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Indo-Nepal Tensions: Kalapani Region and Indo Nepal Tussle

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Vignesh writes a detailed account of this problem. He explores geopolitical as well as historical prisms of the issue. 

India which is the World’s largest Democracy and seventh-largest country by area is known for having diplomatic relations with most of the nations across the world. India is surrounded by seven neighbors which are Pakistan, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.  However, India has time and again faced issues with its neighbors in regards to its borders. India has had hostile border relations with two of its neighbors which are Pakistan and China. One of the most supportive and friendly neighbor countries India has had is Nepal. However, with time India has begun to face border issue with it most friendly and supportive neighbor Nepal. The question which arises is what are the border issues with Nepal? Is this Issue a serious concern and would this affect India’s relations with Nepal?

Let’s first understand the border dispute between India and Nepal. The dispute is on the location of the Kalapani region. India claims that the Kalapani region is in the Indian Territory in the Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. On the other hand, Nepal claims that the Kalapani region is in Nepal Territory in the Darchula district. Another essential aspect of dispute between the two countries is in regard to the source of river Mahakali which runs through the Kalapani region and is an essential aspect of the dispute. India Stands with the fact that the Mahakali River originates in Kalapani. Nepal stands with the fact that the Mahakali River originates from Lipulekh pass from where most of the tributaries of the river begin.

              The new political map was released by the Ministry of Home Affairs of India on 2nd November 2019 in which Kalapani was marked as a territory of India. Nepal government was dissatisfied with this new political map of India this intensified the dispute. Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh inaugurated the Kailash Mansarovar road which will serve as the shortest route between capital New Delhi and Kailash-Mansarovar, a revered Hindu pilgrimage site in the Tibetan plateau. This incident escalated the dispute. Nepal condemned and was against India’s inauguration of a Himalayan link road built in a disputed territory which falls at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China.

Let us have a look at the history of the dispute. The East India Company and Nepal signed the treaty of Sagauli in 1816. This Treaty defined the western border of Nepal as River Mahakali. According to the Government of Nepal fifty eight years ago Census of Nepal included the Kalapani area. Nepal also contended that a report which was submitted by their government officers subject to the Nepali prime minister stated that sixty-two square kilometer land was occupied by India. India on the other hand has presented the 1879 map which shows that the Kalapani area was a part of India. India also presented tax and administrative records of 1830 to prove that Kalapani is a part of the Indian Territory.

This border dispute gained importance in 1996 when both the countries India and Nepal signed the Treaty of Mahakali in the same year. There were two major Indo-Nepal border issues at the time of the 1970’s one was Kalapani dispute and Nepal Uttar Pradesh border, Susta. A joint Technical Boundary committee was formed in 1981 however there was a lot of deliberation but no comprehensive Solution came up. There hasn’t been much progress and solutions in this matter. There were joint commission meetings held in 2014 followed by eminent person group was formed in 2016 to deliberate upon this issue but not pragmatic solutions came up.

Let’s understand the importance of lipulekh pass. It is also the four officially agreed border personnel meeting points between the Indian Army and People’s Liberation Army of China which helps in diffusing face-off’s.it is also open for cross border trade between India and China every year from June to September. This route has also been used by merchants, Traders, and pilgrim traverse between Nepal and Tibet. Lipulekh pass is the first Indian border post to be opened for trade with China in 1992.

Lipulekh Pass, situated at an altitude of 5,000 meters, has geostrategic value as Tibet is on its northern side. Nepal claims that the southern side of lipulekh pass which is the Kalapani region. This dispute has escalated and the Government of Nepal came up with a strong statement requesting India to not conduct any activities in Nepalese territory. However, MEA of India stated that India is not conducting any activities in Nepalese territory whatever activities are conducted are being conducted in the Indian Territory. Ministry of Indian external affairs also said India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues. Ministry of Indian external affairs has also stated that Foreign Secretary-level talks (Indo-Nepal) will be held once the dates are finalized between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of COVID 19 emergency.

  The Question one must think is How long would this border issue last? How important is it for India to have friendly relations with Nepal? Can India afford to spoil its relations with Nepal considering the increasingly hostile relations of India with Pakistan and China? What has happened Joint technical boundary committee reports of 1981? Why hasn’t the report is further taken into consideration?

It is very important for India to maintain good relations with Nepal. More sooner this border dispute is resolved better it is for India and Nepal both. Why are relations with Nepal so important? the answer is simple it is because Nepal is one of the nations which support India’s decision in various matters such as Decisions made by India in SAARC and  India’s action in condemning and controlling extremism in Pakistan. All we can hope is with time this border dispute gets resolved.

Vignesh Narayanan,

– Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.

References-:

  1. Gaurav Shumsher Thapa, Nepal confronts India in Lipulekh border dispute, Asia Times, May 13, 2020 https://asiatimes.com/2020/05/nepal-confronts-india-in-lipulekh-border-dispute/.

 

  1. Shreya Upadhyay and Vivek Mishra, India, Nepal and the Kalapani issue, Deccan Herald, Nov 19 2019, updated -: Nov20 2019 https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/main-article/india-nepal-and-the-kalapani-issue-777804.html.

 

  1. Debasis Sarkar , Covid 19 pushed Indo-Nepal border row over border to back bench, Economic Times ,May 16, 2020, https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/covid-19-pushed-indo-nepal-border-row-over-border-to-back-bench/articleshow/75766847.cms/.

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