Reality Of Lipulekh Imbroglio

By Gopal Khanal (KATHMANDU, 14 May 2020) – DEFENCE Minister of India Rajnath Singh on 8 May inaugurated the link road to Kailash Mansarobar Yatra via video conference from New Delhi. Following the inauguration of 75-km long road from Ghatibagar (India) to Lipulekh (Nepal), he tweeted, ”Delighted to inaugurate the link road to Mansarobar Yatra”. Former President of the ruling BJP, Former Home Minister and a close friend of Nepal, Singh knows the complexities and intricacies of Nepal-India relations witnessing the ups and downs resulting from border imbroglio. He was aware of the fact that the Kalapani Area and Susta were the disputed borders and these have been the major source of tension between the two countries.
While inaugurating the road, strategically important for bilateral trade and pilgrimage to Kailas Mansarobar Yatra from Indian Territory, he applauded the Border Road Organisation (BRO), which constructed this strategic stretch beginning in 2008. According to the media, the stretch was schedule to be completed in 2013 but got delayed due to the tough terrain between Nazang and Bundi village.
Minister Singh was speaking with confidence that Lipulekh was Indian territory and construction of a strategic road was historic achievement. According to the Indian reports, the newly built part of the road will make Kailas Mansarobar Yatra easier and will take less time too. In response of Nepal’s formal objection, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs of India on 9 May again claimed that Lipulekh is Indian territory. He also said India was ready to resolve the outstanding border issues through diplomatic dialogue.
But these two reports brought discontent in Nepal. Nepal government and Nepali people protested India’s move terming it as an attack on Nepali sovereignty and territorial integrity. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, first reacted verbally and then handed over a diplomatic note to India’s Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra. The Ministry on 9 May, issued a statement condemning India’s act and urging the Indian side to immediately hold secretary level meetings.
The MEA spokesperson said it was committed to resolve the outstanding border issues with Nepal and proposed the talks after the Covid-19 is brought under control. Nepal has said that the talks should be held at the earliest. The chairman duo of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP)- Prime Minister Oli and Prachanda also issued a joint statement saying the Indian move undermined the sovereignty of Nepal. They said that the border problem should be solved diplomatically. On 9 May, the members of parliament of Nepal in House of Representative, National Assembly and Parliamentary Committees raised the border issue and asked the government to immediately take up the issue with Indian government. Despite the lockdown to contain the pandemic, people have come to the streets protesting India’s move with placard ”Go back India”.
The Lipulekh Pass is located at Nepal-China border point. But the Indian para-military forces have occupied it since 1962 after the Sino-Indian border war. It is an ancient route for traders and pilgrims between Nepal and Tibet. Identifying the strategic importance of Kalapani area of Nepal, India in 1960s established its check posts. Historical documents and maps have clearly proved that Lipulekh is Nepali territory that lies in Byas village municipality of Darchula district. According to the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 and other three related treaties signed in 1850, 1856 and 1860, the origin of the Mahakali River is Limpiadhura, north western trilateral point of Darchula district. Lipulekh lies in the east of Limpiyadhura, therefore it is a Nepali territory.
After establishing check posts there, India started the plan to establish Lipulekh as border point. Here, India and China are denying the historical evidences. The historic maps of 1827 among others, published by the British Survey of India, depicts that the western boundary of Nepal extended up to Limpiyadhura. According to the ‘Old Atlas of China’ a map published during Qing Dynasty (1903) in Chinese language, Limpiyadhura is the source of the Kali River.
Nepal has been continuously raising the voice that Lipulekh is Nepali territory and it has presented documents and maps to prove this claim. But Indian authorities have paid no attention to Nepali voice. Moreover, India and China, denying Nepal’s sovereignty, decided to expand the border trade through Lipulekh Pass on 15 May 2015. In the 28th point of the joint communiquĂ© issued at the end of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China, the two countries agreed to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border at the Lipulekh Pass. It is evident that the agreement was at the background of the road, which was under construction at that time.
Nepal has all the evidences that prove Lipulekh is Nepali territory. Collecting further evidences and documents, Nepal should first build national consensus at home. All the political parties should sit together and make a uniform stance. The uniform position should be endorsed through Nepal’s parliament issuing a white paper.
Then Nepal can formally urge India and China to reclaim the Kalapani areas, which has been encroaching by India since 1960s. Nepal should first hold bilateral diplomatic meeting with India and China presenting the facts about the Nepali territory. The separate talks with India and China will be helpful to Nepal to bring back the Nepali territory. Since Limpiyadhura is the tri-junction point of Nepal, India and China, the solution should be sought trilaterally. Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pradeep Gyawali and Minister of Home Affairs, Ram Bahadur Thapa on 10 May in meeting of parliamentary committees clearly said Nepal will seek the diplomatic solution and won’t compromise on its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Both Ministers said a trilateral solution should be sought to end the tension permanently.
Internationalisation of Lipulekh issue without holding diplomatic dialogues with both the powerful neighbours is not a solution. It will further complicate the problem. People can protest peacefully on the streets and parliamentarians can raise the issue in parliament. These moves will support the government to talk with India and China with strong national position. Any violent protest or activities are detrimental to bilateral relations. Nepal cannot launch a war against India. Provocative statements or activities might fuel a movement. Only the option is to immediately hold diplomatic dialogue with India and China with historical evidences.

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