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India Nepal Relationship – Need for Revival

India Nepal Relationship – Need for Revival

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-2-  India and its neighborhood- relations.

India Nepal Relationship – Need for Revival

India Nepal relationship took a plunge owing to the demarcation of border. The immediate provocation for the contention is the long-standing territorial issue surrounding Kalapani and the origin of Kali river.  It is a patch of land near the India-Nepal border, close to the Lipulekh Pass on the India-China border. 

·         Lipulek is a Himalayan pass on the border between the Uttarakhand state of India and the Chinese Tibet region near their tri-junction with Nepal.   ·         Nepal has ongoing claims to the south side of the pass, known as the Kalapani Area, which is controlled by India. ·         The pass is near the Chinese trading town of Taklakot (Purang) in Tibet and has been used since ancient times.    Treaty of Sugaul:  ·         The Treaty of Sugaul, a treaty that formed the boundary line of Nepal, was signed on 1815 and ratified by 4 March 1816 between the East India Company and the King of Nepal following the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16.  It shows the Makhali River as the western border with India, but separate British maps display the source of the tributary at different locations.    ·         The discrepancy in locating the source of the river led to boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps supporting their own claims. 

Origin of the issue: 

  • India inherited the boundary with Nepal, established between Nepaland the East India Company in the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816.  
  • Kali river constituted the boundary, and the territory to its east was Nepal. The dispute relates to the origin of Kali
  • After the 1996 Treaty of Mahakali (Kali river is also called Mahakali/Sarada further downstream), the issue of the origin of Kali river was first raised in 1997.

Lack of maps published by Nepal: 

  • The Lipulekh Passis claimed by Nepal based on an 1816 treaty it entered with the British colonial rulers to define its western border with India. 
  • It also claims the highly strategic areas of Limpiyadhuraand Kalapani, although Indian troops have been deployed there since New Delhi fought a war with China in 1962. 
  • According to the Treaty of Sugauli,Kali river was agreed as the demarcation line for the boundary between India and Nepal. 
  • But there are two Kali rivers, which created the scope for different interpretations by the two neighbours.
  • The disputed landfalls between the two Kali rivers.
  • Part of the boundary issue is due to a lack of maps published by Nepal.

Nepali action: 

  • A new map of Nepalbased on the older British survey was adopted by the parliament.  
  • It reflected Kali river originating from Limpiyadhurain the north-west of Garbyang.  
  • On May 22, a constitutional amendment proposalwas tabled to include it in a relevant Schedule.  
  • The new alignment adds 335 sq km to Nepali territory, territory that has never been reflected in a Nepali map for nearly 170 years. 

Nepali nationalism: 

  • By April 2020, Mr. Oli’s domestic political situation was weakening. 
  • Under the Nepali Constitution, a new Prime Minister enjoys a guaranteed two-year periodduring which a no-confidence motion is not permitted.  
  • This ended in February unleashing simmering resentment against Mr. Oli’s governance style and performance. 
  • His inept handling of the COVID-19 pandemic added to the growing disenchantment. 
  • Within the NepalCommunist Party (NCP) there was a move to impose a ‘one man, one post’ rule that would force Mr. Oli to choose between being NCP co-chair or Prime Minister.  
  • The re-eruption of the Kalapani controversy, when Indian Defence Minister did a virtual inauguration of the 80-km road, provided Mr. Oli with a political lifeline.
  • Nepali nationalism card, the flip side of which is anti-Indianismis usually used by Nepali politicians. 

This illustrates the complexity underlying India-Nepal issues that cannot be solved by rhetoric or unilateral map-making exercises.

Efforts taken so far:

  • From the time when a joint communiqué was issued in 1997 during I.K. Gujral’s prime ministership to the present time, the two governments have agreed that a territorial dispute exists on upstream Kali and have assigned negotiators.
  • A border demarcation team was able to delineate 98% of the 1,751 km Nepal-India frontier, but not Susta along the Gandaki flats and the upper tracts of the Kali.
  • In 2014, India’s External Affairs Minister agreed to the establishment of a Border Working Group. It too failed to make headway.
  • In August 2019, India’s Minister for External Affairs and Nepal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs assigned the task to the two Foreign Secretaries.

Road ahead: 

  • India does have experience of successfully resolving territorial disputes with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan bilaterally and through third-party adjudication.
  • Given political will at the topmost level, it should be possible to douse the Limpiyadhura volcano just as quickly as it has erupted.
  • There is an immediate need to de-escalate and compartmentalise.
  • The negotiating teams must meet with archival papers, treaties and agreements, administrative records, communications, maps and drawings.
  • The formal negotiations should begin with ab initio public commitment by both sides to redraw their respective maps according to the negotiated settlement as and when it happens.
  • The urgent need today is to pause the rhetoric on territorial nationalism and lay the groundwork for a quiet dialoguewhere both sides need to display sensitivity as they explore the terms of a reset of the “special relationship”.  
  • A normal relationship where India can be a generous partnerwill be a better foundation for “neighbourhood first” in the 21st century.  
  • Nepaland India enjoy excellent bilateral ties. Founded on the age-old connection of history, culture, tradition and religion.  
  • With this in mind, the 1950 India-NepalTreaty of Peace and Friendship should be invoked. 

Source:”The Hindu “.


POSSIBLE UPSC MAINS QUESTION:

What is the India Nepal border issue all about? Assess the efforts taken to douse it. Provide a way forward for warm relationship.