The Lipulekh Pass, is a mountainous pass and is located in the Kalapani area and back in 2015, Nepal had raised objections on an India-China agreement on trade through the Pass.
The dispute over the Kalapani and Lipulekh between India and Nepal is a manifestation of deteriorating relation between the two countries. It has reached a point where Nepal decided to redraw its official map without taking the other side into confidence. “It would be in the interest of two countries to avoid escalation of such issues. A smaller country is always under the shadow of imaginary fear from its big neighbour. India should resolve this issue amicably through bilateral dialogue and negotiations,” suggest experts. Though both countries share a 1,800 km-long open border, Nepal has started disputing India’s claim over 400 sq km area at India-Nepal-China tri-junction, which is in the western Nepal and another 140 sq km area of Susta located in southern Nepal.
The Lipulekh Pass, is a mountainous pass and is located in the Kalapani area and back in 2015, Nepal had raised objections on an India-China agreement on trade through the Pass. And had then too claimed that the agreement was violating its territorial sovereignty.
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According to Prof Rajan Kumar, School of International Studies, JNU: “At a technical level, this controversy is about the origin of the river Kali (Mahakali). Nepal claims that this river originates in Limpiyadhura, and not from the stream which comes to Kalapani from the Kali temple, as claimed by India. Nepal shows historical maps of 19th century to support its claims. This claim, however, is disputed by India by showing its own maps. The official map of Nepal did not include these territories up until this decade.”
When did this controversy start?
“It erupted when Nepal objected to construction of road by India from Dharchulain Pithoragarh to Lipulekh pass near the Nepal-China border. Indian army has its base in Kalapani since 1950s. This falls in the route of pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar. In the trade agreements between India and China, Lipulekh pass was clearly mentioned,” observes Prof Rajan.
Therefore, the claim of Nepal is not supported either by actual control or legal historical documents. According to Prof Rajan, “The fact that the borders between India and Nepal have remained unguarded and porous also complicate the matter. The cartographic reassertion refers to two things: there is a growing anti-India sentiment in Nepal, and second Nepal has tacit support from China.”
Says Prof Ajay Dubey, Chair Special Centre for National Security Studies, JNU, “Being cornered globally, China is now using its weight on influential countries like India to moderate its position on it being responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. It is also asserting pressure on countries like Nepal where Beijing is considered to be a big donor.”
“Nepal is being cajoled to pick issues with India and it finding it easy to position with China to oppose India’s historical, cultural and geographical weight on Kathmandu, which that country sees as a real challenge,” Prof Dubey adds.
Sharing his views, Ranjeet Kumar, senior journalist and China watch says, “ The issue of boundary demarcation in the Lipulekh area of India China Nepal trijunction has been lingering since decades. India should have taken care to resolve this issue much earlier. Nepal has been able to convert a non issue into a hot issue , which Indian diplomats should have visualised long ago. Especially when Nepal is looking towards China for deeper engagement and ignoring its centuries old cultural and social relationships with India.”
In his view, “though China has not directly commented on this dispute , its foreign ministry has described the issue pertaining to India and Nepal. However , behind the doors , China is widely believed to be instigating the Nepalese politicians and government to rake up the territorial disputes with India. The way Chinese ambassador to Nepal is interfering in Nepalese politics , is indication enough. Chinese ambassador’s recent meeting with top Nepalese politicians for managing the revolt against the Nepalese Prime Minister , should be warning for Indian security establishment . It is indication enough that Chinese grip on Nepal is getting stronger. The Nepalese politicians seem to be heavily influenced by Chinese diplomats.”
There seems to be national consensus in Nepal over disputes with India . Anti India demonstrations in Nepal is a regular phenomenon and India will have to delicately manage the issue at the highest diplomatic level. India will have to see that China is not able to exploit the anti – India sentiments in Nepal.
“In view China’s increasing involvement in the affairs of Nepalese State , Indian diplomacy should have foresight to properly manage the differences with Nepal,” Ranjit Kumar concludes.
What is India’s stand?
The official spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Anurag Srivastava, has termed Nepal’s action `unilateral act’ when it incorporated Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani, in its revised maps. These areas have always been part of the Indian Territory.
Responding to media queries, Srivasatava stated that “Such a move is not based on historical facts or evidence. And such artificial enlargement of territory will not be accepted by India.”
India has urged Nepal to resolve the matters through diplomatic dialogues and to create a positive atmosphere.
The government urged Nepal to “refrain from such unjustified cartographic assertion and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”