An Outlook On The Territorial Dispute Between India And Nepal

Author: Rohit Jain Student, BVDU, New Law College, Pune

ABSTRACT

India and Nepal have a very close alliance since ages through its historical, social, cultural, economic, political relations[i]. This cordial relation can be clearly seen as from an open border between both the countries. But, in recent times, there has been a hype in the diplomatic tensions between the two nations, in such a time one might ponder what this hype is all about. So, this blog is intended to help the readers discern the territorial dispute persisting between India and Nepal.

INTRODUCTION

India’s association with Nepal is at an all-time low in the recent past. The road from Dharchula to Lipu Lekh has increased the gap between Kathmandu and Delhi. On 13th June Nepal’s House of Representatives endorsed a historic amendment to its constitution which changed its map, which led the battle started brewing between the two neighbouring nations. The New Political map of Nepal included the areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura which are also claimed by India. In response to which the government of India registered a border dispute with Nepal.

WHEN DID THIS BEGIN?

This fuss between India and Nepal basically started six months back due to two leading events. The first event being, in November 2019, when the Modi Government launched a new map of India,[ii] after the abrogation of Article 370, in which the disputed Kalapani region was included within the territories of India, which was dejected by the Nepali Government.

The second event transpired on 8th May 2020, when the Defense Minister of India Rajnath Singh, through a video conferencing program, inaugurated an 80 K.M. road from Dharchula to Lipu Lekh. This road was made with the intent to help the Yatris going to Kailash Mansarovar, as it reduced the travel time by 80%. The Nepal Government was not happy with this inauguration because they were of the view that Lipu Lekh comes under their territory. And the government of Nepal insisted that even if India wanted to build anything in that disputed area then they should have, at least, consulted Nepal. In response to it, the Indian government replied that Lipu Lekh comes under the territory of India, and thus no consultation was required.

This situation got worsens when people of Nepal protested to India over the passing of the road through the disputed area of Lipu Lekh. And in response to these protests on 15th May the Indian Army Chief M.M. Naravane said that there is a hand of some third party (china) behind these disputes in Nepal. And this statement added fuel to fire and agitated the government and the people of Nepal. And finally the Nepal Government on 20th May, in retaliation, assented to a historic amendment to its constitution which changed the countries map.

IMPORTANCE OF LIPULEKH

Before discussing anything else, lets first understand the importance of the Lipulekh region. Lipulekh is a Himalayan pass on the border between Uttarakhand and Tibetan autonomous region of China and is used by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims and tourists on their way to Kailash Mansarovar for centuries and as it is near the Chinese trading town so it is also used by merchants, traders etc. In 2015, the Nepal government raised their objection towards the agreement signed between India and China of trade through Lipulekh pass.

Nepal maintained that ratification of maps cannot occur from their side given by the survey team unless there are Kalapani and Sustain Nepal map. The border issue was not solved due to the absence of ratification and the border dispute continued between both the countries.[iii]

FAILURE OF THE NEPAL’s COMMUNIST GOVERNMENT

Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli had used this opportunity of border dispute to hide the inefficiency of his communist government to meet the needs of people. The PM used this dispute to divert the attention from the surging disputes happening within his party. His pungent statements in the Nepali Parliament are ignoring the interest of India. Recently on 29th June 2020, the PM of Nepal alleged that his rivals are instigated by India with an intention of removing him from power[iv]. Such allegations clearly prove the diversion tactics that the Nepali PM is using.

Due to a constant upsurge in rivals within his party, recently on 30th June 2020, few leaders (including the former Prime Minister) of his party demanded the resignation of K.P. Sharma Oli as he failed to run the government[v]. But the President of Nepal Bidhya Devi Bhandari, on 2nd July, prorogued the ongoing budget session of the parliament in order to secure the communist government. And in order to hide this inter-party rivalry, the P.M is using the India-Nepal border dispute as an opportunity to divert the attention of his party and the public.

HISTORY OF INDIA AND NEPAL BORDER DISPUTE

There is a long history of the Indo-Nepal border. Near around 200 years ago, when India was ruled by Britishers, the East India Company tried to acquire the kingdom of Gorkha of Nepal. In 1814 a war started between East India Company and Nepal. This war continued for two years, and finally, in 1816 a treaty was signed between them named the treaty of Sugauli[vi], which decided the territories of both the parties. And as per this treaty, the disputed area was given to the Kingdom of Nepal.

But the story is not this simple, after around 30 to 40 years, the Britishers realized that this disputed area is strategically very important for British India, as it will be beneficial for doing trade with China. And so, around 1860’s the Britishers cleverly changed their map and included this disputed area in their territory. And at that time the Nepalese let go of that land as it had no economic and geographical importance.

And thus, from 1860 till today this disputed area comes under the Indian Territory. It must be noted, that in 1960, when the tension between India and China increased, the Indian government with the permission of the Nepali Monarch had deployed the Indian Army in that area without any differences between the two. And till today there had been the presence of the Indian army in that disputed area without any problem from the Nepalese.

1962 onwards, both India and Nepal had been showing the area of Kalapani and Lipulekh in their respective maps. But this is the first time when Nepal had included the area of Limpiyadhura in their new Political Map.

CHINA’s INFLUENCE

You might have listened to peoples saying that china has saved Nepal’s PM government, so in return, they raised this issue[vii]. Such ideas have emerged because the party ruling in Nepal is the Communist party and even china is governed by the communist party. But in my opinion, China has no relation to this present dispute. The reason behind it is that every political party in Nepal is united in this present matter and thus saying that china is influencing Nepal makes no sense.

Further Nepal understands its economic dependence on India, there are around six million Nepalese workings in India and similarly, more Indians are working in Nepal. Therefore this dispute requires talks for resolution and thus sooner they engage in discussion, the better. The stalling of this dispute may have grave consequences.

WHO IS RIGHT: INDIA vs. NEPAL {AN OPINION}

So now the biggest question that might arise now is that to whom does this disputed land rightfully belongs. To know the answer to this question let’s have a look at the arguments of the nations.

Starting with Nepal, it is argued by the Nepali counterparts that as per the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 the disputed area comes under the Territory of Nepal. Legally this was the last formal agreement entered between both the countries and after which neither of the nations ever agreed.

Now the argument which favours India is that; since 1860 the disputed area is used by India and was included in the Indian Territory only. And at that time the Nepali Monarch didn’t raise any objection. So there is no logic behind raising this issue suddenly. It is just a tactic used by the government of Nepal to show their inefficiency in meeting the needs of the peoples.

Thus on denouement, according to me, if we look geographically then Nepal has the right over the said disputed area as per the Sugauli treaty. But, at the same time, if we look historically, India has the right over the disputed area because this land had been used by India since 1860 without any objection from Nepal. So suddenly raising this issue without any event doesn’t make sense. Another important point is that, if we think logically, then this controversy must not be a matter of concern because Indian and Nepalese can easily without any restriction cross the borders, do trade in each country etc. Thus this controversy needs not to be exaggerated in any way.

[i] Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kathmandu, India Nepal Relations

[ii] Available at https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/govt-releases-new-political-map-of-india-showing-uts-of-jk-ladakh/articleshow/71867468.cms

[iii] India Nepal Bilateral Relations, Sanskriti Saxena, White Black Legal Law Journal

[iv] The Quint, Nepal P.M claims rivals being provoked by India to overthrow him

[v] The Hindu, Communist Party Leaders demand PMs resignation

[vi] JVS, India-Nepal Relations, (Nov 12,2019), https://www.jatinverma.org/india-nepal-relations

[vii] https://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/report-china-saved-nepal-pm-oli-s-govt-he-raised-border-dispute-with-india-to-repay-favour-2825536

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