Kathmandu : After the Indo-China War of 1962, India made some military deployments in Kalapani, which was occupied by Nepal since the Treaty of Sugauli (1816) between the East India Company and the then rulers of Nepal. It was not known whether the Nepal government had taken the decision or whether India had sought permission to place its army in Kalapani, which has strategic importance as it lies between Nepal, India and China.
The Kalapani dispute resurfaced after India unveiled its new political map in the first week of November 2019 and Nepal protested the decision by sending a series of diplomatic notes to India for talks to resolve the issue. India had then said that the matter would be taken up diplomatically.
The issue escalated after Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new 8-km-long road through Lipulekh in the Himalayas, which Nepal also considers its territory. The then KP Sharma Oli government opposed the road extension and accused India of changing the status quo without prior consultation with Nepal.
The road was meant to connect India with Tibet and facilitate Indian pilgrims wishing to visit Mansarovar. Nepal had already opposed the 2015 decision to extend the road between India and China via Lipulekh.
India and China had decided to develop a trade corridor through Lipulekh during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China, but the Nepal government opposed it.
The issue resurfaced after the new road was inaugurated by Rajnath Singh in 2020.
Opposing India’s unilateral decision to build a road through Lipulekh, Nepal sent some diplomatic notes to India and demanded talks for a settlement. But India deferred any such talks until the Covid pandemic broke out.
Following India’s response, the Oli government unveiled a new political map of Nepal, including Kalapani and Lipulekh as its territory. Then, the two sides reached a “state of cartographic warfare”.
“The Government of Nepal has today released a revised official map of Nepal that includes parts of Indian territory, Anurag Srivastava, the then spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India, had said, “This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence. Then this issue is in cold storage.
However, during the recent visit of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba to India, the border dispute surfaced again, after a gap of three years, he raised the issue during delegation-level talks with Modi.
Renowned cartographer and former Director General of Nepal Budhi Narayan Shrestha said, “Now the door has been opened for further dialogue with India… The way our Prime Minister has taken up this matter with India, we hope that soon There will be some progress.” Survey Department told IANS.
After delegation-level talks between Deuba and Modi on April 2 at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, the Nepalese Prime Minister said: “We discussed border matters and I urged him (Modi) to resolve them through established mechanisms. Did.”
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that a consensus has been reached on resolving the border issue. Addressing a press conference, he said there was a “brief discussion” on the issue.
“There was a general understanding that both sides needed to address this in a responsible manner through discussion and dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly relations,” he said. There is a need to avoid politicization of such issues.”
But an Indian statement issued after the Deuba-Modi talks, however, remained silent on the issue.
To deal with the border line at Susta and Kalapani, Nepal and India have mechanisms at the foreign secretary and technical level. A separate Border Working Group (BWG) is also mandated to carry out border tasks with Nepal and India except for Susta and Kalapani.
Shrestha said Deuba’s visit has opened doors for bilateral dialogue and it is better for both sides to revive the existing mechanism.
“The Prime Ministers of Nepal and India established a mechanism at the Foreign Secretary level in 2014 to deal with and resolve the border dispute. They were asked to get feedback and inputs from the technical level to resolve the dispute. Now is the time to revive the Foreign Secretary level mechanism for settlement and resolution of the Nepal and India border dispute.
Relations between Nepal and India began to deteriorate in November 2019, when Delhi published a new map including Kalapani in its territory.
As the dispute resumed, Shringla had visited Nepal in late November 2020 and Pradeep Gyawali, the then Foreign Minister, visited India in July 2021. But both visits could not defuse the tension.
Again in January this year, a remark made by Indian Prime Minister Modi created a new furore in Nepal.
Addressing an election rally in Uttarakhand’s Haldwani, he announced that his government had extended a road up to Lipulekh and plans to extend it further.
Nepal’s political parties expressed their displeasure over Modi’s statement, calling it unnecessary and demanded that the Deuba government should answer India.
The main opposition CPN-UML criticized the government for failing to take up the issue with India, while calls to send a note to India grew even within the ruling coalition objecting to Maud’s statement.
On 16 January, Nepal’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said that the government is firm and clear about the fact that Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani regions east of the Mahakali river are an integral part of Nepal.
He had said that the Government of Nepal is requesting the Government of India to stop the unilateral construction/expansion of any road passing through Nepalese territory, he said, “The Government of Nepal is to resolve the border issues on the basis of historical treaties and agreements. Committed to. Facts, maps and evidence through diplomatic channels in the spirit of friendly relations between the two countries”.
Nepalese diplomats and officials say that the recent developments between Nepal and India where both sides have shown their eagerness to resolve the dispute are welcome, but it takes some more time.
Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Khadka also said that Modi and Deuba have agreed to settle and resolve the current border dispute through existing mechanisms, dialogue and diplomacy. “During the talks, both the prime ministers also discussed border issues and both the leaders agreed to resolve such issues through existing mechanisms and through dialogue and diplomacy,” he said.
Khadka’s statement assumes significance after Prime Minister Deuba publicly urged his Indian counterpart to resolve the border issue through establishment of a bilateral mechanism.
Dinesh Bhattarai, a former ambassador to Nepal and a former foreign policy adviser to the two prime ministers, said at least the top political leadership has a feeling that border disputes should be resolved and not remain in limbo for long.
Since the Indian Foreign Secretary said that the issue should be addressed, it shows that India has acknowledged and accepted the dispute, he said.
“The issue has been brought to the table and both the sides should sit down and find an amicable solution. It may take some more time, we may have to sit down several times, and maybe it may take years for talks to resolve this but we should sit down. methods and mechanisms to be dealt with.”