Nepal's parliament is expected to formally approve a revised map of the country this week, which includes three areas; lipulekh pass, Kalapani and limpiyadhura in western Nepal competing with its giant neighbor India.
Nepal and India share an open border of about 1,880 km (1,168 miles). The two countries have finalised maps covering 98% of the boundary, but these three areas cover about 370 sq km (140 square miles).
The strategic Lipulekh pass connects the Indian state of Uttarakhand with the Tibet region of China. Nepal and China have been irritated by India's recent initiatives, as Delhi launched its new map of the border region in November after dividing Indian-administered Kashmir into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The map incorporated some of the territories in dispute with Nepal within the borders of India.
Nepal surrendered part of its western territory in 1816 after the defeat of its forces by the British East India Company. The subsequent Sugauli treaty defined the origin of the Kali River as the border point of Nepal with India.
But the two countries differ in the source of the Kali River. India argues that the exact coordinates of the river were not mentioned in the treaty and claims that better surveying techniques have redesigned the map in the following years.
In reality, the three disputed areas have been firmly under the control of India for some sixty years and the inhabitants of these areas are now Indian citizens, taxpayers in India and voting in Indian elections. Nepalese politicians argue that while the country was going through decades of political crisis followed by a Maoist-led insurgency, they were unable to raise the border dispute with India.
As a landlocked nation, Nepal has been dependent on Indian imports for many years, and India has played an active role in Nepal's affairs.
But in recent years, Nepal has moved away from the influence of India, and China has gradually filled the space for investment, aid and loans. China sees Nepal as a key partner in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and wants to invest in Nepal's infrastructure as part of its grand plans to boost global trade.
Last year, President Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to visit Nepal since Jiang Zemin in 1996. During his visit, the two countries decided to strengthen their ties in a “strategic partnership”.
For India, the Lipulekh Pass has security implications. After his disastrous 1962 border war with China, India was concerned about a possible Chinese intrusion across the pass and wanted to maintain the strategic Himalayan route to protect himself from future incursions. Since then, the pass has proven to be a subject of contention.
In May this year, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh launched an improved 80 km (50 mi) route through the pass. These improvements will reduce the travel time of Hindu pilgrims who use it, but it was this decision that sparked the diplomatic dispute with Nepal.
The road connects the Pithoragarh of Uttarakhand with the Lipulekh Pass, which Nepal considers part of its own territory, with the Indochinese border. Nepal subsequently delivered a diplomatic note to the Indian envoy to Kathmandu, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, on May 11, asking India to hold virtual talks at the level of foreign ministers, which was also rejected. Finally, on May 20, the Oli government released a new map showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders, which India has categorically rejected.
The 80 km road leads to the Lipu Lekh pass in LAC, through which the pilgrims from Kailash Mansarovar leave India for China to reach the mountain and the revered lake as the abode of Siva. The last 4 km section of the road leading to the pass is not yet finished.
As Nepal reaches the final stage of amending its constitution to adopt a controversial new map, it shows the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders. The bill, which seeks to amend Schedule 3 of the Nepalese Constitution to reflect the new map in its national emblem, will be considered on Tuesday by the House of Representatives (HoR) or the lower house of the Nepalese parliament. It will also be discussed in the upper house or the National Assembly. Members of the Nepalese parliament will have 72 hours to respond, after which the bill will be approved.
Building roads to the disputed FTA with China has been a difficult exercise for the government. The border routes of India and China, as they are called, were conceptualized in the late 1990s by an advisory group called China Study Group, approved at the highest level of the Cabinet Security Committee and set on fire green for construction in 1999.
But deadlines were moving targets, and it was only after the 70-day deadlock between Doklam and China in 2017 that India realized with surprise. that most of these routes remained on the drawing board. In all these years, only 22 have been completed.
The Standing Committee on Defense, in its 2017-2018 report, declared that “the country, surrounded by difficult neighbors, is a vital necessity to follow, the construction of roads and the development of adequate infrastructure along the borders”.
The parliamentary committee called for an increase in budgetary allocations for the BRO. Another report on border routes, presented by the Standing Committee in March 2019, noted that CRICs are crucial for “effective border management, security and infrastructure development in inaccessible areas adjacent to the Chinese border”.
Nepal's objection was the inclusion of Kalapani on the map, indicating that it is part of Uttarakhand. The area is located at the junction between India, China and Nepal.
The publication of the map took protesters to the streets. The ruling Nepalese Communist Party and the Nepalese Opposition Congress also protested. The Nepalese government called India's decision “unilateral” and said it would “defend its international border”, while the Department of External Affairs said the map “faithfully reflected the country's sovereign territory.” India”.
The border between Nepal and India was delimited by the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, by virtue of which it renounced the entire territory west of the Kali River, also known as the Mahakali River or the Sarada River.
The river has become the limit. The terms were reiterated by a second treaty between Nepal and Briitsh India in 1923. Rival land claims focus on the source of the Kali.
The case of Nepal is that the river comes from a stream in Limpiyadhura, northwest of Lipu Lekh. Thus Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipu Lekh fall east of the river and are part of the Far West province of Nepal in the Dharchula district.
New Delhi's position is that Kali comes from sources well below the pass, and that if the Treaty does not delimit the area north of these sources, administrative and income records dating back to the 19th century show that Kalapani was from the Indian Side and counted as part of the Pithoragarh district, now in Uttarakhand. Both sides have their own maps of the British era as proof of their positions.