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Krishnadev Asked: Why does India have an open border with Nepal?

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  • Pushpita Das replies: The seeds of an ‘open’ border between India and Nepal can be found in the Treaty of Peace and Friendship which the two countries signed in 1950. Articles VI and VII of the Treaty specify that citizens of both countries have equal rights in matters of residence, acquisition of property, and employment and movement in each other’s territory; thus, providing for an open border between the two countries. These provisions allowed the citizens of India and Nepal to cross their shared borders without passport and visa restrictions.

    In fact, the practice of keeping the borders with Nepal open is a British legacy which was continued by India after the independence. During the colonial times, the British required Gorkhas for their army and the Nepalese market for their finished goods. These requirements necessitated unrestricted cross-border movement of both goods and people. In addition, the rise of an assertive China and the absence of any physical barrier between India and Nepal compelled India to define the Himalayas, lying north of Nepal, as its northern barrier with China. Thus, the open border between India and Nepal not only addressed the mutual security concerns, but also fostered close socio-economic relations between the two countries.

    The unrestricted flow of people over the years has resulted in the dissemination of ideas, culture, and settlements of people in each other’s territory, thereby, strengthening the bilateral social and cultural relations. The open border also has had a favourable impact on the two economies. Nepal is a landlocked country and its closest access to the sea is through India. As a result, most of its imports pass through India. As for India, it is the biggest trading partner of Nepal. An open border has also allowed many Nepalese citizens to find employment in India and Indians to open business ventures in Nepal.

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