A Tribute to Late King Mahendra of Nepal

- By Uttam B. Khatri

 June Eleven is the Birth Anniversary of late King Mahendra. He would be 100 years old if he did not have an untimely death at the age fifty two. Mahendra was a noble and benevolent King. He loved his country. He did a lot of good things for Nepal. His motto “Ma mare pani mero desh bachi rahos” (May my country live, on the event, even if I die) is the heartfelt testimony for his love for the Nation. Had he survived a few more years, perhaps Nepal would have taken a different course and would not have to go through many tumultuous and violent phases arriving at the current turbulent political conditions the country is in today.   
After the conclusion of World War II, tremendous changes took places all over the world. A Cold War began between US-led Western bloc countries and the Soviet bloc. A new kind of rivalries spread all over the continents. The British Empire after the war had already been devastated, economically. The war ended up with new political challenges for the Empire. It could no longer sustain its battered colonies. The British were forced to grant independence to the colonies in Asia, Africa and the Americas and elsewhere.
In 1947, India was de-colonized and divided into three parts, comprising of two countries of Pakistan and India. The division created West Pakistan and East Pakistan
and India in between. Two countries were born one day apart of each other on August 14, and August 15. East Pakistan was turned into Bangladesh with Indian intervention, later in 1971. The change has made an impact on Nepal as well. Ironically however, and unjustly enough, the British did not return Nepal’s territories that they had
occupied since the conclusion of the so-called Treaty of Sugauli of 1816. India has continued to occupy Nepali territories that were merged into British colony of India since 1816. According to the UN declaration on de-colonization of all territories in the World decades ago, India has no right to occupy Nepal’s lost land. Instead, it is so ironic that India wants to occupy more Nepali land. Occupation of Susta, Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpia Dhura are the glaring examples of India’s political design on Nepal.  
When India became independent in 1947, Nepal had autocratic rule of the Ranas with the King as a figure head. The Rana regime was secured as long as the British were in control of India. After the Ranas were gone, the newly freed India and its leaders apparently had a mindset to merge Nepal into India instead of returning Nepali land. In fact, the hardline Indian leaders like Ballav Bhai Patel had already planned to invade and merge Nepal into India. However, Patel’s premature death prevented the possible takeover of Nepal. Nehru and his close associates were not in favor of military intervention in Nepal possibly for fear of a prolonged and bloody fight they expected to be carried out by the Nepali people. On the other hand, the Ranas had also suspected Indian political leaders’ intention on Nepal. In 1947, Prime Minister Padma Shumsher Rana, who was a moderate among the Ranas, decided to apply for the membership of the United Nation Organization. The Ranas assigned Nepali Embassy in London to proceed for membership in 1948.
It took Six years for Nepal to get membership of the UN. One of important reasons for the delay could be that The Indian Government led by Nehru must have been behind it. After India’s independence and during the cold war period, Nehru was propounding Non Align Movement, and at the same time the Indian Government had an unofficial alignment and a special friendship with the then USSR. It is conceivable that the Nehru‘s Government and Soviet Union were in secret agreement in blocking Nepal’s membership at the UNO. The reason for blocking Nepal’s entry in the UN, substantiates Indian intention on Nepal. The Soviet Union used its veto power several times to block Nepal’s entry. Otherwise, what could be the reason for the delay?
King Mahendra ascended the throne on March 13, 1955. After the death of King Tribhuvan, Mahendra pursued more vigorously for UN membership and finally on December 14, 1955, Nepal secured the membership of the United Nations. King Mahendra played a major role for admission of Nepal. Nepal’s new identification prevented direct Indian intervention in Nepal. If Nepal had failed to become a member of United Nations, the country’s existence could well be uncertain. King Mahendra deserves the credit.
Although King Mahendra did not have a formal education, his home schooling his wisdom, and intellect proved unmatched. Out of his reign of seventeen years, his direct rule lasted for less than eleven years under the Panchayat system. And yet, many of his accomplishments during the period left enormous impacts in Nepali society. His works has transferred Nepal domestically and internationally in such a huge way that Nepal had never seen such profound changes in her over two hundred years old modern history. The King’s opponents, the anti-monarchist do not agree. But this is the reality. A careful study of the history should tell the truth.
After India became free in 1947, the air of freedom started to blow into Nepal as well. With the British gone from India, the Ranas who served them as Masters began to feel unsecured. Conditions changed, and In order to stay in power, the regime had to please Nehru’s Government. On the other side, since King Tribhuvan was compelled to take India’s assistance to get rid of the Ranas, he had some obligation to them. India with the support of some dissident Nepalis, helped Tribhuvan to go into exile in New Delhi. As a result of the assistance, India had upper hand in imposing political changes in Nepal. The compromise between the Rana regime, King Tribhuvan, India and the Nepali political leader ended in a tripartite settlement. King Tribuvan, the Ranas and Nepali congress and other leaders retuned to Kathmandu with the formation of a coalition Government. However, the Government fell within a short period of time. The last bastion of the Rana regime, Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher resigned and democracy was declared in Nepal in 1951. Since then, political instability began and Indian influence started to grow in Nepal.
During the period between 1951 and 1955, until the demise of Tribhuvan, Nepal had an unusual political transition. India, obviously tried to take advantage of the situation. Tribhuvan was not in a position to act as a full Sovereign. He was obligated to seek permission from India even on matters of day to day administration to run the country. King Tribhuvan’s advisor used to come from India. Because of lack of modern communication at that time, The King himself used to fly to New Delhi to get their approval even when he had to make some changes in the cabinet. A lot of bad things had been happening in Nepal. In 1953 during the reign of King Tribhuvan when Matrika Prasad Koirala was the Prime Minister, India installed military post at eighteen points all along Sino-Nepal border. This was a clear-cut intervention by India on the internal affairs of Nepal.  King Tribhuvan apparently could not prevent it from happening. India started treating Nepal as if it was one of their states.
King Mahendra was not happy about what was happening in the country before he ascended on the throne. He moved carefully and cautiously to make changes in the country. In order to diffuse India’s highhandedness, the King brought many new things, introduced new legislations, established many industries, built Highways, roads so on and so forth. The following are some of the few important contributions Mahendra made to bring changes in Nepal.
Indian currencies used to be circulated freely in Nepal. King Mahendra established Nepal Rastra Bank in 1956 and Nepal started having its own currency as the legal tender throughout the kingdom replacing the Indian currency. So many other financial institutions, such as Agricultural development Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank, Rastriya Bima Sasthan, Nepal Co-operative Banks and so many other Financial Institutions were established.
National Planning commission was established. Nepal’s first Five year Plan for Development was implemented in 1956.
Nepal Public Commission was established for reforming and developing the civil service. Supreme Court, Royal Nepal Academy, Tribhuvan University, Nepal police Academy, Nepal Sports Council, Rastriya Nach Ghar and many other similar institutions grew up one after another under Mahendra’s initiations.  
Royal Nepal Airlines, Dhan Chamal Company, National Trading Company, Sajha Bus Yatayat, Electric Trolly Bus, Bansbari Shoe Factory, Janakpur Cigarette Factory, Birgunj Sugar Mill, Agriculture Factory, Brick and Tile Factory etc. along with industrial districts in various parts of the country were the achievements of the King, just to name a few.
The Land Reform Act was implemented in 1964 in order to protect land ownership right, Tenant’s right and the limitation of land holdings.
The East West High Way connecting east to west, the length of the country was the idea of King Mahendra. Previously, several districts in Tarai were not accessible from one place to another before the construction of the highway. People had to go through Indian territories to go from one place to another place, within Nepal itself.
Hydro Power were generated at Trisuli Hydro Power Poject, Sunkosi Hydro Power Project, Panauti Hydro Power, Kulekhani Hydo Power are some of the few power projects built during King Mahendra’s rule.
King Mahendra made a historic decision about the construction of Kathmandu-Kodari Highway to link Tibet/China. The King’s decision to connect the Kingdom with communist China generated a huge amount of hue and cry in the region and also the western World. India was the loudest opposition in this regard. It tried its utmost efforts to block the construction of the Highway. However, Mahendra stood firm against the lobby both from the South and overseas. Because the King knew by heart that Nepal had to have an alternate access route to the outside world. Nepal could not afford to remain “India locked “any more. The King was so resolute in his decision that in a reply to a newsman’s question about the risk on the construction of the road connecting communist  China, he countered saying “Communism does not travel by Taxicab”. The World was stunned by the witty response of the Monarch, they stopped howling. Another major High Way, the Prithvi Highway was started with the construction under King Mahendra’s plan in 1967 as well.
In the real sense, if The King Prithvi Narayan Shah built Nepal, King Mahendra saved the country. Had King Tribhuvan lived another few years, and the way India was behaving, it seems more than likely that India would bring Nepal under its control within the next few years. During the interim period of 1951-1955, India was spreading its tentacles all over Nepal. Nepal was turned into like one of the states of India. Indian cultures, Indian cinemas, teaching of Hindi language in the schools were all the signs leading towards the amalgamation of Nepal into India. Fortunately, King Mahendra who was a true Nationalist realized what kind of threats Nepal was facing. As soon as he ascended to the throne in 1955, he gradually took control of the situation steered Nepal away from Indian hegemony.
When Mahendra became the King on March 13, 1955, Nepal had diplomatic relation with a very few countries like India, UK, USA, and France. Mahendra established diplomatic relation with more than 60 countries including most of the major developed countries of the world. He developed cordial and friendly relations with the Powerful Western Democratic countries as well as communist Soviet Union and its eastern bloc countries. The King had a very cordial and warm relation with communist countries as well. Mahendra had a special friendship with Chairman Mao and Prime Minister Chou-en- Lai of China. The King was one of the pioneer leaders of the Non-Align Movement. He had maintained a very close and respectful relation with all the leaders like Nehru, Nasser of Egypt, Broz Tito of the then Yougoslavia. King Mahendra established himself as one of the highly respected leaders around the world.
Within the first few years of becoming the King, he was invited on a State Visits by most of the major countries of the World. For example, he visited UK at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1960. The same year he visited United States of America at the invitation of President David Eisenhower. US President Eisenhower had so much respect for the King, the President himself went to the Airport in Washington to receive the King and Queen Ratna. It was an unusual event for the US President to go to the Airport to receive the guest. Rumor has it that the President, who was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces during World War II,  probably thought that he had to show special respect to the King of the Gurkhas. That was probably the reason why the President went to receive King at the Airport. Also in the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip went to receive King and Queen Ratna at the Railway Station in London in 1960.
The same year the king and Queen went on a State Visit to China. Chairman Mao, PM Chou-en-li offered a great deal of respect by welcoming the Royal Guest at the Peoples Hall in Beijing. In the following years the king and Queen were invited by famous leader like President General Charles De Gaulle of France. The Royal Guests were honored at the Ellis Palace in Paris. Likewise, the Royal couples were invited by Soviet President and PM of Soviet Russia. The Japanese Emperor, the Iranian Emperor, the Ethiopian Emperor, and the Monarchs of Netherland, Luxemburg and the Head of States of Germany, Italy and many other countries had invited the King and Queen of Nepal. As mentioned earlier, King Mahendra established diplomatic relations with all the Super Powers, and with many Asian, African, Americans and other countries of the world. Mahendra maintained a strict Non-Alignment foreign policy. As such, Nepal had a friendly relation with all, whether they had a Communist, Democratic or other form of Governments. Nepal’s foreign policy was respected by all the countries that Nepal had relation with. Nepal had a very successful conduct of International relations with all in different parts of the Globe including the neighbors. Mahendra was not only a King but he was also a very successful statesman. Many World leaders and Head of the States, respected him and in recognition of Mahendra’s ability, the awarded highest Awards at different times during his reign.
Most of the awards were presented to the King during his State Visit at the respective Head of the States’s invitation. The King visited Japan, Iran, Portugal in 1960 . The State Visit to United States of America in 1960.  Finland  in 1958.  United Kingdom in 1961. Belgium, Germany and USSR in 1964. Netherlands in 1967. Kingdom of Laos and Pakistan in 1970.The Philippines  in 1971. The King visited USA a second time at the invitation of President Lyndon B. Johnson.The King visited India a number of times during the course of his reign.
Besides having a good international relation in different parts of the World, King Mahendra not only pursued an effective Non-aligned Foreign policy, he greatly enhanced Nepal’s role and prestige at the United Nations Organization. Nepal played an active role during King Mahendra’s reign. Under his guidance and policy, Nepal was elected as a Member of UN Security Council in 1969. Nepal was elected in the Security Council the second time again in 1988. Nepal established its image as a committed member of the UN and Nepal was well recognized by the member countries. During that time King Mahendra invited the UN Secretary General U Thant to Nepal and involved him in the development of Lumbini as a Birthplace of Lord Buddha.  Nepal’s active role and the role she played on the Security Council twice are the proof of a success policy guided by the King.
The King not only maintained a balanced foreign policy with the neighbors, he proved himself a successful leader. Two neighbors India and China fought a border war in 1962. Mahendra forging an understanding with Chinese leaders, probably let the defeated Indian troops have a temporary shelter inside Nepali territory at Kalapani. Unfortunately however, India has not vacated Kalapani as of now. This is a deception on the part of India. India has adopted the “Camel in the Tent“ policy. In 1969, King Mahendra had Prime Minister Kirtinidhi Bista negotiate with his Indian Counterpart for the removal of the Indian Army check post. However, after intense negotiation for quite some time, India finally agreed to remove the eighteen check post that was installed by India along the Sino-Nepal border during PM Matrika Prasad koirala’s premiership in 1953.  However, India apparently did not remove the post at Kalapani like rest of other places. On the contrary, India has enforced its “Camel in the Tent” policy and extended its occupation of Nepali territories up to Lipu Lekh, and Lipia Dhura etc.
As already stated above, India since its independence has continued to have an ill design on Nepal. Indian leaders knew that the Monarchs were the main hurdles for them to bring Nepal under their control. They started with Tribhuvan in 1951, he died within four years, did not happen. India then used Nepali political leaders in the name of Democracy. BP Koirala who was born , raised and groomed in India, could not raise the question of “The Greater Nepal” at the most crucial time of partition of India. India played a major role in making BP Koirala, a leader and then get him elected in the General Election of 1959. After becoming the Prime Minister, BP Koirala developed a Personality clash with King Mahendra which resulted in the takeover by the King on December 15, 1960. After the koirala Government was dissolved and the leaders put in the prison, Nehru’s Government in India encouraged and assisted dissident leaders in India to wage armed attack all along Nepal-India border. The plan was to create disorder and violence and fail Mahendra’s rule in Nepal. India for the first time imposed ‘Economic Blockade” on Nepal during Mahendra’s reign.  Mahendra’s political maneuver succeeded, Indian policy failed. During King Birendra’s rule, the Indians tried everything to bring Nepal under their umbrella. Birendra had to face hurdles with Indian leaders numerous times on different issues. King Birendra never surrendered with India’s terms and conditions either. As a result, Birendra too had to face another Economic Blockade, second time in Nepal. In the meantime, India supported the Maoist Insurgency of Nepal. They assisted Moist with money, training and arms for a violent takeover of Nepal. When India saw the violence going on in Nepal for ten years, they feared the so-called revolution spilling over on their own territories, they brokered a cease fire. India then brought the Maoist, Nepali Congress, MLAs, some other parties leaders together in New Delhi and have them signed  “ twelve clause” based peace treaty. Since the signing of the so-called peace treaty India has tried different leaders from different parties as Nepal’s Prime Minister to work in their favor. When the Nepali leaders in power don’t do exactly like the Indian leaders want, they find a way to remove the Government from power. India imposed the third, most painful “Economic Blockade” on Nepal again in 1916.
Recently, India has used a new tactics to create political disturbance in Nepal. On November 2, 2019, India published its new political map showing Nepal’s territories such as Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpia Dhura inside India. In response, after a long interval of six months, KP Sharma Oli’s Government responded by publishing a new political map of Nepal showing those areas inside Nepal. This act has created a lot of noises, verbal attacks and counter attacks from both Government and news media in both countries. In the meantime, the controversy on Kalapani has been brought to light. Some people have started blaming Late King Mahendra for the long lingering issue. In the recent years, people have started to realize the contributions King Mahendra made in safeguarding the sovereignty and independence of Nepal. The Kalapani issue seems to have been used as a tool by some anti-Monarch elements working as foreign agents in defaming King Mahendra and tarnish his soaring popularity in Nepal and aboard. There could be some dirty politics involved in the border issue. This developments needs to be carefully analyzed.
Please Note: 
Some very rare and historical photos on King Mahendra’s State Visit to the friendly countries have been attached. They include photos with US Presidents David Eisenhower and President Lyndon B. Johnson. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, President Charles De Gaulle of France, Chairman Mao and Chou En Lai of China, Prime Minister Nikita Khruschov of USSR etc. President Radha Krishnan and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India etc.

Writer Mr. Uttam B Khatri 

Some related pictures of Late King Mahendra :

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