China Provoking Nepal To Object Indian Road Construction In Kalapani – Army Chief

The chief of the Indian Army has hinted at China’s involvement in provoking Nepal in the recent Indo-Nepal diplomatic spat over India’s new road to Kailash Mansarover in Tibet via the Lipulekh pass near the disputed region of Kalapani.

General MM Naravane, on Friday while being asked on the issue replied that “Nepal may have raised the issue at someone else’s behest.”

The top army officer was responding to questions after a talk on “COVID and Indian Army: Responses and Beyond” at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) where Vice Admiral Sekhar Sinha (retd) had asked a question on why was Nepal was protesting on “our road” across Lipulekh and why had it decided to set up a border post.

“We have made a road west of the Kali River. Nepal has accepted its territory is to the east of Kali River. There has never been an issue about the tri-junction,” Naravane said.  “There is reason to believe that they might have raised the issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility,” said General MM Naravane said.

Without having directly named China, General Naravane made his stance clear enough to be understood, since the road holds a strategic value as it will be the first road that provides connectivity to the Indian troops deployed on the Line of Actual Control with China in Uttarakhand.

Earlier, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had told Indian media that “Nepal would never allow any sort of interference in its internal matters. We have good relations with China that’s true, but that does not mean Nepal picks a side.

Nepal always pursued neutral foreign policy. We have good relations with two foreign neighbours. So, to attribute anything between Nepal and India to a China factor is completely wrong.”

The 80 kilometres long road that stands controversial now, originates from Ghatiabgarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar and was built under the guidance of the China Study Group.

Constructed by India’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the road was inaugurated on May 8 by the Indian Defence Minister – Rajnath Singh. The road was approved almost 15 years ago in 2005 by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

The road will also facilitate Indian pilgrims visiting the Kailash-Mansarovar, a holy site in Hinduism which is located in Tibet region of China, hardly 90 kilometres from the Lipulekh pass. With the completion of this road, the Indian Defence Minister had said that the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra could be completed in one week compared with the two-three weeks it took earlier.

Post the inauguration, hundreds of youths in different cities of Nepal began demonstrating against the alleged encroachment by India. The Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs also brought out a sharp objection, which mentioned that “In light of this development (the road), the Government of Nepal called upon the Government of India to refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal.”

Nepal had also threatened to deploy its soldiers along the region, but later Nepal’s PM Oli mentioned that Nepal can allow India to use the link road to the Lipulekh Pass but Kathmandu will not relinquish Kalapani territory on which India has been carrying out construction.

Vipasha Kaushal. Edited By Preeti Raina