© All rights reserved. NepalKhabar


Mission to Nepal

Joseph C. Satterthwaite

Joseph C. Satterthwaite


To visit Nepal seems to be the aspiration of many of the writer’s colleagues and friends. At least so it would seem from the many requests, half in jest and half in earnest, that were made to accompany him. Perhaps this is due to Nepal’s remoteness and isolation, to the traditional exclusion of all but a few Eurspeans, and to the knowledge of the pres¬ ence in the capital, Kathmandu, and its two neigh¬ boring cities, Patan and Bhatgaon, the three lying in the pleasant Valley of Nepal or Kathmandu in the outer Himalayas, of famous Hindu and Bhuddist shrines and temples and of great palaces, all of which may have be¬ come associated in the public mind with the much publicized Shangri-La.

The Kingdom of Nepal lies on the northeastern frontier of In¬ dia, which com¬ pletely sur¬ rounds it except on the north, where its fron¬ tier with Tibet is formed by the peaks of some of the world’s highest mountains, of which Mt. Everest is the best known. It is roughly 500 miles long and 100 miles wide and except for a narrow strip of jungle country on the south, the site of some of the world’s best big-game hunting, lies en¬ tirely with the various Himalayan ranges. The population is between six and seven million per¬ sons.

The capital, Kathmandu, is some 75 miles, by road and trail, north of the Indian frontier and, with an altitude of about 4500 feet, has a pleasant year-around cli¬ mate. There are neither rail¬ roads nor high¬ ways leading to it from the out¬ side world, nor are there any air fields near Kathmandu or in the whole country except on the southern fringe. To reach the capital one must go by train to the In¬ dian city of Raxual in the Province of Bi¬ har on the Ne¬ palese frontier. From there one can travel only as the guest or with the consent of the Prime Minister of Nepal. Moreover it is impos¬ sible to proceed into the interior on the route to Kathmandu, which is the only part of the country opened on occasion to Europeans, without making use of his guest houses, sedan chairs, horses and other facilities without which the journey could be made only with the greatest difficulty even if per¬ mitted.

Many tongues are spoken in Nepal and its inhabi¬ tants are composed of the people indigenous to India and Central Asia, many of whom have a slight Mongolian cast of features. The predominant racial group came into western Nepal from the Rajputana district of India during the Moghul inva¬ sions. While the Rajputs opposed the Moslem in¬ vaders with great valor, they were gradually driven back and many took refuge in the mountain fast¬ nesses of Nepal, which the invaders never reached. During the eighteenth century some of the Rajput leaders from the district known as Ghurka suc¬ ceeded in gaining control of the whole country and even in extending its frontiers as far to the north¬ west as Kashmir.

When early in the nineteenth century the Nepalese started to push out toward the south, they naturally came into conflict with the Honourable East India Company. Thereupon the Company sent a military force into Nepal toward Kathmandu. As it became evident to the Nepalese that the Company’s forces could probably succeed in reaching the capital they signed a treaty with the Company in 1815 which greatly contracted their frontiers and permitted the Company to maintain a Residency on some 2500 acres of land on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The Resident was even allowed to maintain his own gar¬ rison and postoffice, but he could not leave the Resi¬ dency grounds except in the company of a Nepalese. Incidentally the Indian rupee, which circulates freely in the country, is still known in Nepal as “Company' money.”

In the Indian mutiny of 1857 the Nepalese came to the assistance of the British at Lucknow. In grati¬ tude the British restored the southern part of their territory which they had lost under the Treaty of 1815 and since then the relations between the two countries have been most cordial. During World War I the Nepalese rendered the British such valu¬ able assistance through the Ghurka troops serving in the Indian army and in the Nepalese Contingent that they were rewarded with an annual subsidy of one million rupees ( about $300,000). They were further rewarded with a treaty signed in 1923 in which the British formally recognized the internal and external independence of Nepal and raised the rank of their Resident in Nepal to that of Minister Plenipotentiary.

Thus until the present year the British have been the only Europeans permitted to maintain an offi¬ cial establishment in Nepal. The Nepalese have however had official relations with Tibet for several centuries and also, until the Revolution, with China. Their official relations with China however have only been renewed during the present year.

For the past two centuries the Sah Dynasty has occupied the throne of Nepal. About a hundred years ago however the Kings of Nepal lost most of their temporal power, but they have remained the rulers of the country in a religious and symbolic sense. The present King, the Maharajadhiraja Tribhubana Bir Bikram Jung Bahadur Shah Bahadur Shum Shere Jung Deva, was born in 1905 and ascended the throne in 1911.

Since 1847 Nepal has been governed for all prac¬ tical purposes by the Prime Ministers, whose office is hereditary under the princely title of Maharaja. The line of succession to this office is not from father to son, as in the case of that of the King, but from brother to brother or cousin to cousin ac¬ cording to age within each generation. The present name of the family which has held the Prime Minis¬ tership for the last century is Shum Shere Jung Bahadur Rana (the spelling in European languages varies) which, because of its length, is sometimes shortened to the initials SSJBR or simply to the last name, Rana. The present Prime Minister, His Highness the Maharaja Padma SSJBR, succeeded to the office in November of 1945, upon the resigna¬ tion of his predecessor, the Maharaja Joodha SSJBR, who desired to devote the remainder of his life to religion.

Nepal is organized along military-religious lines, and the four highest ranking generals after the Maharaja hold the principal administrative as well as military positions in the Government. As a rule the members of the Rana family in direct line of succession bear the title of colonel until reaching their majority, whereupon they become major gen¬ erals, and thereafter are promoted in accordance with their position in the line of succession.

During World War II the Nepalese contributed with their famous fighting men to the Allied cause to an even greater extent than in the previous one. Their fighting prowess is indicated by the fact that ten Ghurka soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross. American officers and men became ac¬ quainted with them in the Middle Eastern and India-Burma theaters of operations. One of the senior officers of the Nepalese Contingent which served in India and Burma, Commanding General Bahadur Rana, made a number of good friends among the American officers and became a great admirer of our Army. He was especially impressed by the sturdy independent character of the Ameri¬ can soldier.

General Bahadur tells the story of how he was once stopped late in the evening about twenty miles outside Delhi, jn.spite, of the flag his car was flying, by a “GI.” The GI asked the General for a lift, not only for himself but also for his bicycle, his rifle AUGUST, 1947 9 and for the deer he had shot! The General was glad to take the soldier and his impedimenta into Delhi and was highly entertained in doing so. Therefore, when our Special Diplomatic Mission reached Kathmandu and found that the head of the Nepalese Committee with whom we were to nego¬ tiate was General Bahadur, and that most of the other members of the Committee such as Generals Mrigendra and Bijaya had had similar contacts with Americans, we considered ourselves most fortunate.

There had also been a number of contacts be¬ tween American and Nepalese officials in Nepal itself. Andrew Corry, while with the Foreign Eco¬ nomic Administration in New Delhi, visited Kath¬ mandu in the fall of 1944 at the invitation of Nepalese officials, as did, in the fall of 1945, Harry Witt of F.E.A. and Lt. Alfred Brown of the U. S. Army, in order to carry on informal discussions concerning the economic development of the coun¬ try and the possibilities of establishing direct trade with the United States. Cornelius van H. Engert, on departing from his post as Minister to Afghanis¬ tan, and Miss Helen Nichols, American Vice Consul at Calcutta, also visited Kathmandu in 1945 and 1946 respectively as the guests of the British Minis¬ ter and Mrs. Falconer. In November of 1946 George R. Merrell, while Charge d’Affaires of the American Embassy at New Delhi, accompanied by Lt. Col. Nathaniel H. Hoskot, Assistant Military Attache at New Delhi, and J. Jefferson Jones III, Vice Consul at Bombay, went to Kathmandu for the purpose of decorating the Maharaja Padma with the Legion of Merit in recognition of his services in making troops available for the Allied war effort in the India-Burma theater.

In the meantime a number of Nepalese officials had also visited in the United States. Shortly after the outbreak of the war in Europe General Krishna Rana, the Nepalese Minister in London, crossed the United States in returning to Kathmandu by way of the Pacific. In the fall of 1945 his successor as Minister in London, General Shinga Rana, visited this country and called on several high American officials, including President Truman. Then in the summer of 1946 a Nepalese goodwill mission headed by Commanding General Baber Rana spent several weeks in the United States as the guests of the State and War Departments. As a consequence of the conversations carried on in these various meet¬ ings, the Nepalese Government invited the United States Government, at the time of Mr. Merrell’s visit to Kathmandu, to send a special mission to Nepal for the purpose of concluding an agreement of friendship and commerce and of establishing diplomatic and consular relations.

Upon the receipt of this invitation, which the Department of State was glad to accept, the mem¬ bers of the India-Nepal Section of the Division of Middle Eastern and Indian Affairs at once began making the arrangements and drafting the docu¬ ments necessary to assure the success of a mission of this nature. On March 22, 1947, the intention of the Department to send a special diplomatic mis¬ sion to Nepal was made known to the press, together with the names of its members. These were, in addition to the writer, Samuel H. Day, Counselor of Embassy for Economic Affairs at New Delhi; Raymond A. Hare, Foreign Service Officer assigned to the Department; William C. Johnstone Jr., Chief Public Affairs Officer of the Embassy at New Delhi; Lt. Col. Nathaniel R. Hoskot, Assistant Military At¬ tache at New Delhi; J. Jefferson Jones III, Vice Consul at Bombay; and Charles W. Booth, Vice Consul at Karachi.

Mr. Hare and the writer, having left Washington by plane on March 30th and having picked up Mr. Jones in Bombay, reached New Delhi on April 6th. Mr. Booth also arrived there that day from Karachi, thus enabling the entire mission to get together for the first time the following day. The next four days were fully occupied with preparations for the journey. On the morning of April lith we left New Delhi for Patna in the plane of the Military Air Attache, Lt. Col. Charles E. Caple, who was our pilot. Reaching Patna in three hours, we had to spend the rest of the day there as our train did not leave from the other side of the Ganges until evening. We were however kindly given refuge from the intense heat of the Ganges plains by Sir Hugh Dow, Governor of Bihar, and Lady Dow in Governor’s House.

As we crossed the holy Ganges late that evening by ferry the darkness was broken by two brightly burning ghats. We reached the Nepalese frontier at Ravaul at 1 p.m. the following day. There we were met by Command¬ ing General Hiranya Rana, Governor of Birganj, who welcomed us to Nepal in the name of the Maharaja and of¬ fered us luncheon.

After luncheon we started off on the first stage of our travel in Nepal, having kindly been furnished the Ma¬ haraja’s private train, the railway being of thirty-inch gauge. The train headed straight north for twenty-five miles to the railhead at Amlekganj, running first through fertile rice fields and then through wood¬ ed jungle. At Amlek¬ ganj we changed with our baggage and equip¬ ment to automobiles and trucks which were wait¬ ing for us. We then drove for twenty-seven miles up through the Himalayan foothills to the pictur¬ esque city of Bimphedi at the end of the high¬ way where, in the welcome coolness of the moun¬ tains, we were served tea in the Maharaja’s guest house. It was already dark when we reached the point where the trail over the two Hima¬ layan ranges standing between us and Kathmandu begins. There we found about a hundred coolies, together with saddled horses and sedan chairs (known locally as dandis) ready to take us on along the trail. Because of the darkness we were requested by the colonel in charge of the party to ride in the sedan chairs, though he himself mounted his horse. The heavy baggage and equipment were sent for¬ ward on the aerial ropeway which runs from peak to peak over the mountains direct to Kathmandu. The hand baggage which we would need en route however was strapped to the backs of porters who accompanied us.

We finally started what seemed straight up the mountains about 8 p.m. The sight and sound of this long caravan climbing the steep and rocky trail of continuous hairpin turns in the darkness of the night, broken only by a few bright lanterns and by occasional brush fires, will long be remembered by each of us.

We reached the rest house at Sisagarhi Fort, three miles up the side of the mountain, at about 9:30 p.m. There, after a hearty dinner, we spent the night. The next morning, as we started off on the remaining fifteen miles of the mountain trail on horseback, we experienced the first of the many military hon¬ ors accorded us in Ne¬ pal. This time it was in the form of a salute from the assembled gar¬ rison as we rode by.

From then on we al¬ ternately rode on our sturdy mountain ponies or walked over the rough, rocky trail. We soon reached the first pass at Chisagani Garhi, altitude 6',625 feet, and came to' the second one at Chandragiri, altitude 7,700 feet, in the early afternoon. The trail running through the valley between the two passes was under intensive cultivation wherever possible, and the people we met both in the coun¬ try and in the villages were happy and friendly. The view from the Chandragiri Pass was magnifi¬ cent even though clouds prevented us from seeing the inner snow-capped Himalayas.

So steep and difficult was the ascent to the latter pass that we were surprised that most of us could reach the top on horseback. We learned later from our Nepalese hosts however that they are accus¬ tomed to traversing the whole length of the trail, down as well as up, on horseback in about a third of the time it took us. We had had an amusing in¬ dication of the condition of the trail from Lord Louis Mountbatten. He jokingly told us, when we were lunching with him in New Delhi, that he and Lady Mountbatten had visited Kathmandu while he had the Southeast Asia Command, and that she carried kindness to animals to such an extent that she not only didn’t want him to ride horseback over the steepest parts of the route but almost made him carry his horse over them!

On leaving Chandragiri Pass we were again re¬ quested by the colonel in charge to use sedan chairs. Perhaps he didn’t want us to be too worn out on our arrival in Kathmandu. But we discovered that bein'* carried up a steep trail is much more com¬ fortable than being carried down one, so we re¬ mounted our horses as we neared the end of the trail and made a somewhat more dignified entry into Thankot, which we reached about 4 p.m. There a representative of the Maharaja was awaiting us with cars to take us on into the capital. Incidentally, these cars and all the others in the Valley of Nepal, where there are many miles of good roads, have been carried in over the same trail by gangs of coolies who are said to move them and other large heavy objects at an incredible speed. They cannot be carried on the aerial ropeway because the maxi¬ mum weight that any one of its cars can carry is about 600 pounds.

After cleaning up in the two tents which had been especially set up for us, our party was conducted with considerable ceremony through Kathmandu to the comfortable house in which we were to live, about six miles further on. About half-way in a battalion of infantry and a military band in dress uniforms were lined up in formation and welcomed us with a formal salute. A salute of seventeen guns was also fired. Three of the party were then re¬ quested to ride in a state coach-and-four, the others followed in cars, and we were escorted the rest of the way by a colorful escort of lancers on beautiful horses.

On arriving at our residence, situated near the British Legation compound, we found laid out on the lawn gifts of flowers, fruit, fish, fowl and veni¬ son, welcoming gifts from the Maharaja. Soon Commanding General Bahadur called to welcome us on behalf of His Highness and to tell us of the plans which had been made for our negotiations. From then on during our twelve-day stay in the capital, every comfort was provided us by the thoughtful officials assigned to look after our needs. We were in fact overwhelmed with hospitality and made abundantly aware of the friendship and esteem which the Nepalese Government and people hold for the United States. The committee of ten Nepalese officials with whom we worked gave us every facility, gladly furnished all the information we requested, and made a sincere effort to cooperate with us in every possible way. At the same time they so arranged a schedule of sightseeing and en¬ tertainment that every minute outside our work, to which both sides devoted a great deal of earnest effort, was pleasantly occupied.

With able but inobtrusive guides we visited the ancient capitals of Patan and Bhatgaon, each with their renowned examples of Hindu and Bhuddist architecture anc their countless temples and shrines, many of them the objects of annual pilgrimages on the part of the devout. We sawr the famous Bhud¬ dist temples of Swayambhu and Baudhanath (the latter with its English-speaking “China Lama”) and the great Hindu temples at Pashupati on the holy Bagmati River. We were also taken to see one of the Valley’s three hydro-electric plants, the gun¬ powder plant and the mint. Especially interesting were the great museum and the library with its in¬ valuable Sanscrit, Tibetan and Chinese manuscripts, the latter with their learned Tibetan custodian.

The United States Mission in turn presented three cinema programs in the theater of one of the great palaces, each fully filled with large attentive audiences among whom were the Maharaja and all the higher Nepalese officials present in Kath¬ mandu. The American documentary films shown seemed to be very much appreciated by them, es¬ pecially one depicting the Tennessee Valley develop¬ ment. There seems little doubt but that Nepal has potentially enormous water-power resources, which they hope one day, possibly with American assis¬ tance, to develop. So interested in this is the Maha¬ raja that early this year he sent the First Secretary of the Nepalese Legation in London, Mr. Pande, to Tennessee to make a thorough examination of and report on that great project.

While the negotiation of an Agreement of Com¬ merce and Friendship and conversations on eco¬ nomic subjects were being carried on, the writer presented to King Tribhubana, on April 21st, at a colorful reception held in the King’s Durbar Hall, a personal letter from President Truman to the King formally recognizing, on the part of the United States, the independence of Nepal. On April 24th the negotiations were successfully con¬ cluded and on the next day, April 25th, at 2:31 p.m., which the Hindu high priests considered to be the most propicious time, the Maharaja and the writer signed the Agreement at a formal ceremony in the beautiful Gallery Durbar Hall.

The Agreement of Commerce and Friendship signed on that occasion is similar to agreements con¬ cluded in 1946 with Yemen and in 1933 with Saudi Arabia. It provides for the exchange of diplomatic and consular representatives and establishes the rule of non-discrimination in the future commercial relations between the two countries. It is in the form of an executive agreement and is intended to remain in force until superseded by a more com¬ prehensive agreement or treaty. It is terminable on thirty days’ written notice by either party. The Agreement should provide a basis for better under¬ standing between the United States and Nepal as well as between the United States and the southern Asia area in general. It should also provide a sound basis for economic and cultural relations be¬ tween the United States and Nepal which hitherto have been so little known to each other.

The United States mission left Kathmandu the next morning, April 26th, and received, on the way out, the same kindly and friendly attentions on the part of the Maharaja, Commanding General Bahadur and other Nepalese officials it had received on the journey into the Valley. We left the Kingdom of Nepal at Raxaul on April 27th, but only after being the recipients of several telephone messages from Maharaja Padma and General Bahadur inquiring after our progress. As we made the en¬ tire return trip in daylight and now knew the trail, it was unnecessary for any of us to use sedan chairs, though of course we had them with us.

The Maharaja had been somewhat worried that we had left Kathmandu on what was considered a rather inauspicious day, and we were in fact slightly delayed on the trip to New Delhi by the break-down of a truck carrying our baggage and by two derailments of trains preceding us. These were not at all serious however. On our arrival at Raxaul Com¬ manding General Hiranya again met us and offered us a luncheon, and then saw us off on the train for Lucknow. Colonel Caple kindly flew us from there to New Delhi, which we reached on the morning of April 29th.

Before concluding it may be of interest to make a number of observations on Nepal based on our visit. The Kingdom of Nepal has never recognized nor has the British Crown ever claimed paramountcy over the country as in the case of the Princely States of India. Nevertheless one finds in Nepal an impressive example of the pomp and cere¬ mony encouraged by the Indian Government in the great days of the British Raj. The Government of Nepal is moreover primarily military in character. As a result the brilliance and color of the great Durbars and other formal ceremonies would be hard to surpass. At each of the more formal of the several ceremonies organized in honor of the United States mission, particularly the King’s and the Maharaja s Durbars and that of the signing of the Agreement, the chief of the mission and the two senior advisers, accompanied by General Santa Rana, were transported in an elegant coach-and-four drawn by handsome horses and with outriders and footmen. The other four advisers followed the coach in two State automobiles, two by two with an officer-escort for each car, and the three vehicles were preceded and followed by an escort of Lancers or Sowars with long lances and colorful dress uniforms of the type seen in films of India, especially “The Lives of the Bengal Lancers.”

At the ceremonies themselves the numerous generals and other military and civil officials attending wore rich uniforms and helmets topped with birdof-paradise plumes, the length depending on the rank and station of the wearer, as does the number of jewels, especially emeralds, with which they are encrusted. So heavy are these helmets that they have to be put on and taken off with the help of servants.

On the arrival of the United States mission at the Durbar Halls where the ceremonies were being held, and also on our departure, we were invariably given a formal salute by a large formation of troops in dress uniform, members of the Fire Brigade lined the route, the American anthem and that of the Maharaja were played by excellent military bands, and on some of these occasions the appropriate number of guns was fired. At the most colorful and impressive of these ceremonies, that of the signing of the Agreement, salutes for the President of the United States, for his Personal Representative and for the Maharaja were fired successively by several batteries of artillery drawn up on the near-by parade ground.

And speaking of military bands, the writer desires to pay tribute to the high quality of those he heard, so well did they play European music, such as selec¬ tions from operas, as well as their own pleasant native music. They must have been trained for several generations by English bandmasters in the service of the Maharaja, for we saw the grave of one of them in the cemetery of the British LegaAUGUST, 1947 37 lion. The native dancing we saw was also of a high artistic standard. The accompaniment was furnished by drums and the singing in unison of Ghurka soldiers. So graceful were the dancers in feminine costume that it was difficult to believe that they also were soldiers.

The passionate devotion of the Nepalese to biggame hunting, which might almost be called their national sport, should also be mentioned. As the Terai, where this takes place, borders on India and is more easily accessible, distinguished foreigners are sometimes invited to participate. These shoots generally take place in winter or spring and nothing is allowed to interfere with them. Often great Bengal tigers, large rhinos and huge bears and smaller leopards are killed in the same hunt. The great Maharaja Chandra is said to-have shot more than 300 tigers during his life. In the Terai the hunting is done from elephants, who are formed in a semi-circle. The beaters drive the game into this circle. At the great hunt organized for King George V following his great Durbar in 1911, some 500 elephants were used, while in one to which the Viceroy Lord Wavell was invited more than 250 took part.

We were shown some interesting movies of a smaller hunt taken by General Nara Rana in which more than three thousand men and a hundred elephants participated. In many of the great palaces of Kathmandu are to be found vivid paintings depicting actual incidents from great hunts of the past, another inescapable proof of their great love for this sport.

The efforts of His Highness the Maharaja Padma to improve his country and to bring it, gradually to be sure, out of its present state of semi-isolation, should also be described. In May of this year he announced a number of contemplated changes which are rather precedent-shattering considering the conservative Hindu traditions of the country. These include the establishment of a partially elected and partially nominated legislature, reforms in the judicial system, and improvements in the educational organization, including, for the first time, the establishment of schools for girls.

Since our departure from Nepal it has also been announced that the Nepalese and Indian Govern¬ ments have made arrangement to exchange ambassadors. The British and Nepalese Governments have also raised the rank of their representatives to that of ambassador.

The arrangement between the United States and Nepal is for the exchange of ministers. For the present our Ambassador in New Delhi will be ac¬ credited also as Minister to Nepal, and two or three members of his staff and one or two consular officers in Calcutta will likewise be accredited to that country. They will be expected to visit Kathmandu as our relations require until such time as it may be feasible for us to set up a permanent establish¬ ment there. The Nepalese on the other hand plan to open a legation in Washington, at first under a charge d’affaires ad interim, and to assign a consul to New York in the distant future.

In conclusion it is unnecessary to add that all the members of our party were glad to have the op¬ portunity of participating in this most interesting and unusual mission, even though it involved some hardship in travel as well as a considerable amount of hard work. The writer would also like to state here that he could not have been given a finer group of colleagues with whom to work, and that he is deeply indebted to each one of them for the success of the mission.

Our group broke up on April 30th, the day after our return to New Delhi. Mr. Day, Dr. Johnstone and Colonel Hoskot rejoined their families and re¬ turned to their work in the Embassy in that city. Mr. Jones and Mr. Booth returned to their posts in Bombay and Karachi respectively. Mr. Hare started making preparations for a tour of the Foreign Service establishments in the Middle Eastern and Indian area prior to taking up his important duties in the Department. The writer, who missed his company on the return journey, flew directly to Washington, where his family and much work were awaiting him, and which he reached five weeks to a day after his departure.

(Joseph C. Satterthwaite was the officer of Near Eastern and African Affairs team. He was the team leader of US Mission to Nepal. Born on March 14, 1900 in Tecumseh, Michigan, Satterthwaite passed away on November 19, 1990 at the age 90 in Washington, DC. Source: The American Foreign Service Journal, Vol. 24, No 8, August 1947)


Related News

India-Nepal Joint Vision Statement on Power Sector Cooperation

1. On 02 April 2022, His Excellency Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Rt. Hon'ble Prime Minister…