Sandwiched between the domineering landmasses of countries such as India and China, Nepal still manages to retain an identity that is distinctly its own. In fact, it is a country that was never invaded by Mughals despite the Mughal dominance in India for more than three centuries.
There were two attempts, as per sources, by Muslim rulers to invade Nepal, but they went in vain.
The first of these was in 1349 when Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah of Bengal invaded Nepal. He did plunder Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, but he retreated soon after.
Then in the 18th century, another Bengali Sultan, Mir Qasim, attacked Nepal. His attempt ended in failure as he was repulsed easily.
The Mughals, who seemed to have invaded every nook and corner of India, somehow weren’t interested in Nepal. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why that may have been:
With eight of the world’s top ten mountain peaks lying in Nepal, conquering Nepal was always going to be a daunting task.
During the time when the Mughals ruled India, wars were mostly fought with the use of horses, camels, and elephants. Thus, the high mountains made it more challenging for them to fight.
The Mughals couldn’t afford to lose their army to the freezing cold of the Himalayas. Crossing mountains of such size was a very difficult task.
Conquering Nepal was simply not an economically profitable prospect. Attacking a country like Nepal needed a lot of resources, but the rewards weren’t tempting enough.
It wasn’t as if Nepal was poor. The valley of Kathmandu was economically very sound. Nepal was the hub of India-Tibet trade. Given the infrastructure and architecture of Kathmandu, it would be injudicious to label Nepal as a poor country.
Sure, they had a lot of economic power in them, but attacking them was a costly affair. It was deemed to be a risk that wasn’t worth taking.
The Mughals were a royal set of rulers. Unless a kingdom was of some use to them, they wouldn’t waste their time, energy and other resources over it.
Lack Of Interest
While Hindus and Buddhists had religious interests in Nepal, Muslims didn’t have any.
Hindus, being worshipers of rivers and mountains, had an attachment with the Himalayas. Similarly, Buddhists too sent their monks and missionaries to the mountains.
Muslims did not have any such attachment or awe with the Himalayas, so they never thought of conquering Nepal.
Attacking Would Have Done More Harm Than Good
Nepal provided a route for the Mughal trade to flourish in Tibet. Attacking them would have harmed this trade with Tibet. The impact of an attack wouldn’t have been limited to their trade with Tibet, but would have affected the Mughal economy in Ladakh and other states of the Himalayan belt.
The Malla community of Nepal had a good relationship with the Mughals. An attempt to invade would have ruined this relationship.
Difficult To Manage Nepal
Even if the Mughals, for once, ignored all of the above reasons, it still wouldn’t have been wise to invade Nepal. Of course, they could have defeated Nepal if they really wanted to. The sheer manpower at their disposal would’ve outclassed any army, despite the difficult terrain.
But it would have been an occupation of an antagonistic population that would’ve drilled a hole in the Mughal treasury as well as the army. The people from the mountains were a pugnacious bunch which would have eventually rebelled.
It is often claimed that Nepal was never invaded because of the Gorkha Empire. However, the truth is, there was never a war which actually tested their much-publicized bravery.
Considering the strength of the Mughals, if Nepal was not invaded, it means that there were no resources in Nepal that were worth the trouble in attacking them.
Even the British weren’t bothered to conquer the whole of Nepal. During the Anglo-Nepalese war in 1814, the British conquered the most profitable part of Nepal, and decided that a full-scale conquest wasn’t worth it.
Friendship between modern-day India and Nepal was initiated with the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship. Today, with the Indians and the Nepalese having close linguistic, marital, religious and cultural ties, both counties want to build up a forward-looking approach in bilateral relations.
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