Over the past fortnight, India and Nepal, the historical close friends have been standing against each other with new map over the territory claims between one another. While the lower house of Nepal’s parliament unanimously agreed to change the map of the country to include the disputed 300 sq km territory claimed by India with a majority of 258 members out of 275, it enraged India which described the move as “untenable” and said it violated the understanding that boundary disputes would be solved through dialogue.
The territorial tension between India and Nepal started after the revised map of Nepal was published in which Nepal claims Indian territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani, which fall in Uttarakhand state.
The ongoing tension is on account of the territory disputed over decades. The bone of contention is the Kalapani-Limpiadhura-Lipulekh trijunction between Nepal-India and China (Tibet).The triangular area of 300 sq km with its north-most vertice lies village Limpiyadhura, south eastern vertice village Lipulekh and the third in south west being Kalapani, this small stretch of land controlled by India, but after newly published political map of Nepal the disputes have risen between the nations.
While India claims it to be the part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, Nepal assumes it to be part of its Dharchula district. The situation worsened when India opened an 80 km link road with Lipulekh in the disputed territory, which was opened by defense minister Rajnath Singh on May 8, 2020.
Government of Nepal also accused Prime minster Narendra Modi for occupying some areas of Nepal. On 15 may 2020, Nepal protested against the construction of the gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar in Uttarakhand stating the road “passes through Nepali territory”.
The historical background of the border dispute maps as far as 18th century when Nepal was ruled by Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah, who unified a total of 54 small states to the present day Nepal and called it as Asal Hindustan, as India was being ruled by Muslim rulers in that period. He also extended the borders of his state to the present day Sikkim in the east, and the basins of Gandaki and Karnai and Uttarakhand regions of Garhwal and Kumaon which led to a conflict with Britishers as they were controlling India directly or indirectly.
A series of campaigns termed as Anglo-Napalese war took place in the period of 1814 to 1816. British general Ohterlony evicted Neplaese from Garhwal and Kunaon across the Kali River and a treaty of Sugali was signed under which the border of Nepal was defined along the Makali river, the only treaty on which both India and Nepal agrees.
Consequently, the river Kali marked the western border of Nepal. But, on the contrary, there is no clear line which tells about the precise location of river Kali, which leads to the dispute that whether the disputed land of Kalapani-Limpiadhura-Lipulekh is part of present day India or of Nepal.
“Nepal virtually ignored the Kalapani issue from 1961 to 1997, but for domestic political reasons it became a convenient India-Nepal controversy in 1998,” writes political scientist, Leo E. Rose, in his article, ‘Nepal and Bhutan in 1998: Two Himalayan kingdoms’.
Nepalese government contended that the western border of the country be shifted 5.5 km westward to coincide with the borders as decided in the treaty of Sugauli.
India has described Nepal’s map move as a ‘unilateral act’ not based on historical facts or evidence and has asked Kathmandu to ‘refrain’ from bringing about an ‘unjust’ and ‘artificial enlargement of territorial claims’. Nepal has also increased troops on the border with India. The two countries share an open border of 1,880 kms.
While Nepal insists that the possibility of dialogue remains open with New Delhi, India no likely seems to be in a hurry to hold talks in near future. Nepalese PM KP Oli, seemed to have moved the bill to raise a nationalist sentiment among the people of his country in order to win back the confidence of the people and his own party, which has been depleting away with the growing criticism of his handling the coronavirus pandemic, India continues to control the disputed territory and Nepal nowhere seem to be using any military means to press its point.