Commentary: India, China understanding on Lipu-Lekh and Nepal’s concerns

indexNepal Foreign Affairs (KATHMANDU June 10)


India and China’s understanding on expanding border areas at Nepali territory Lipu-Lekh Pass during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent maiden visit to China has hurt the Nepali people and raised question over Nepal’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. The Indian side has been encroaching Nepali territories including Susta and Kalapani for years. The Indo-Tibetan Border Force personnel deployed by the Indian government have been occupying Nepal’s territory in Kalapani since 1962.

With the signing of the Suguali Treaty in December 1815 between the British East India Company and King of Nepal following the Anglo-Nepalese War in the years 1814-16, Nepal lost about one-thirds of its territory including all the territories that the King of Nepal had won in wars in the last 25 years or so such as Sikkim in the east, Kumau Kingdom and in the west and much of the Terai in the south.

As per the understanding between India and Nepal during the Foreign Minister-level Joint Commission Meeting held in Kathmandu in 2014 and Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal on August 4-5, the bilateral technical teams reached the border areas to determine the damaged pillars and fix them on the erstwhile stage some four months ago. However, no progress has been made to this effect due to ‘big brother’ attitude of the Indian side. Similarly, the recent understanding between India and China has made the Nepali people serious to think over the country’s national interests, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

As part of its silence diplomacy China has adopted a policy of non-interference and peaceful co-existence in any other country’s internal affairs. Basically least developed countries like Nepal have been always admiring China’s policy of non-interference and peaceful co-existence. In response to that Nepal has long-standing One-China policy to respect China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty as immediate Nepal. Nepal believes that Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong are integral parts of China and it doesn’t allow anti-Chinese activities in Nepal.

Earlier, China had said that Kalapani border dispute is bilateral affairs between India and Nepal. Interestingly, in the same border frontier, the northern neighbor has agreed to expand border at Nepal’s territory Lipu-Lekh Pass. This has also raised serious question over China’s policy of non-interference in internal affairs of other countries.

With the advent of BJP-led government in India, giving top priority to strengthening relations with neighboring countries, Prime Minister Modi adopted ‘neighborhood first’ policy. He invited head of governments/states in his swearing-in ceremony in New Delhi. Later, he visited Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and recently to Bangladesh.

The recent understanding between China and India contradicts their policies toward neighboring countries. After taking the helm of the power in 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping also said their ‘peripheral policy’ was toward strengthening good relations with neighboring countries. During a recent visit Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi also reiterated the same. In addition to that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang expressed China’s readiness to transform Nepal into a bridge between China and the SARRC as well as China and India.

China and India have extended wholehearted support to Nepal during the rescue and relief operation after the devastating 25 April earthquake. Both the countries have expressed commitment to provide all-support in Nepal’s rebuilding which is very positive to Nepal.

Nepal-China and Nepal-India relations have gained momentum in the recent years. China and Indian are Nepal’s major trading partners. Nepal is receiving development assistance in the recent years as per its need from both countries.

Despite its own geo-political compulsions, Nepal has been respecting territorial integrity and sovereignty of both the neighbors and must continue it forever. Nepal can never be a playground of western countries including European and help carry out activities aiming at destabilizing China and India through its territory.

However, the latest agreement reached between China and India has hurt the Nepalese people. It is unbearable to the Nepali people over the decision of the two neighboring countries to expand the border areas and enhance border trade at the Nepal’s territory without taking prior consent of Nepal.

Undoubtedly, the understanding was reached between the prime ministers of the two countries following rounds of bilateral negotiations between the two sides. It is a high time for the Nepal government take up this issue with the two neighboring countries through diplomatic channel to safeguard country’s territorial integrity. India and China must clarify the understanding over Nepal’s territory.

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