Kalapani territorial dispute between India and Nepal resurfaced


Kalapani territory is one of the major disputed border areas between India and Nepal. But the dispute is not yet resolved by mutual terms and usually resurface time and again. In this article, you can read about the details of the dispute and the steps that India should take.

Introduction: Present development

Nepal has raised the Kalapani boundary dispute during the recent Joint commission meeting with India.

Dispute intensified in November 2019, when India published a revised political map after the reorganization of J&K, depicting Kalapani as the region of India.

Nepal immediately issued an objection to the map. Nepal government released a map mentioning Kalapani -Lipulekh- Limpiyadhura as a territory of the Darchula district of Sudurpashchim province of Nepal.

About Kalapani territory

Kalapani is the eastern most region of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, administered by India.

It is located at the China-Nepal-India tri-junction and is a strategically important area. So Kalapani was regarded as an ‘observation zone’ for troops. For example, by stationing Indian troops at Kalapani, India can observe the movement of the Chinese troops and push them back if required.

Apart from that, Kalapani serves as an important pass for the Kailash Mansarovar route.

Since 1962, Kalapani has been guarded by the Indian security forces. But According to Nepal, King Mahendra with the helping tendency offered Kalapani to India temporarily for security purposes during the 1962 India-China war.

This debate intensified in the 1990s after Nepal restored its democracy.

What is Kalapani Dispute? Historical aspects and conflicting claims by both the countries

The key reason for the Kalapani dispute is the disagreement between India and Nepal over the origin of River Kali, flowing through Kalapani region.

British India signed the Treaty of Sugauli with the Kingdom of Nepal after the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816. In this treaty, they demarcated the Kali River as Nepal’s western boundary with British India.

But the source of Kali has become a main cause of contention.

River Kali is known as ‘Kali’ at the upper reaches, ‘Mahakali’ at the middle portion and ‘Sarjoo’ or ‘Gogra’ at  the lower areas. This aggravates the confusion about where it belongs

The two contrasting views:

Nepal’s stand:

Nepal was of the view that the river which flows to the west of Kalapani is the main River Kali. They also believe that River Kali was originating at either Limpiyadhura or the nearby Lipulekh pass, which are both within the Nepalese territory.

India’s stand:

  • India believes that the River Kali originated from a smaller rivulet named Pankhagad. It was lying on the southern portion of Kalapani. Hence it is the true border, and the territory  was lying in India.
  • The revenue and administrative records of the nineteenth century showed Kalapani as a part of India.
Other territorial disputes between India and Nepal

The disagreements between India and Nepal are not limited to Kalapani but also the other areas like Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura, and Susta;

Susta region:

    • It is a fertile area consist of alluvial soil located in the Terai regions West Champaran district, Bihar  of India.
    • Susta region is located on the banks of the Gandak river. The Gandak river is also called as the     Narayani river in Nepal.
    • During the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli, the west side of the Gandak river belongs to Nepal and the Eastern part of the river belongs to India.
    • But due to frequent change of course by the Gandak river, the Susta region at present belongs to the Eastern part (I.e., belongs to India). This is not accepted by Nepal.

Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura region:

    • Both Lipulekh and Limpayadhura (Limpiya pass) located on the Nepal-Tibet border
    • Lipulekh Pass connects the Indian state of Uttarakhand with the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Lipulekh is the shortest route to reach Taklakot, a Tibetan township of China.
    • Nepal claims that the Indian army has encroached on both regions during the 1962 territorial offering of King Mahendra.

First, In the 1980s, both countries set up a Joint Technical Level Boundary Working Group. It succeeded in the demarcation of all territories except Kalapani and Susta. Both governments have to create such a joint       working group to resolve the dispute.

Second, establishing a permanent mechanism to reduce the disputes further so that  the disasters caused by the rivers and floods in the regions of India-Nepal can be mitigated effectively.

Third, India has to convey to Nepal’s leadership about the friendly environment that 6 to 8 million Nepali   citizens living in India and the benefits of open borders enjoyed by citizens of both countries.

Fourth, Mutual respect is the key: The Nepal government has to broaden the view and has to stop the territorial nationalism and pulling out the China card whenever they negotiate with India.

Way forward:

The India-Nepal relationship is a unique relationship, built by friendship and cooperation with cultural and civilizational links. The border dispute is one of the important issues to solve to take ahead India and Nepal relations to another level. But to be successful forgetting the mistakes and claims of past along with a fresh start is key to both the countries.

Print Friendly and PDF