During the eighteenth century, Gurkhas took control of Nepal in 1760. From 1767 onwards, they began to expand their dominion beyond the hills and valley of Nepal. They found it easier to expand their territory in the southern direction, as the north of Nepal was well defended by the Chinese. On the other side, the British desired to extend its Indian empire to its natural geographical frontier, which brought them into conflict with the northern Kingdom of Nepal.
While the Nepalese had been expanded their territory into Kumaon & Garhwal to the west, the Sikkim to the east, and Awadh to the south, the British East India Company in India consolidated its position from its main bases of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. The British fought the Anglo-Nepalese War (or Anglo-Gurkha War) from 1814 to 1816 to take control of Nepal.
Causes of War
The British wanted to establish economic relations with Tibet. But it was not possible because the trade route passage through the Nepalese territory. The Nepalese government strongly resisted the foreign attempts to open up the country. Therefore, the British wanted to open up Nepal to have access to the trade route to Tibet.
The immediate reason which led to Anglo-Nepalese War was the border dispute between British India and Nepal. In 1801, the British annexed the Gorakhpur region that brought the Company’s boundary and Gurkha’s boundary together. The conflict was because of no fixed boundary.
Anglo-Gurkha War (1814-1816)
The Anglo-Nepalese War started during the Governor-General Marquess of Hastings (1813-1823), when the ruler of Nepal, Bhimsen Thapa, captured the Terai of Butwal and Sheoraj. In 1814, Lord Hastings sent the British army to invade Nepal. The war went on for nearly two years till 1816. The important battles fought were: the Battle of Nalapani, the Battle of Jaithak, and the Battle of Malaon. The Nepali army chief Amar Singh Thapa, who led the Gurkhali army in the war, died in 1816 at the Battle of Malaon.
Treaty of Sugauli, 1816
The war ended with the Treaty of Sugauli, signed in March 1816, between the Nepalese and the British. As per the treaty of Sugauli:
- Nepal accepted a British Resident (at Kathmandu).
- Nepal ceded the territories of Kumaon and Garhwal and abandoned claims to Terai.
- Nepal also withdrew from Sikkim.
- Nepal debarred to allow any other European in its service.
- Gurkhas were allowed to get recruitment in the British army.
As the Treaty of Sugauli was in favour of the British, the agreement brought many advantages to the British:
- The British empire now reached the Himalayas.
- They got better facilities for trade with Central Asia.
- The British acquired the sites for hill stations, such as Mussoorie, Shimla, and Nainital.
- Gurkhas joined the British army in large numbers.