By Ms. Aroosa Salahuddin
During the global crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, India trapped Nepal in a border dispute, consequently competing on territorial integration and claims over the controversial land in the Himalayan Region. The tension began to escalate when India did the inauguration of a Himalayan road that lies at a three-way junction with Tibet and China. On May 8, 2020, India established an 80-kilometer-long (50-mile) road that passes through Lipulekh and an uncertain area which caused strategic instability and diplomatic catastrophe within the South Asian region. The unilateral linkage of the motorway between India’s Uttarakhand State to Tibet’s Kailash Mansarovar via the “Lipu Lekh Pass” which was the gist of historical territorial demand of rights by Nepalese. India considered it as one of the crucial and shortest routes to enhance the connectivity of Trade, Unification, and Interdependence with China to divert the attentions of Ladkh in International Politics. The game of bullying commenced when Nepal confronting and opposed India by issuing the recent authoritative political map showing that the areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as part of its territory, strengthening its stance on a new outbreak of land conflict with India. India again demonstrated itself as a culprit of International treaties and obligations which is one of the alarming scenarios for the neighboring countries.
REVEALING THE INDIA-NEPAL BORDER DISPUTE
The border issue between Nepal and India isn’t new and has arisen now and again since the 1960s. India has been occupying Nepal’s claimed land, but it has been long reluctant to sit for dialogue. There is no doubt that the release of a new legislative map that will intensify the dispute between two countries, but eventually it has also put pressure on the Indian side to sit for diplomatic actions and consultations. A new politically legislative map of Nepal is the first substantial step that Kathmandu has taken to oppose India’s unilateral move and eventually its need of time. Otherwise, India could invade more of Nepal’s territory and build more roads unilaterally, turning a deaf ear to Nepal’s claims and requests for dialogue.
Prior in November 2019, India had announced its new political map showing Kalapani as a part of its territory jurisdiction, which was protested by Nepal. Kalapani is the first enormous debate behind Indo-Nepal border controversy, followed by Lipulekh.
“There are some Controversies, there are some Paradoxes.”
Nepal has long claimed that Kalapani as a part of its territory as per the Sugauli Treaty signed between Nepal and the East India Company. India’s new political map (left) includes the disputed territory of Kalapani. Nepal’s official map (right) also shows Kalapani inside its border. Map images via India’s Home Ministry & Nepal’s Survey Department.
CHANGING OF STATUS QUO; BILATERAL CRISIS
The Nepali considered it as matter of “Status Quo” and maintain its national interest by safeguarded its Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity. It created a chaos in Nepal, through street demonstrations and debates in Parliament. Nepalese seem it to be as matter of fact and concerned about their territorial jurisdiction and existing dynamic of Indian planning to produce conflicts that create geopolitical tensions in the region to achieve their imperialism and expansionism around their territory, eventually to decrease their military standoff. The Dispute has suddenly outbreak out now is because of the new map released in November 2019, after Kashmir was politically reformatted. The Leadership of Nepal are alert and conscious regard Indian troops stationed at Kalapani since 1962 as Indo-China war on a temporary basis are still there. Meanwhile India’s foreign ministry spokesman rejected the newly amendment map of Nepal and said in a statement; “This artificial enlargement of claims is not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable, it is also violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues.” The Nepal former Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali told to BBC that “We all agree that international boundary between two countries is defined by bilateral treaties. Any unilateral type of action cannot establish any legitimate claim of their presence.”
“CARTOGRAPHIC WAR” AND SPECTATOR
The contemporary circumstances create a good opportunity for Nepal to counter his territory dispute with Indian and highlighted their prerogative on international forums regard the dispute that emerged after India and China decided to build a bilateral trade corridor through Lipulekh in 2014, respect of the counter-argument by Nepal stated that it is against the provision of the 1816 Sugauli Treaty. Consequently, after the Ladakh retaliation India with malicious approach gadget the rigidities within China and Nepal and blamed the claim of Nepal as China Intervention in territorial dispute of bilateral states. While diplomatic reactions by Nepal on the International Relations Committee of House of Representatives on February 10, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had said that India and China could not discuss the matter or make it a bilateral trading route without the presence of Nepal. Furthermore, Gyawali had told the House committee that “We do not accept Lipu Lekh as a tri-junction between Nepal, India and China, it will only be finalized after Nepal and India complete final demarcations. No country can discuss Nepal’s territory in our absence”
SPECIAL VISION FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF REMOTE AREAS; MODI EXPANSIONISM
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi vested his influential fascist and tyrannical strategies by developing set-up in the remote areas by taking advantage of global pandemic where states are already in humanitarian crisis, calamity and economic disorder. Without any evidence, Indian Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane said that” Nepal’s protest an Indian road built in Uttarakhand was at the behest of someone else, hinting that China’s hand was behind the protest.” This kind of insensitive statement from the army chief can further deteriorate tensions.” The coercive diplomacy and tactics of Indian government also engage the domestic politics in Nepal which eventually create pressure on Nepal to solve the dispute and sit for the dialogue, but the question is still there why they are failed after series of negotiations during past decades?
“The time of a pandemic is not the time to be a hostile neighborhood”
DEADLOCK OR AN OFFICIAL DIALOGUE UNLIKELY ANYTIME SOON
The landlock state Nepal is extremely depended on India for trade, Indian imports, and played an active role in Nepal’s affairs. But today Nepal is modern agenda of external balancing and diversification in their foreign policy which ultimately deter the regional actor India to grip his Influence on Nepal through territorial strife. But India is drained his fortuity for creating momentum for deeper regional and sub-regional cooperation in South Asia during the recent humanitarian crisis. The both states have different stance on negotiations as Nepal is ready for official dialogue and Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali requested India for talk in November and December last year, and again in May, said; “We have expressed time and again that Nepal wants to sit at the table to resolve this problem” but the contentious India does not want to sit for dialogue with Nepal until coronavirus epidemic is brought under control. Nepal counter the Indian drift to distract the dispute and Gyawali said, “If the coronavirus is an obstacle for not being able to hold diplomatic dialogue soon, it should have been an obstacle for the inauguration of the link road as well.” The posture of both states on territory leading towards an exchange of strong-worded statements where Nepal only want Commitment nor any alternative to dialogue and friendly talk to solve the dilemma. –The Author is Research Intern at Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad