Nepal to release new map with disputed areas

India and Nepal seemed headed for a diplomatic showdown with Nepalese PM K P Oli saying in Parliament Tuesday the Kalapani area under India’s administrative control in Pithoragarh district belonged “indisputably” to Nepal and his government would wrest control of it with political and diplomatic initiatives.

This followed Oli’s cabinet’s endorsement of a new political map of Nepal which showed Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh as Nepal’s territory. He said the map would be released as early as Wednesday and that there would be celebrations across Nepal once it was endorsed by Parliament.

While a formal response was awaited from the MEA, official sources here said India’s own political map released last year depicted its sovereign territory accurately and it had not revised the boundary with Nepal.

India had earlier assured Nepal that, as desired by the latter, the foreign secretaries will meet to take forward the border delineation exercise under the existing mechanism, once the threat from Covid-19 dissipates.

Nepal says the Kalapani boundary issue has been on the bilateral agenda for decades. It’s only in the recent past though that it has emerged as a thorny issue with potential to imperil bilateral relations, with Kathmandu repeatedly protesting India’s new map which, it says, shows the disputed areas as Indian territory.

These are our territories. We will retrieve our land. It is after India occupied these territories without any grounds that they were made to look like disputed territories,” Oli said, adding that Nepal was in control of these areas until 1962 when the Indian Army was deployed there.

According to Nepal, the disputed areas are located on the eastern side of Kali river which, according to the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, acts as Nepal’s western boundary with India with its source, as claimed by Kathmandu, at Limpiyadhura. India has disputed the claim by saying that the contested part is located on the western side of the river and, as per the Sugauli Treaty, is part of India.

According to Oli, the decision to include the territories in Nepal’s map was made after India inaugurated a road link through “Nepali territory”. Indian officials again refuted this and said the road to the strategic Lipulekh Pass was built on Indian territory and followed a pre-existing route used by Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims.

While India has been taken aback by the intensity of Nepal’s protests, with Indian Army chief General M M Naravane even hinting that Kathmandu was probably acting at China’s behest, Nepal says the issue was always on the bilateral agenda. Kathmandu has cited a 1997 India-Nepal joint statement which called for the two sides to examine relevant facts related to the demarcation of the boundary alignment in the western sector, including in the Kalapani area.

No comments: