Nov 2: Reopening Nepal-India border- https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/reopening-nepal-india-border/
- GS-2: India and Nepal
Reopening Nepal-India border
Context: It was after much lobbying and pressure that on 21 September, the Nepalese government decided to re-open the Nepal-India border that was sealed from March 2020 to control the spread of COVID-19.
- Accordingly, the local authorities at the Raxaul-Birgunj border point re-opened the border on 1st October by unlocking the gates and allowing the Indian citizens, apart from the tourists, to enter into the Nepalese territory.
- Reciprocating the decision of the Nepalese government on the issue of re-opening the Nepal-India border, the Indian government t also re-opened the border except for few.
- To ensure the safety of the people from the COVID-19, the local border authorities have made a provision whereby both the Nepalese and Indian citizens would have to produce a COVID-19 negative report within 72 hours while entering into Nepal through the land border.
Repercussions of sealed borders
Before this, never had the 1753-kilometre long border between the two countries been closed.
- The tourism sector contributes as much as 8 percent to Nepal’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), apart from generating direct and indirect employment opportunities for over 1.05 million people. So, the entire Nepalese economy was affected when the Indo-Nepal border was closed. Moreover, the local market centred along the border areas were also severely as it heavily relied on the cross-border movement of people.
- Since millions of Nepalese, especially from the hilly regions, are employed in India, they suffered most during the coronavirus period. Many of those people were held up in India and vice-versa after the border closure. In the chaos, there were cases of deaths after they were denied to cross the border.
- To add to the misery, some people in Nepal fenced three kilometres of the border unilaterally between pillar 435/1 to 439/4 with a barbed wire closer to the “No Man’s Land” in Parsa district of Nepal with the sole intention of creating a rift in the traditional relations between the people of the two countries. Because of construction, the border inhabitants of Nepal and India who often needed to cross over the border for social, cultural, and economic reasons faced insurmountable problems.
- Many people in Nepal and India chose to cross the border through the non-conventional routes which added more risks of the spread of coronavirus from one country to the other.
- Besides, the unauthorised trade along the Nepal-India border also surged, which ultimately resulted in the loss of government revenue.
The Way Forward
- Instead of placing restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles at the Nepal-India border, the governments of the two countries should establish joint health desks at the main border points to ascertain the cases of coronavirus, including in Raxaul-Birgung, allowing only those citizens to cross the border who tested negative.
- Allow unrestricted cross-border movement: To enhance the growing bonds of socio-economic and cultural relations between Nepal and India, it is essential to review the arrangement of the cross-border movement of private vehicles between the two countries.
- The Nepalese authorities at the customs points allow the Indian private vehicles to enter into Nepal for which they have to pay certain charges on a per diem basis at the border points.
- On the other hand, the Nepalese people are required to get prior permission from the Indian embassy in Kathmandu or its Consulate General Office in Birgunj if they have to enter India with vehicles bearing Nepali number plates.
- No such permission is required for the Indian people from the Nepalese embassy in New Delhi if they have to enter Nepal with Indian number plates.
- Such an anomaly in the cross-border movement of vehicles is in fact against the letter and spirit of the 1950 Peace and Friendship Treaty between Nepal and India.
Can you answer the following questions?
- What are the major irritants in Indo-Nepal relations? What are their fallouts? Examine.
- India-Nepal Flood Management