Nepal and India relation is always watched with extra interest and attention not only by the people of Nepal and India but also from other countries like China and the US. Geographically, Nepal is located in between the emerging Asian giants; China and India and Nepal have cordial people to people relations since time immemorable with both the countries. India always became the part of the political transformation in Nepal; to abolish Rana rule in 1951, restoring democracy ending Panchayat system in 1990, to end a decade-long Maoist insurgency in 2006 with facilitating for 12 point agreements between the then Maoist and the Seven Parties Alliance. In spite of all such cooperating with Nepal, the relation between both the nations is still not matured enough yet. India blames Nepal for playing China card and Nepal always perceive India’s treatment as a bullying big brother.
Indian Prime Minister IK Gujral had visited Nepal in June 1997, and no Indian Prime Minister visited Nepal since then, but Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Nepal on August 3, 2014, breaking a long gap of 17 years. Then after, certain events like Indian PM Modi’s plan to visit Nepal for the 5th time in December 2018, the formation of Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to negotiate and amend 1950 Peace and Friendship treaty where necessary, donating the most significant economic support for earthquake reconstruction projects, etc., indicates India’s priority to Nepal. India is trying to re-correct its past agreement addressing the Nepalese concern, so that India will have its dominance in the South Asian region, and also her security interest will not be threatened, and I believe it is the perfect time for stable communist government with 2/3rd majority to pull the trigger of opening negotiation for the Mahakali treaty.
The Mahakali treaty is still in controversy under various issues, and some significant concerns that need immediate responses are issues associated with; origin of Makahali river, Kalapani issue, and difference on the interpretation of the article 3 of the treaty. The Mahakali treaty was ratified without resolving the issue of the origin of Mahakali River, and there are majorly three interpretations on the source of Mahakali River; Limpiyadhura (where Kali is called Kutiyangdi), Lupulek and a small stream from Kalapani lake. Among these three interpretations, Nepal has claimed the origin of Mahakali River from Limpiyadhura whereas, India has stated the stream coming from Kalapani Lake as the origin of the Mahakali River. The place where the Indian army is camping at Kalapani since 1962 is one of the contested places regarding the ownership of land between Nepal and India. India has claimed that place at Kalapani as Indian Territory and Nepal has claimed the same, but the issue has not yet finalized.
The article 3 of the treaty states, “…have equal entitlement in the utilization of the waters of the Mahakali river without prejudice to their respective existing consumptive uses of the waters of the Mahakali River…”. There is no clear understanding of the above provision of the Mahakali treaty. There are different interpretations of the same provision of the agreement between the then Minister of Water Resource, Pashupati Sumsher Rana, and the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Prakash Chandra Lohani and the strictures (Sankalpa Prastav) passed by the then parliament of Nepal. Most importantly, there is a contradiction in the interpretation of the then Minister of Water Resources, Pashupati Sumsher Rana on the same provision in the different context. The provision of Article 3 may work as a PRECEDENT not only for the Mahakali River but also for other rivers. Even, if India demands its prior existing consumptive uses of Kosi and Gandak rivers based from probable PRECEDENT established in Mahakali treaty, 1996, then Nepal will not get even a drop of water from these rivers during the lean season.
Communist Party of Nepal formed after merging the then UML and the Maoist Central has a Maoist faction who always shouted against the Mahakali treaty throughout the insurgency period, it also has the faction led by Bam Dev Gautam who split the party with the reason of endorsing the Mahakali agreement, and most importantly Mr. K. P Sharma Oli, the then coordinator of the team to study the Mahakali treaty is the Prime Minister with 2/3rd majority. Also due to existing geopolitics of South Asia and an aggressive move of China towards the south has brought India in the position to open the door of negotiation to discuss Nepalese concern to maintain its influence in its geopolitical sphere. Indian officials publically ask Nepal to table any disagreement concern formally, but now the Nepal government should rise above personal interest for the sake of national importance and table the issue of the Mahakali treaty that they have been shouting when they were outside of the government during the upcoming visit of PM Modi in Nepal. It is an opportunity for the entire communist party of Nepal and especially PM K.P Oli to demonstrate its nationalist image, and most importantly it is the expectation of the general voters of Nepal for making the Communist party as not only the largest in Nepal in South Asia but also as the third-largest in Asia.