India-Nepal dispute heightened by new Nepal maps

Feud between India and Nepal intensifies over Nepal's publishing new maps which show territory disputed with India as its own. Earlier, India had constructed a road on the border, without consulting and despite the protestations of Nepal. This episode adds a new chapter to the story of Indian border disputes.

India-Nepal dispute

The India-Nepal dispute has been intensified by new maps published by Nepal regarding areas it disputes with India, officials said Tuesday, as the Himalayan country takes a tougher stance against its giant neighbour.

Protests have been staged in Nepal since India earlier this month inaugurated an 80-kilometre (50 mile) road in Uttarakhand state leading up to the disputed Lipu Lekh pass.

Nepal claims the pass under an 1816 treaty that sets the boundary with India along the Kali River, but disputes have arisen because neither side can agree its source.

A cabinet meeting on Monday decided to publish a new map that includes Lipu Lekh and zones in Kalapani and Limpiyadhura, Law Minister Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe told AFP.

The zones form a region of more than 300 square kilometres (115 square miles) considered important because it is where the Nepalese and Indian borders touch China.

“Nepal will initiate dialogues with India simultaneously to resolve the boundary issue through diplomatic channels” she said.

China fanning flames of India-Nepal Dispute: India 

Without providing evidence, Indian Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane said that Nepal’s protest against an Indian road built in Uttarakhand was at the behest of someone else, hinting that China’s hand was behind the protest. This kind of insensitive statement from the army chief can further escalate tensions. In fact, Nepalis aren’t happy with China too in this issue. Building a road at a tri-junction point without consulting Nepal is a serious issue. Many in Nepal are wondering themselves if China supported India in building a new road in Uttarakhand. If not, why is Beijing silent on the matter?

See more: India on front in US’s hybrid war against China

In recent years, India has perceived Nepal as tilting toward China and this may be one of the reasons that it sees China’s hand behind the recent move. The level of distrust in Nepal about India has also spiked in recent months after India unveiled its political map including the area of Lipulekh and Kalapani. Nepal proposed to hold bilateral talks with India to solve the border issue, but the Indian side didn’t show any interest. India unilaterally published its map earlier and built and inaugurated the road at the tri-junction point without consulting Nepal. This clearly shows how India has ignored Nepal.

India’s take on the dispute

Reacting to the release of the new map, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs said Wednesday that India will not accept such “artificial enlargement of territorial claims”, and urged the Nepalese leadership to “create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic dialogue to resolve the outstanding boundary issues”.

Srivastava said: “The Government of Nepal has released a revised official map of Nepal today that includes parts of Indian territory. This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence. It is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue. Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India.”

Origins of the India-Nepal dispute

Although India and Nepal have resolved almost all of their territorial disputes through diplomatic dialogue, two major disputes still stand – over small stretches of land.

These are Kalapani in Nepal’s northwest and Susta to its south near Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.

The latest issue is related to the Kalapani region. The territory is strategically important to India as this is where India, China (Tibet) and Nepal meet and has been under Indian control since the 1962 war with China.

While India claims that the territory falls in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, Nepal has maintained that it is an integral part of its Dharchula District in Sudurpaschim Pradesh.

The border in Kalapani is demarcated by the Kali river or Mahakali river. Nepal considers the river as its western border with India and claims that the land falling to its East is its territory as per the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli between Nepal and British East India Company.

However, both India and Nepal disagree over the origin of the river and, hence, the dispute arises.

Nepal maintains that Lipu Gad, one of the tributaries of the Kali river that merges into the main river at Kalapani is, in fact, Kali river up to its source to the east of the Lipu Lekh Pass, wrote scholar Alok Kumar Gupta for the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.

India, however, considers Kalapani, where all the tributaries including Lipu Gad merge, to be the point of origin of the Mahakali river.

Read more: As India Objects to Nepal’s Revised Map, Here’s a Look at What the Territorial Dispute is All About

During the dialogue to resolve the dispute, India has held that map sketched in 1879 and 1928, which shows the Kalapani region as India’s territory by British India should form the basis for the origin of the river as well as the demarcation of the border.

On the other hand, Nepal has pressed for the maps sketched 1850 and 1856 by the British-Indian government for the same purpose.

Nepal claims the Kalapani region, which adjoins Lipu Lekh, even though Indian troops have been deployed there since India and China fought a border war in 1962.

India and Nepal had both shown Kalapani and Lipu Lekh in their political maps, but Nepal had not previously shown Limpiyadhura.

“It was an issue of contention when Nepal first drew its map in the 1970s, but it was decided that Limpiyadhura area would be drawn after a discussion with India,” border expert Buddhi Narayan Shrestha said.

Nepal condemned India’s new road as a “unilateral act” while India maintained that it lies “completely within the territory of India”.

Nepal has since deployed security forces close to Kalapani.

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk

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