Sugauli Treaty of 1816


The Sugauli Treaty of 1816 A.D. stands as a significant historical event in Nepal, marking the culmination of the Anglo-Nepal War and resulting in a formal agreement between the British East India Company and Nepal.

This treaty came to fruition after arduous negotiations and conflicts between the two states.

Conflicts during the Sugauli Treaty

The signing of the Sugauli Treaty was not without its share of major conflicts. Firstly, the Company Government’s act of annexing the Terai Lands of Nepal caused friction and tension. Secondly, there was a re-invasion by Octerloni‘s forces towards Nepal, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Lastly, fears loomed over an imminent attack by Octerloni’s forces on the Kathmandu Valley, creating a sense of urgency for the treaty’s resolution.

Consequences of The Sugauli Treaty

The impact of the Sugauli Treaty reverberated across Nepal’s geographical and political landscape. Agriculturally viable lands were ceded, weakening Nepal’s economic base.

Additionally, a British Residency was established in the Kathmandu Valley, further altering the power dynamics. Consequently, Nepal found itself in a state of technical dependence on the British East India Company.

Causes of the Sugauli Treaty

The direct cause of the Sugauli Treaty was Nepal’s defeat in the Anglo-Nepal War that spanned from 1814 A.D. to 1816 A.D. However, this war and the subsequent treaty were inevitable due to several underlying reasons.

Hostility of Nepal Towards The Company

Throughout its history, Nepal remained relatively isolated. When the British East India Company emerged and sought to expand its commercial interests, the Malla Kings embraced the opportunities it presented.

However, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the unifier of Nepal, exhibited significant hostility towards the Company Government. He discouraged imports from India, leading to a decline in trade with the neighboring country.

Politically, Nepal remained closed to the introduction of any British individuals, thus fostering tense relations between the two states.

Knox Expedition

The Knox Expedition, often overlooked in Nepali history, played a crucial role in shaping perceptions and biases towards the Company Government.

The Nepali Palace virtually ignored and isolated the Expeditioners, showing reluctance in renewing or implementing previous treaties like the Commercial Treaty of 1792 A.D. and Friendship Treaty of 1801 A.D.

Consequently, the Company Government assessed Nepal’s military strength and commercial viability, leading them to consider a possible war with Nepal and ultimately nullify existing treaties.

Interests of Britain

The Company Government’s interests drove them to take a harsh stance against Nepal. Firstly, they sought a trade route toward Tibet, opening new avenues for commerce.

Secondly, they aimed to exert influence over Nepali politics and establish a Residency, consolidating their presence in the region.

Thirdly, the fertile lands of Terai were desired to meet their business and agricultural needs. Despite attempts at diplomatic truce, fulfilling these interests proved unattainable, making a binding treaty imperative.

Anglo Nepal War

The Anglo-Nepal War played a pivotal role as the immediate trigger for the Sugauli Treaty. Although Nepal experienced initial victories, it eventually lost control over the Far Western region and most of the Terai territory.

By May of 1815 A.D., both Nepal and the East India Company were willing to initiate treaty discussions. However, the attacking troops led by General Octerloni towards the Kathmandu Valley via Chitwan prompted Nepali Courtiers to panic, hastening the signing of the treaty.

Provisions of Sugauli Treaty of 1950 A.D.

On March 3rd, 1816 A.D., the treaty was finalized and officially ratified by General Octerloni, with Chandra Shekhar Upadhyaya delivering it to Sugauli on March 4th, 1816 A.D.

The provisions of the Sugauli Treaty had a predominance of the British East India Company. They clearly leaned towards curtailing the Independence of Nepal but Nepal had to reluctantly sign the Treaty to protect its Territorial Integrity.

Here are the Provisions of the Sugauli Treaty:

1. There will be constant peace and friendship between the East India Company and the king of Nepal.

2. The king of Nepal will give up all claims to the lands that were discussed before the war and accept that those lands belong to the East India Company.

3. The king of Nepal will permanently give the following territories to the East India Company:

A) All the flat lands between the Kali and Rapti rivers.

B) All the flat lands between the Rapti and Gandaki rivers, except Butwal.

C) All the flat lands between the Rapti and Gandaki Rivers and the Koshi River, where the East India Company already has control.

D) All the flat lands between the Mechi and Test rivers.

E) All the hilly territories to the east of the Mechi River. The Nepalese troops will leave these areas within forty days.

4. To compensate the chiefs and officials of Nepal affected by losing the territories mentioned in Article No. 3, the East India Company agrees to pay pensions totaling two lakhs of rupees per year to the chiefs selected by the king of Nepal.

5. The king of Nepal gives up any claim to the countries lying to the west of the River Kali and promises not to have any involvement with those countries or their people in the future.

6. The king of Nepal promises not to disturb the king of Sikkim in his territory. If any issues arise between Nepal and Sikkim, they will be resolved through the arbitration of the East India Company.

7. The king of Nepal agrees not to employ any British subject or citizens from European or American states without the permission of the British Government.

8. To maintain friendly relations, both Nepal and the East India Company will have accredited Ministers residing at the courts of each other.

9. The king of Nepal must ratify this treaty within 15 days from the date of signing, and the ratification will be given to Lt. Col. Bradshaw. Lt. Col. Bradshaw will then obtain and deliver the ratification from the Governor-General within 20 days, or sooner if possible, to complete the treaty. The peace and friendship between the East India Company and Nepal will be everlasting.

Analysis of Sugauli Treaty of 1816 A.D.

The Sugauli Treaty, signed on 4th March 1816 A.D., had significant consequences for Nepal’s territorial boundaries and its relations with the British East India Company. Nepal’s geographical land was transformed from 267,000 sq. km to 147,000 sq. km, and it also lost a valuable route to Tibet through Kumaon.

The Sugauli Treaty is widely considered an unequal treaty and contrary to contemporary treaty norms under international law. Nepal had to cede the lands of Terai, including Kumaon, Garhwal, and Darjeeling.

Although some of the Terai lands were later returned, Nepal still suffered substantial territorial losses, resulting in economic and political disadvantages.

Despite the loss of territories, many Nepali historians and foreign policy experts fail to present the facts surrounding the geographical losses accurately.

The eastern lands of Darjeeling were given to Nepal as a negotiated measure, while the lands of Kumaon and Gadhwal were acquired by Nepal one or two decades earlier.

However, there is no evidence of whether King Girvan actually signed the Treaty. It was Chandrasekhar Upadhyaya, an envoy sent by the Palace of Nepal, who signed the Treaty. Therefore, according to historians, the Treaty lacks legality without the authority of the sovereign.

On the other side, the implementation of the Sugauli Treaty, such as removing all soldiers from Eastern Nepal, was conducted easily by Nepal, highlighting that the Palace of Nepal, including King Girvan and Bhimsen Thapa, had indeed signed the Treaty.


The Sugauli Treaty, signed on 4th March, had severe direct and indirect consequences for Nepal, both politically and economically.

It questioned Nepal’s sovereignty, introduced the British Appeasement Policy to Nepalese statesmen, and led to the loss of almost half of the southern territories as well as the eastern and western halves of Nepal.

However, the Friendship Treaty of 1923 A.D. certainly restored the pride and dignity lost by Nepal. Nonetheless, the Sugauli Treaty remains a controversial treaty in the history of Nepal.