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India-Nepal border disputes: India-Nepal relations on icy ground?

India and Nepal one of the most friendly countries are now singing different tunes. The matter of conflict is nothing new but has evolved for decades. But now both nations are standing against each other.

The political conflict between the two countries is in the westmost part of Nepal; which includes Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, and Lipulekh. The dispute came into the global eye when Nepal released a new political map; claiming the disputed area under its province.

The new administrative and political map released by Nepal, on 20 May 2020

The base of the dispute

India has recently inaugurated a new road, a shortcut to the Hindus holy pilgrimage Kailash Mansarovar which is in China; through Lipulekh. The Indian government claims the area to be completely under Pithoragarh, a district of Uttarakhand, India.

Lipulekh is the farthest western point near Kalapani; the disputed border area between both counties. In this case, the problem is, that both countries claim to have administrative rights over the disputed region.

India claims that the region is completely under the Pithoragarh district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Whereas, Nepal claims the area to be in the Dharchula district of Nepal. Consequently, both countries are at each other’s throats over the Kalapani region.

History of the India-Nepal border.

From 1 November 1814 to 4 March 1816 the Anglo-Nepalese war took place between British India and Nepal. The battle continued for two long years but in the end, Nepalese succeded in defending their land. At last, a treaty was signed, ‘The Treaty of Sugauli’. According to the treaty, the track of the Kali river in Kalapani would be defining the India-Nepal border.

In the 1980s both nations set up a joint technical level boundary working group. Over the group, everything was demarcated except the Kalapani area.

The matter of defining a proper administrative border was brought up in 1998 by Nepal. Finally, both the countries agreed to talk at the Prime-Ministerial level in 2000. However, the matter is yet a concern.

Politics in the border disagreement

The dispute started in 2015, over an agreement between India and China on using the Lipulekh path for trading. Kalapani-Limpiyadhura-Lipulekh is the trisection between India, China, and Nepal. In the agreement, Nepal’s consent wasn’t taken into account which aggrieved Nepal.

About six months before India released a new political map; under which it claimed the disputed area in its’ territory.

On 19 May 2020, Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali says; there is a continuous effort for solving the border dispute with India. A day before that he tweets about the ministry council of Nepal releasing a new administrative and political map of the country.

The new map consists of 7 provinces, 77 districts, and 754 administrative divisions at the local level. The map officially shows Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani in Nepal’s territory. The new map includes a 335 km Limpiyadhura area.

Nepal government’s spokesperson and finance minister Yuvaraj Khatuwada says; the new map is made properly under the surveillance of the prime minister.

Conversely, India has rejected to accept the new map of Nepal. “Our map accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India,” Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. “The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing under the existing mechanism. We reiterate our commitment to finding a solution through dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations.”

How did the India-Nepal dispute start

If we look into history, the disputed region was under Nepal’s territory in the first place. During the India-China war, king Mahendra, then monarch of Nepal; offered India the Kalapani region.

The motive of the offer was to help India’s security, in particular, from China; and in return to get a few favors from India. The political map of Nepal was made during the treaty of Sugauli. The map was the administrative and political map of Nepal till now.

However today the Indian army has a few posts in the area. Since the Kalapani region is at a height of 20,000 feet, it serves as an excellent observation point. Today, the area is completely under the administration of the Indian government.

Stand of both the countries

  • Nepal: The Kali River originates from a stream at Limpiyadhura and falls into the east of the river; which is under the Nepal government’s administration. Historically the area was under Nepal’s territory and the king let India use it temporarily.
  • India: The revenue and administrative record in the documents of the 19th century shows Kalapani clearly on India’s political map. For a very long time, the area is a part of the country. Furthermore, the Kali river originates from a spring between Lipulekh; the Sugauli treaty does not demarcate these stream’s areas.

How to solve the matter?

India-Nepal always has had a very friendly relationship from the beginning. The relationship between the two countries is known as ‘roti-beti’ (food and marriage). In both countries, people can travel without any security checks. Citizens of both nations can freely work in the government sector and the army of each other’s countries.

India should not delay the matter and should try to resolve it as soon as possible. Especially during this time when it already has a faceoff with China in Sikkim and Ladhak.

Because of the free movement of people through the border; from the security point of view, most of the time terrorists use Nepal to enter India. This makes a friendly and stable relationship with Nepal immensely important for India.

India-Nepal should talk on the matter and resolve the boundary dispute by taking into consideration all the shared environmental and political characteristics. Any thoughtless step at this point can prove the old friendly togetherness difficult to retain.

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