Nepal-India diplomatic relations are now at a low ebb over border dispute. The current stand-off came to pester the bilateral bonhomie after the Indian government violated the status of Nepal’s far northwest territories, Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani, which belong to Nepal, but they have been encroached upon by the southern neighbour since 1962. In November last year, India unveiled its new political map, incorporating these territories within its boundary in an open challenge to Nepal’s sovereignty. Nepal government immediately protested India’s cartographic aggression through the diplomatic channel. The Indian act generated uproar from the streets to the parliament in Nepal.
Indian official documents have identified these territories as ‘disputed’ and agreed to sort out the problem through bilateral negotiations. However, India broke its own diplomatic pledge and agreement reached with Nepal government by issuing the new map. It was believed that Nepal’s diplomatic and political protests would deter India from engaging in additional confrontational activities with regard to the border issue. Much to the chagrin of Nepali people, the Indian government did not take Nepal’s objection seriously and violated the sacrosanct ties to fulfil its expansionist ambition. In early May, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a link road leading to Lipulek pass that falls into Nepal territory. The blacktopped road aims to facilitate the Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash Manasarovar, a sacred lake located in Tibet. But this proved to be an unholy work in the eyes of Nepalis as it brazenly undermined Nepal territorial integrity.
Nepal’s Foreign Ministry described it as ‘unilateral act’ that runs against the bilateral understanding reached at the level of the Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through talks. The Indian government’s one-sided action prompted Nepal to issue new political and administrative map including the above territories. The federal parliament has already endorsed it unanimously. The new map has been also inserted in the coat of arms through the constitution amendment. Nepal government is pulling out all stops to resolve the matter through the diplomatic measures but India has been smart enough to dodge Nepal’s pragmatic call to end the stalemate amicably. Nepal had made three specific diplomatic requests to India since November to hold talks on the issues of land encroachment.
The other day, Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali informed the Standing Committee meeting of ruling Nepal Communist Party about Nepal’s efforts at solving the border dispute with India. Minister Gyawali said that the Indian government was continuously ignoring Nepal’s request for holding talks to iron out the matter. He said Nepal proposed dates for the talks but this could not happen owing to India’s continued indifference. Gyawali also made it clear that Nepal and China have no boundary dispute and refuted the media reports that China had encroached upon Nepali territories, and expressed commitment to resolving if there are any through mutual consultation between the concerned authorities of the two nations. Nepal believes in the peaceful solution to the problems with neighbours and friendly nations. Based on principles of Panchsheel and Non-Aligned Movement, Nepal has been pursuing its foreign policy independently. As Nepal and India are bound by similar social and cultural ethos, their bilateral bond must not go sour. The current deadlock will be settled once India respects Nepal’s sovereignty and feelings of Nepalis by rising above narrow geopolitical interest.