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Sikkim - 1970s

There was public interest in Sikkim because the Chogyal married socialite Hope Cooke. She later separated from the Chogyal and living in New York. She was previously outspoken for greater Sikkimese autonomy. Hope Namgyal was a native of the United States and citizen of India who was married to the then Crown Prince of Sikkim on March 20, 1963. On March 25, 1963, she renounced her US citizenship in Calcutta because Sikkim law does not permit dual citizenship. Because of civil upheaval in Sikkim Mrs. Namgyal returned to the United States as a visitor on August 23, 1973 and resided in New York City with her 12-year-old son, 8-year-old daughter, and 20-year-old stepdaughter who were admitted on student visas. The Crown Prince and stepson remained in Sikkim under house arrest.

On 05 September 1975 the Indian Parliament passed a Constitutional amendment incorporating Sikkim as an "associate state." Sikkim's new status represented a distinctly more organic relationship within India than was implied by its status as a protectorate under the 1950 India-Sikkim Treaty.

It was not clear the extent to which Sikkim retained its right to "autonomy in regard to its internal affairs" specified in the 1950 treaty. Also uncertain is whether the Chogyal (ruling prince) of Sikkim would agree to maintain his office which in the past has represented the special identity of the Sikkimese state. Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh stated in Parliament that the new relationship can continue with or without the office of Chogyal and indicated that the new arrangement is irreversible.

Peking reacted strongly to what an 03 September 1975 People's Daily article called the "annexation of Sikkim." The commentator article denounced the Indian expansionist act" of a"sub-superpower," charged Soviet encouragement and support and, in a departure from recent practice, attacked Indira Gandhi personally.

Nepalese Foreign Minister Karki said in the national legislature that "as a close neighbor, Nepal wished that Sikkim should continue to make progress through the preservation of its traditional entity." In addition, the Government permitted (and probably engineered) large student demonstrations against India in Kathmandu. Indian officials have expressed surprise and unhappiness over the Nepalese reaction.

The legal situation was cloudy, an observation buttressed by the Indian Foreign Minister's statement that the new association was "a political matter and not a question of legal niceties." Internationally recognized attributes of sovereignty including control over defense, foreign affairs and internal communications had been exercised by India under the 1950 Treaty.

A brief campaign in 1972-73 by the Chogyal for greater independence was aborted by communal riots in April, 1973. India intervened to supervise elections and the drafting of a "Constitution" (The Government of Sikkim Bill, 1974) which the Chogyal reluctantly signed in July. The Bill made the Indian Government the final arbiter of disputes between the Chief Executive (appointed by India) and the Sikkim Assembly. The Chogyal retained only titular power.

India explains Sikkim's new status as a response to the Sikkim Assembly's request for participation in the Indian Parliament. It appeared that India would defend the new status on the grounds that Sikkim was not sovereign, and that the new association represented Sikkimese desire for greater participation in the political life of India.

Critics argued that India engineered the series of events, including the drafting of the 1974 Sikkim Bill, which led to Sikkim's absorption into the Indian Union, and that the merger did not represent the wishes of the Sikkimese people. Legal questions were also raised by Swaran Singh's indication that there could be no unilateral decision by Sikkim to revoke associate status. Critics argued that India's action violates the right of self-determination.



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