Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 28 May 2020) – AFTER one week of the issuance of the new map that includes Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh as Nepali territory, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on 26 May sought national consensus to endorse the updated map from the parliament. Holding an all-party meeting, he urged all the leaders to unanimously endorse the constitution amendment bill that recognises the new map. The leaders responded positively though the language they used was diverse – may be they were ‘politically correct’.
Prime Minister Oli also made it clear that the only way to resolve the boundary imbroglio is peaceful negotiation with India. He informed that he has been trying to hold telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it will be materialised soon in amicable manner. He requested not to believe in the unauthorised, manipulated information and spoiled minds, whose sole aim is to worsen the Nepal-India relations. Nepal has uniform voice that diplomatic negotiation is the only way to resolve the boundary issues and this unvarying opinion is equally applicable in reclaiming the territories encroached by India.
Though this ‘cartographic aggression’ sounds the conflicting reality rooted between the two nations since 1962, it now can pave a way for the permanent solution of the disputed border. The need from the Indian side is to reciprocate Nepal’s humble and modest request to sit in diplomatic dialogue. Both the ambassadors – Nepal’s to India, Nilamber Acharya and India’s to Nepal,Vinaya Mohan Qwatra, who seem serious in maintaining bilateral cordial relations, must place their extra effort to bring this issue into negotiating table.
This is the time, for both Nepal and India, to collect the evidences from their side, to prove their respective claim on the disputed territory. But Indian side speaks less in the key issue and engages more in the subsidiary matter.
Let’s check the India’s claim: that ‘this unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence’.
On 20 May, Nepal issued its new and updated political and administrative map after the national consensus. But India had issued its new political map on 2 November 2019 (six months earlier) addressing the changed status of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh as Union Territories (UTs). In this new map of India, Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh are included in Indian Territory. When India made public the new map, it was not discussed with Nepal. Therefore, the act of issuing a new map unilaterally was first initiated by India. This is the reality, not a prejudice.
Without evidences Nepal has not claimed the territories, which have been unilaterally using by India for its strategic interest for six decades. The Sugauli treaty of 1816 signed by then British India and Gorkha Kingdom is the most authentic document, which explicitly mentions the border between Nepal and India is the Kali River originating from Limpiydhura. The letters exchanged between the officials of the two countries before the Suguali treaty and the supplementary treaties signed up to 1860, prove that the northwestern point of Nepal is Limpiyadhura from where the Mahakali river originates. Nepal has such two dozen documents.
Before pointing finger at the legitimacy of other’s documents, India should first testify its existing available documents. Nepal can say India’s claim on the said territories is baseless or is unfounded, but it cannot be trusted until legitimate bilateral documents prove it. This is not the time to involve in the blame game but to seek the solution with evidences.
Indian blame that ‘Nepal is acting at China’s behest’.
Indian political establishment must be familiar with the Nepali people’s commitment to their motherland. In 2015 when India imposed blockade expressing discontent to the very domestic issue of Nepal – promulgation of the constitution, Nepali people demonstrated strong unity and were prepared to stay hungry but didn’t compromise the independence and sovereignty of the nation. Ultimately, Indian ruling political leadership was compelled to embrace Nepali polity.
Nepal doesn’t need to work either against India or China or Nepal doesn’t need one support against other. Nepal is able to raise her genuine voice and even ready to face the adverse situation if needed. If Nepal had fought against the blockade five years back, why can’t it now make her voice louder to reclaim her Territory? Nepal has its own discontent with China too. When China and India on 15 May 2015 agreed to expand the bilateral trade via Lipulekh pass, a Nepali Territory, Nepal intensely registered its protest. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs handed over ‘diplomatic note’ to both the ambassadors of India and China based in Kathmandu.
China seems unstable with two paradoxical statements in five years. In 2015, China , together with India, encroached Nepali Territory — Lipuleh, but in 2020, it said Kalapani is a bilateral issue between Nepal and India and should be resolved through diplomatic negotiation. Therefore, China should make its position clear first. What is the official position of China on the current border row between Nepal and India? Which statement is correct?
If we have been continuously protesting both India and China on the border issue, how can India blame Nepal working at the behest of China?
Dialogue, dialogue and dialogue
Forget what the Indian analysts and media have been saying since the majority of them have undermined Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Some experts including Former Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Jayanta Prasad, have strongly said that India should immediately respond to Nepal’s repeated call for secretary-level bilateral meeting. In fact, the secretary level meeting should have been held much earlier but Indian side paid no heed even to Nepal’s written requests. It was considered as the India’s indifference, a big brother mentality.
Let’s not add fuel to the fire. Let’s initiate the process of negotiation. Both countries should sit in negotiating table without precondition and preoccupied mind presenting all the documents. The enduring solution of the border row is always possible at the bilateral level. The third country mediation or the internationalisation of bilateral issue is not sought if the concern sides are in constant touch. If history is something to teach us, the third country entry into the bilateral issue has high chance of pushing the agenda in limbo for long.
Sooner the two sides sit in talk, lesser the misunderstandings and gaps. Covid-19 is of course in focus but not let the border issue further complicates the bilateral relations.
(Khanal is consulting editor at Gorkhapatra Corporation. [email protected])