Negotiating With China Can Instantly Resolve India-Nepal Border Dispute?

Escalating the India-Nepal border dispute further, Nepal has approved a new political map showing the disputed regions of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura under its territory. Experts talking to the EurAsian Times called a leaf out of the Chinese books.

The Nepal cabinet headed by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli has approved a fresh political map that depicts Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani as a part of its territory.

Nepal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pradeep Gyawali tweeted in Nepali informing the decision made by Nepal’s Council of Ministers to publish the map of Nepal in 7 provinces, 77 districts and 753 local level administrative divisions including Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani.

The Minister also wrote that “The official map is being made public by the Ministry of Land Management soon.”

The recent Indo-Nepal conflict over India’s new 80 kilometres long road to Kailash Mansarover via the Lipulekh pass near the disputed region of Kalapani has reignited tensions between the two neighbouring nations that share open boundaries.

The Nepal Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought out a sharp objection, and 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.”

The ruling party of Nepal has also put forward a special resolution in the country’s Parliament that demands the return of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh from India.

The Kathmandu Post reports that the map is based on the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli signed between Nepal and British India, according to which the Mahakali River marks the boundary between Nepal and India—east of the river is Nepal and west is India.

“Nepali politicians have long said that historical evidence shows that the disputed territories are within Nepal’s borders, but successive governments have failed to hold talks in earnest with India regarding the lands. Statements are issued only when India makes a move and public anger erupts,” reports the daily newspaper.

India’s 2019 Map

The previous year, the Home Ministry of India released a new edition of the Indian political map, majorly to depict J&K and Ladakh as new UTs, however, the map also showed the disputed Indo-Nepal region of ‘Kalapani’ in the Greater Himalayas as within India’s borders.

Both India and Nepal believe that the strategic region of Kalapani is a part of their country lying in the Pithoragarh district of India and the Darchula district in Nepal.

Post the publication of the map by India, the Ministry of External Affairs, Nepal issued a statement stating that, “The Nepal government is committed to protecting the country’s external borders and it is determined on its principled position that such border disputes with the neighbouring countries should be resolved through diplomatic channels after assessing the historical documents, facts, and evidence.” Yet, India maintained that the map was rather “accurate”.

In the recent row due to the new road constructed by India’s Border Road Organisation (BRO), the situation surpassed the usual diplomatic spats as hundreds of youths in different cities of Nepal began demonstrating against the alleged encroachment by India. It was also reported that Kathmandu had even threatened to deploy its soldiers along the disputed region.

As EurAsian Times reported previously, defence experts including India’s Army General hinted at the involvement of China in Nepal’s politics as the road holds a strategic value for being the first road that provides connectivity to the Indian troops deployed on the Line of Actual Control with China in Uttarakhand.

While some ministers of Nepal applauded the decision, others like the senior leader of Nepal Communist Party Standing Committee Ganesh Shah said that “the Nepal government should soon start a dialogue with India to resolve the matter through political and diplomatic moves.”

Experts talking to the EurAsian Times states that both India and Nepal must invest in negotiating new border management pact. The present Nepali government is under the strong influence of China and you could see Beijing suddenly building pressure on India via various border disputes from Sikkim to Arunachal and from Ladakh to Aksai Chin.

Negotiating with China can instantly solve the India-Nepal dispute, however, New Delhi must be prepared to discuss all border issues and make compromises, which is highly unlikely.

Inputs from Vipasha Kaushal and Agencies