The government of India has responded to Nepal's diplomatic note on Kalapani through the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu. India has expressed readiness to sort out the border dispute at Susta and Kalapani area in a diplomatic manner. A couple of days earlier, Prachanda, co-chair of Nepal Communist Party (NCP), had briefed his parliamentarian comrades that India was ignoring the note. He had reiterated that the source of the Mahakali River is Limpiyadhura and India would have to return Kalapani region to Nepal. India responded to the month-old note two days after the executive body of the ruling NCP made its demand public. The standing committee stated that the Indian army should vacate Kalapani area. The NCP leaders reaffirmed Nepal's claim over Kalapani as the evidences showed the region belonged to Nepal. In this context, the response to the Nepali diplomatic note is a step forward in the direction of efforts made by the Nepali side to resolve the problem diplomatically. The government of Nepal had sent the diplomatic note to India through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on November 20, 2019 for the first time. The government had enlisted the support of all the political parties in parliament and officially expressed its disagreement with the new political map of India that included the disputed territory of Kalapani within its borders. Now that India has expressed its eagerness to sort out the border dispute in Kalapani-Susta area, what will be the roadmap to achieve an amicable solution to end the Indian encroachment? Since India has not specified a date for the two countries to hold talks as proposed by the Nepali side, this has raised suspicions about the response. In the past, India agreed to form the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) with the mandate to review the past bilateral treaties between the two countries and provide recommendations. But it has not yet specified a date to receive the long-awaited EPG report. In essence, India is sitting on the report. As per an earlier understanding between the two sides, Nepal had proposed a meeting of the secretary-level bilateral mechanism to discuss the recent note. The Indian response without a date for talks has raised doubts that it can mean a diplomatic sidelining of a burning issue. India has been saying that the border dispute between the two countries has been resolved by as much as 98 per cent. Nevertheless, it has also accepted that there are problems with the border between the two countries. In that context, Nepal can take the response to its diplomatic note as a positive development because the communication has completed one cycle. It has paved the way for talks on the border dispute based on available evidences and facts. But when the talks will happen is still uncertain. What is encouraging is that, knowingly or unknowingly, Nepal's claim over its land encroached by the Indian side in Kalapani area has been a subject of discussion at the people's level beyond the two countries. In an age of international communication, many events, decisions, commitments and comments made by the government authorities and public institutions are discussed in the public domains. Prime Minister Oli's reply to the Supreme Court is one recent example, where he has explicitly reiterated that the government is aware, committed and firm to protect Nepal's international boundaries and any decision made solely by India on them would not be acceptable. Nepal's intelligentsia is eager to internationalise the issue and the contributions of the vibrant Nepali media are visible, at least, in two folds. First, they are retaining memory and creating common knowledge regarding the country's territorial integrity and sovereignty. Second, they are communicating Nepal's internal atmosphere of unity vis-a-vis India and other countries. Thus, as the leaders are stressing, Nepal should continue its efforts to correct border encroachment. Facts have made us strong to believe that it is inevitable, sooner or later, that the Indian government will have to leave the encroached land. Given India's record on delay-diplomacy, Nepali people and intelligentsia will need to maintain the public awareness and arousal on the issue at stake. A South Korean case can offer a cue. Over the years, Korea Broadcasting Service has dedicated a channel for a live telecast of the Dokdo Island. It shows the island's surroundings, with background music, for 24 hours. The arrangement, as KBS states, is carried out by South Korea's Public Broadcasting Service, to share the people's love for the country’s territorial integrity and their determination to protect the sovereignty. Regular telecast of Dokdo presents an example of relentless claim of their territoryy. The coverage, from dawn to the glow of the setting sun, is intended to promote patriotism. Towards the end of World War II, the Allied Powers, as per the Treaty of Peace with Japan, recognised Korea as an independent nation. However, a dispute over Dokdo Island between the two countries has not been resolved yet. On top of the diplomatic initiatives of the South Korean government, KBS has been running the channel dedicated to Dokdo Island. In cooperation with the nearby local county, KBS has installed video transmission facilities to provide high-quality images around the clock. In our case, the media can take the cue and keep an eye on the border. The political forces of Nepal have demonstrated a strong sense of unity among them to protect the country's territory. Consequently, the government of Nepal has taken an effective diplomatic initiative to put an end to the encroachment at Susta and Kalapani area. It has already formed two committees to inspect Nepal’s borders with India and China. All set to put evidences and facts on table before the Indian side, Nepal government is also preparing a political map, showing Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani where they belong in it. The map will be the first concrete quest to protect our territorial integrity and sovereignty. The most important aspect of Nepal's border issue is that we are untiringly prepared to keep eyes on it.
(Dr. Aryal is associated with the Central Department of Journalism and Mass Communication of Tribhuvan University.)