India on Saturday rejected Nepal’s claim that the recently inaugurated link road in Uttarakhand passes through its territory, saying the region lies completely within Indian borders. The high-altitude road from Dharchula to Lipulekh near the China border, which cuts travel time to Mansarovar, was inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday.
On Saturday, Nepal’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: “The government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the inauguration yesterday by India of a link road connecting to Lipulek (Nepal) passing through it.”
“The unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the Prime Ministers’ level that a solution to the boundary issue would be sought through negotiation,” the statement added.
Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “The recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India. The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders.” The news of the inauguration of the road prompted protests by students in Kathmandu, including one in front of the Indian Embassy and another in the Maitighar Mandala area, within a half-km radius of the Central Secretariat and the Parliament building.
The statement from Nepal said: “The government of Nepal remains committed to seek diplomatic solution to the boundary issues on the basis of historical treaty, documents , facts and maps in keeping with the spirit of close and friendly ties between the two countries.”
India’s response echoed this statement. “The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing. India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal,” the MEA spokesperson said.
“Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalised between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of COVID 19 emergency,” Srivastava said.
The Nepal government said it has consistently maintained that as per the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, all territories east of Kali (Mahakali River) including Limpiadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek belonged to Nepal and this claim has been made known to the Indian government.