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For a reset in Indian – Nepal relations
What has happened
India – Nepal ties have come under strain due to recent developments along Uttarakhand – Nepal border. Inauguration of road for Kailash Manasarovar yatra by India has led to Nepal’s protests. Unresolved border issue at Kalapani is the cause of this diplomatic escalation. Complexity of issue originating from historical and political factors is the main cause of the dispute. Political maturity and quiet diplomacy is needed to find solutions to this issue.
Let us understand the genesis and underlying reasons for the issue as well as future course of ties to ensure ‘special relationship’ is maintained.
History of the dispute:
- Treaty of Sugauli, 1816between British India and Nepal provided Kali river as boundary between India and Nepal.
- Dispute is regarding the origin of the river. Streams originate near Kalapani and Limpiyadhura. They join in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.
- Till 1857, Limpiyadhura was shown as origin. But in 1879 it was changed to Pankha Ghad which is in the North East of Kalapani. This change was accepted by the then Nepal.
- Post independence, India continued the same map where the Kali river originated in Pankha Ghad.
- Lipu Lekh pass has been used for border trade and pilgrimage between India and China since 1953. India maintains a base camp for lipu lekh at Kalapani. 1961 China Nepal Boundary Treaty too identified Tinker pass which is in east of Kalapani as western boundary of Nepal. This provides authenticity to Indian version of border
- After 1996 treaty of Mahakali for Pancheshwar multipurpose hydel project, Nepal has raised the issue of origin of Kali river in 1997
- Joint technical level boundary committee which oversees replacing of boundary pillars, took up the issue. It had declared 98% boundary is defined and only Kalapani and susta(terai region of southern Nepal and northern India) remain as unresolved.
Immediate recent triggers for escalation:
- India has published a new political map in November,2019 after Jammu and Kashmir reorganization. This map hasn’t changed any earlier boundaries. Yet this was protested by Nepal who proposed foreign secretary level talks to resolve the Kalapani issue.
- India started building road for the Kailash Manasarovar yatra in 2009 which was not objected to. Inauguration of the road recently drew sharp responses from the government of Nepal. In response, a new map showing Limpiyadhura as origin was notified by the Nepal government and is awaiting constitutional amendment.
Underlying reasons for recent escalation of dispute:
- Anti India sentiment becoming resonating with Nepali nationalism. India is being portrayed as insensitive to Nepal’s concerns. 1950 treaty of Peace and Friendship is seen as unequal partnership and Indian imposition. Such anti Indian stance is being reflected in current escalation.
- 2015 blockade of Nepal was blamed on India and it led to increasing anti India rhetoric in Nepalese politics for domestic gains. This has continued since and is one of the major reasons for the current crisis.
- Nepal intends to use China card to remain non aligned. But Chinese influence has risen among political parties and institutions like army and armed police force. Chinese foreign policy of assertiveness has Nepal as an important partner in influencing South Asia. This is creating mistrust between India and Nepal.
- Extreme rhetoric needs to be stopped and both sides have to engage in quiet diplomacy to solve issues. Trust needs to be generated to find mutually acceptable solutions.
- India must address rising anti Indian rhetoric in Nepalese politics more proactively. Consensus among its political parties regarding historical, cultural and language ties need to be reemphasized
- In accordance with “Neighborhood first” policy of India, deeper and meaningful engagement across economic, cultural, political, administrative domains must be initiated. India should build good will in a manner similar to ties with Afghanistan. Academic and training exchanges, infrastructure projects, telemedicine, disaster assistance especially during COVID need to be enhanced
Related Revision topics:
- India -Nepal border management
- India – Nepal ties
- Recent Kalapani Border row has shown the complexity of border management between India and Nepal. In this context, discuss issues of India-Nepal border management and steps needed for effective management of the border? [15 marks, 250 words]