The row over construction of an Indian road linking Dharchula in Uttarakhand to Lipulekh as part of the Mansarovar Yatra route deepened Wednesday after Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli took a swipe at India and his government released a new map including territory on Indian maps.
India hit back within hours. Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said: “The Government of Nepal has released a revised official map of Nepal today that includes parts of Indian territory. This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence.”
“It is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue. Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India,” Srivastava said.
In Kathmandu, Oli said he had doubts on whether India subscribed to “Sinhaev Jayate” (the lion prevails) or “Satyamev Jayate” (truth prevails) – a reference to India’s official emblem and slogan.
Oli told lawmakers Tuesday that the coronavirus coming from India was “more lethal” than those from China and Italy. He blamed the rising number of Covid cases on people sneaking in from India.
On Wednesday, Padma Kumari Aryal, Nepal minister for land management, released a new map, including Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani which together make an area of 310 sq km. Nepal claims its total area will now be officially 147,491 sq km.
In New Delhi, the MEA spokesperson said Nepal is “well aware of India’s consistent position on this matter and we urge the Government of Nepal to refrain from such unjustified cartographic assertion and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We hope that the Nepalese leadership will create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic dialogue to resolve the outstanding boundary issues”.
The assessment in New Delhi is that Oli has been emboldened after the Chinese played a key role in securing his leadership within Nepal’s Communist party.
In late April and early May, as Oli faced a leadership challenge, Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqi had held backroom diplomacy and had backed the PM. She had separately met leaders Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Madhav Nepal, both former PMs.
Ranjit Rae, former Indian ambassador to Nepal, told The Indian Express: “China has not only the intent, but also the ability now. It is heavily involved in the Nepalese domestic political processes.”
Rae said he is “surprised by the kind of language used by Prime Minister Oli” and that “the tone and tenor of the PM’s speech certainly does not reflect the civilisational nature of the ties”.
Both Indian and Nepalese sides say that 98 per cent of the boundary question has been resolved, and it is only the Kalapani and Susta segments which remain unresolved.
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