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Third Nepal-Tibet War 1855 AD

Nepal was enjoying a degree of political stability under Jung Bahadur Rana, the founder of the hereditary Rana Prime Ministerial system, who continued to develop his army. Jung Bahadur was mentally prepared for the impending war against Tibet. The treaty of Betrawoti was humiliating and painful for Nepal. Jung Bahadur wanted to recover this loss of national prestige. After working to keep the British and the Chinese at bay, Jung Bahadur recruited around 14,000 fresh soldiers, about 80 pieces of 12 pounder cannon and 24 pieces of 6 pounder cannons. Many pieces of mountain mortars and howitzers were arranged and they were in Nepal. About 12,000 fighting troops were detailed for internal security. The Eastern and Western Commanding Generals were told to prepare 5,000 more troops from each command sector. Many technicians were employed for manufacturing guns, ammunition, cannons and warlike materials. Winter clothing like Bakhkhu and Docha were made for all fighting troops. This was the biggest war preparation after Anglo Nepal war. Many defence posts were created and Nepalese Army personnel were deployed in the major axes including Dhankuta and Jumla.

Nepal sent a letter to the Tibetan Authority demanding that Taklakot and the areas of Kuti and Kerung be given back to Nepal. The losses suffered by Nepalese traders in Tibet had to be refunded to the tune of Rs 10,000,000 in silver coins to Nepal. Tibet refused. Jung Bahadur declared war in March 1855.

The Kerung Axis was commanded by General Bom Bahadur Kunwar. Approximately 25,728 troops were in this axis. The Kuti Axis sector commander was General Dhir Sumsher with about 4,678 troops. Humla and Mustang was commanded by General Krishna Dhoj Kunwar and 2,500 troops were deployed there. And, Olangchunggola Axis was commanded by Colonel Prithvi Dhoj Kunwar with a force of 2,000. Sethya Kaji was the main enemy commander with about 50,000 troops. There were 8000 troops detailed on the Dirgacha front and 40000 troops were concentrated in the Tingri area.

The Nepalese troops captured Kerung without any confrontation. But the Tibetans were ready to launch a counter attack in their chosen grounds with a massive force. Knowing the Tibetan intentions, Jung Bahadur sent reinforcements-a huge force and cannons under the command of General Jagat Sumser Kunwar and Colonel Bhakta Jung Kunwar. Bom Bahadur marched up to Kukurghat with ease. Battles continued in the Jhanga area for ten days and many Tibetans died. Finally, the Tibetans surrendered.

In Gunta Gadi, a formidable fortress on the top of an almost vertical mountain, the Tibetans remained strong with about 6500 troops. When the Nepalese troops reached close to the fortress, the Tibetans started firing. The climate was very cold and windy. There was also a heavy snowfall. Many Nepalese soldiers died. This led to the preparation of another attack from two different directions which finally proved to be successful. Many Tibetans died, about 600 were captured as Prisoners of War.

Another battle took place at Jhunga Gadhi, a very strong rocky mountain fortress capable of housing 10,000 troops. About 6,000 Tibetans were there to defend it. Although the climate was unfavorable for the Nepalese, they tried several times to capture the fortress. There were 1100 Prisoners of War captured. The battle cost the lives of 1,721 Tibetans and 372 Nepalese. Meanwhile, General Dhir Shumsher was leading the troops in Kuti. He had a battle in Chusan in April 1855. Kuti had been captured and before crossing the Tibetan border he built a fortress in Duguna village near Listi village which also served as a forward logistic base.

Sona Gumba was a strong fortress in that area where 8,000 Tibetans troops were holed up with cannons. Dhir Shumsher launched a surprise attack but many lives were lost on both sides. Nepal eventually won the hard fought battle and Tibetans started retreating. They finally appeared more willing to have a treaty rather than continue fighting.

A diplomatic mission, facilitated by the Chinese, arrived in Kathmandu on 13 th August 1855 for discussions but could not reach a solution. At that time, Nepalese troops were still in Tibet. The next meeting took place in Sikarjong, Tibet, where Nepalese demanded 90,000 rupees as war compensation. The Tibetans refused to pay but wanted the withdrawal of Nepalese troops. They were secretly organizing a huge force.

Eventually, the Tibetans launched a big counterattack with 15,000 troops on the Nepalese position of Kuti on 1st November 1855. It was a surprise attack and Nepalese troops fell back to Duguna Gadhi and Listi. The Tibetans also launched a big counterattack in Jhunga. But Col Pritiman Kunwar Rana held his position. Jung Bahadur got the message in Kathmandu and he sent reinforcements to both Jhunga and Kuti. General Dhir Shumsher again launched multidirectional attacks against the Tibetan Army in Kuti. The Nepalese eventually won the battles in both the places. To stop the Nepalese offensive the Tibetans agreed to a treaty again. A Tibetan team arrived in Kathmandu in January 1856 and, after a month the Treaty of Thapathali was signed between Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana and Kolan Shatra of Tibet. This Treaty was more favourable for Nepal than the treaty of Betrawoti.




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