The new political map of India, recently released by the government to account for the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, has triggered fresh protests over an old issue in Kathmandu.
Mapped within Uttarakhand is a 372-sq km area called Kalapani, bordering far-west Nepal and Tibet. While the Nepal government and political parties have protested, India has said the new map does not revise the existing boundary with Nepal.
Following reports about the publication of the map, youths and students of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and the opposition Nepali Congress came on the streets. The Nepal government described India’s decision as “unilateral” and claimed that it will “defend its international border”.
In India, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told journalists that the map “accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India”.
At an all-party meeting on Saturday, leaders of various parties urged Nepal Prime Minister K P Singh Oli to take up the matter urgently with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Defining the boundaries
Nepal’s western boundary with India was marked out in the Treaty of Sugauli between the East India Company and Nepal in 1816. Nepali authorities claim that people living in the low-density area were included in the Census of Nepal until 58 years ago.
Five years ago, Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pande claimed that the late King Mahendra had “handed over the territory to India”. By some accounts in Nepal, this allegedly took place in the wake of India-China War of 1962.
A committee formed by the Nepal government to study this claim submitted a report to Prime Minister Oli during his first tenure. It claimed that India had “occupied” an additional 62 sq km land.
The Prime Ministers of the two countries discussed the issue in 2000, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee assuring Nepal that India would not occupy even an inch of Nepal. Five years ago, the matter was referred to a new mechanism comprising foreign secretaries of both sides.
“There had been some sincere efforts made soon after Vajpayee’s assurance,” a former diplomat in Nepal said. Then National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra and Indian Ambassador to Nepal K V Rajan had gone for an aerial survey, but the matter did not move further, the diplomat added.
In New Delhi, Raveesh Kumar said: “The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing under the existing mechanism. We reiterate our commitment to find a solution through dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations.”
At least two former Foreign Ministers of Nepal — Upendra Yadav (now Deputy Prime Minister) and Sujata Koirala — had said that 98 per cent of border-related matters had been settled with India. Apart from Kalapani, another unresolved issue involves a vast area along the Nepal-Uttar Pradesh border. During his visit to Nepal in 2014, Prime Minister Modi had said that the Susta and Kalapani issues would be sorted out.
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