal was no longer an independent state, since 1792 it had been a Chinese tributary. Thus, the treaty made Nepal’s status again as independent,” writes historian Lamb.

In the words of Nepali historian Stiller, it was a treaty which virtually ruined Nepal. “The first question posed by the Treaty of Sugauli dealt directly with continued unity of the nation. Would Sugauli result in a breakdown of that unity or would Nepal survive as a unified state? Obviously Nepal has survived and yet the question has meaning because it takes us to the very heart of Nepal post war problems,” writes Ludwig F. Stiller, S.J in his book Silent Cry.

The treaty called for territorial concessions in which parts of Nepal will be given to British India, the establishment of a British representative in Kathmandu, allowed Britain to recruit Gurkhas for military service.

“After the war, the Treaty of Segauliformalized in March 1816 established a full relationship with Britain as two independent nations. We chose not to try to colonize, but to partner and influence. We were Nepal’s only such partner between 1816 and 1951,” said Andrew Sparkes CMG, former British ambassador to Nepal addressing a program a year ago in Kathmandu.

“Our engagement as nations began rather unpromisingly with a war, and indeed our recruitment of Gurkha soldiers began by effectively stealing from the other side! But in the meantime British fascination with Nepal had already begun- a member of the mission tasked with conducting the tense exchanges before the war was Alexander Buchanan-Hamilton, who made some early and excellent notes and drawings on Nepal’s unique flora and fauna.”

The first visit to the UK in 1850 by Nepalese leader Jang BahadurRana, who famously got on so well with Queen Victoria that during his year’sstayshe saw him no less than six times.

Chandra Shamser’s visit to UK in 1908 kept up the momentum but the next real watershed moment was the signature in 1923 of the Treaty under which the British accepted in writing that Nepal was an independent nation. This was crucial to Nepal’s future.

“But is a relationship not just about the past, but the present and the future? In the past, Nepal mattered to us because it was surrounded by countries which we either ruled or influenced. But the South Asia region still matters to us- not any longer because we are a superpower but because of the millions of Britons who come from South Asian origin. In such a region, we need Nepal to be a beacon of stability and democracy, a like-minded power growing in prosperity and influence. A South Asian country which keeps good relations with all its neighbors, can host roundtables and broker between them.That is our strategic interest in Nepal. But there are solid and substantial aspects to the modern relationship, beyond that- above all, our position is as much as the biggest donor to the country," said former ambassador Sparks.

United Kingdom in Development

The Department for International Development (DFID) is that part of the UK Government that manages Britain's aid to poor countries and works to get rid of extreme poverty. In order to better understand and address the issues of poverty in Nepal, in April 1999, DFID established an in-country office staffed by a multi-disciplinary team of both UK nationals and staff appointed in country. DFID presence in Nepal has greatly assisted in working with Nepal and other donors in the development of understanding and establishment of networks that will promote opportunities for change.

DFID’s development assistance program in Nepal is designed to reduce poverty and social exclusion and thus contribute to establishing the basis for a lasting peace. The program covers work to support governance reforms; improve basic services for poor people (including basic education, health, water and sanitation, agriculture and rural infrastructure); and activities in support of peace building and conflict resolution.

DFID is the largest single country donor to Nepal. It was before but it is even more now, DFID has nearly doubledits assistance to a total of £106 million a year. According to DFID, it generated employment opportunities for tens of thousands of people and launched other several programs to uplift the livelihood of poor and vulnerable people.

Along with these, it supported conflict resolution and promoting human rights, democracy and good governance in Nepal.DFID also works for a justice system which has public confidence and champions the rights of the citizen. In the meantime DFID has already done a lot for improving the access of women to justice.

The UK Government is working closely with the Government of Nepal to mark the 200 years and there are already a number of institutions working on exhibitions, symposiums, and films as well as educational, arts, and cultural programs in both the UK and Nepal.

200 years of Gorkha Recruitment

The “Gurkhas” service in the British Army officially started on April 24, 1815. The Brigade of Gurkhascommemorated the start of the recruitment of the Gurkhas as part of a separate set of celebrations between March –June 2015.

On 9th June, the Royal Hospital Chelsea provided the spectacular backdrop for celebrations marking 200 years of loyal Gurkha service to the Crown. The Gurkha Welfare Trust (GWT) fundraising event was attended by various members of the Royal Family in recognition of all the Gurkhas have done for Britain.

Her Majesty the Queen was accompanied by HRH Prince Philip, while HRH Prince Charles – Patron of the GWT and Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Gurkha Rifles – and Prince Harry – who served with a Gurkha battalion in Afghanistan – also attended. The Sultan of Brunei was among the other dignitaries to join the event.

Bicentenary Celebration

Nepal and the UK will celebrate two hundred years of friendship and partnership in March 2016.  During those two hundred years the relationship has developed, changed and ultimately grown closer and closer.  People and governments share interests as partners in development, in science, and in education. The futures are bound through issues such as climate change and the environment.

The Nepalese community in the UK comprises more than 80,000 people and more than 30,000 Britons visit Nepal every year. 

DPM Thapa Visited England

The Foreign Office hosted a reception to celebrate the UK-Nepal bicentenary welcoming the Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign MinisterKamal Thapa in the United Kingdom in December 2015.

“As the son-in-law of a former Gurkha officer, Nepal is particularly close to my heart – as it is to the hearts of many people across the United Kingdom. The Bicentenary year will not only be an excellent platform on which to look back at our rich, shared history and celebrate our close ties. It will spur us on to strengthen our partnership for the future,” said Minister Hugo Swire in a reception welcoming DPM Thapa.

As part of his program, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Thapa met the Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, and Minister of State for Asia, Hugo Swire, for bilateral talks, as well as International Development Minister Desmond Swayne.

Earthquake Recovery

Although Nepal government led by late SushilKoirala responded in a very coldmanner to the British offer in the first phase, not permitting the British Helicopter to carry the rescue mission in Nepal, the United Kingdom continued to provide much needed support to Nepal proving that friends in need are friends indeed. 

By welcoming new constitution immediately after promulgation, the United Kingdom has shown that it gives high priority to political stability of Nepal.

“September’s new Constitution was a significant milestone in the political process. Challenges remain, but I hope peaceful dialogue and compromise will continue – both to remove the blockages to humanitarian aid – and to agree a political position that meets the concerns of all Nepali citizens. Just as we did after the earthquake earlier this year, just as we have over the past two centuries, the UK stands ready to assist in any way we can.”

International Development Minister, Desmond Swayne said, "This year has demonstrated the strength and importance of the UK’s friendship with Nepal. When the devastating earthquakes struck, we were quick to help the Nepali people in their time of need with essential support including shelter, water and blankets.

“Our work to prepare Nepal for such disasters through strengthening infrastructure and pre-positioning vital supplies meant schools remained standing, people who had lost their homes were reached quickly and lives were saved. We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nepal through its recovery and look forward to continuing our 200-year-long partnership.”

Eight months on from April’s devastating earthquake, Nepal continues to face serious challenges. As Nepal’s largest bilateral donor, the UK has shown that it remains fully committed to providing humanitarian assistance and to the reconstruction process. As well as working on short term relief, the Department for International Development is supporting Nepal’s longer term development including by strengthening its health service and helping people train in skills and get into jobs.

UK support to Nepal aims to increase efforts to reduce political instability, boost economic growth and economic inclusion, deliver basic services and increase resilience to natural disasters.

Since the ratification of Treaty of Sugauli which established formal relations between the UK and Nepal, United Kingdom continues to support Nepal’s independence supporting for its all round development. People do not notice Sugauli but United Kingdom has been providinga noticeable support to Nepal in the last two hundred years since the signing of the first such treaty.

“This is a historic year. Britain is Nepal’s oldest friend with 200 hundred years of diplomatic relations. Nepal needs to remember the United Kingdom for its continuing support for its all-round development. Nepal and Britain used to have high level meetings and visits of head of the state from time to time. This needs to continue,” said Dr. Suresh Raj Chalise, former Nepalese ambassador to the United Kingdom. "The support given by the United Kingdom in democratization of Nepal is another milestone in our relations.”

People to People contribution

Not only recognizing Nepal as an independent state, British scholars have also contributed a lot by writing several books on culture, history, language, religions, ethnicity of Nepal. From Colonel Kirk Patrick to Oilfield, Buchman Hamilton, Brian Hudson, Daniel Wright, Laurence Oliphant, Perceval Landon, Cecil Bendall, William Digby and so many others in the past to present writer like Michael Hutt and historian Hon Whelpton, their contribution is immense. Nepal’s history will be incomplete without the contribution of British historians.

Although Nepal accepted a few British offering Nepali Citizens, Conoal J.P Cross, who has become Nepali Citizen now, also greatly contributed in writing history of Nepal. “As a Nepali, it is a matter of pride to celebrate the bicentenary of relations between the two countries as it reminds us of Nepal’s history of independence and story of bravery,” told Colonel Cross to New Spotlight over telephone..

Along with state to state relations, people to people relations have a significant role in strengthening the relations between the two countries. Because of Gurkha connection, many British have their sentimental attachment with Nepal.

The treaty formalized the bilateral relations but individual contributions of British citizens are immense to promote Nepal’s status globally. Organizations like Nepal Britain Society and Britain-Nepal Society have been working to strengthen the people to people relations.

Although he was a native of New Zeeland, Sir Edmund Hillary, who died spending all his life promoting Nepal internationally, conquered Mt. Everest as part of the British Expedition to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

Among many others, Robin Marston contributed in promoting tourism and trekking sector. Similarly, James Dartnall and Tim Edwards, son of the late AV Jim Edwards, promoted eco-tourism business, establishing Tiger Tops  and popularizing the sport of elephant polo.

James, born in Windsor, Berkshire in the UK, and educated at Wellington College, met Edwards junior at Bristol University where they were both studying biology. James already had an interest in photography that emerged during his childhood when his father ran a print and design studio with a medium format Mamiya.

David Gellner, head of anthropology department, Dr. Andrew Hall, Professor Campbell, Professor Michael Thompson, a cultural theorist and anthropologist, associated with International Institute for Applied System Analysis, are British. Thompson is currently bringing out book with DipakGyawali on Nepal’s good and bad developments. David Seddon is another scholar who has been contributing to enrich Nepal.

After the treaty of 1816, Nepalese Gurkhas used to defend the British Empire. Equally, the treaty also allowed the British scholars to enrich Nepal’s history and culture establishing Nepal as a historically ancient state of South Asia.


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