Nepal on Sunday asked India to stop “unilateral construction and expansion” of roads in its East of Kali River territory but stopped short of lodging a formal diplomatic protest.
This comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement to expand the road across the Lipulekh area, which Nepal claims as its own. Addressing an election rally organised by the BJP at Haldwani in Uttarakhand on December 30, Modi had announced that his government is further widening the road built in Lipulekh in Uttarakhand.
Nepal’s minister for Information and Broadcasting and Cabinet spokesperson Gyanendra Bahadur Karki said territories, including Limpiadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani East of Kali River, are an integral part of Nepal and any construction or expansion of roads thereby India must be stopped.
“Any dispute over border between Nepal and India must be settled through diplomatic channels on the basis of historic documents, maps and documents true to spirit of the bilateral relationship existing between the two countries,” Karki said.
Nepal’s response comes a day after India insisted that the ongoing construction fell in Indian territory but proposed that any dispute could be settled through dialogue in the spirit of bilateral friendship.
The Indian Embassy in Kathmandu said on Saturday that India’s position on its boundary with Nepal is well known, consistent and unambiguous. In response to media queries over recent reports and statements in Nepal on the question of the India-Nepal boundary, the spokesperson for the Indian Embassy said: “The Government of India’s position on the India-Nepal boundary is well known, consistent and unambiguous. It has been communicated to the Government of Nepal”.
Bilateral ties at stake
Ties were on the mend between India and Nepal after a year and half of strained relationship, and Nepal Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba was expected to visit India for the Vibrant Gujarat summit. Had the summit not been cancelled due to Covid-19 surge, he would have got red carpet treatment. But, in the heat and dust of polls, a fresh twist has come. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent announcement to expand the road across Lipulekh in Uttarakhand — which is in Indian territory — has prompted Nepalese political class to raise the issue with the government in Kathmandu. India has made its position clear, but a fresh diplomatic storm is building up. Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra has a challenging task to calm down the rhetoric and put ties back on track.