There are hardly any two neighboring nations that may have the border issues as peaceful as between the United States and Canada. The rest of the world is marked by such neighboring nations that face the cases of border conflict because of rivalries between countries or peoples, disputes over national resources, disagreements on what agreed in the past, or the strong-arm tactics of the larger neighbors. The border dispute between Nepal and India is one of the stark examples.
Nepal and its Southern neighbor:
Nepal measures about 880 kilometers along its Himalayan axis by 150 to 250 kilometers across. Nepal has an area of 147,181 square kilometers.
India—the seventh largest country in the world with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers— lies on the Indian Plate—the northern part of the Indo-Australian Plate— whose continental crust forms the Indian subcontinent. Geographically, India is almost 22.5 times bigger than Nepal.
India and Nepal share a 1,800 km open border across which the former is suspected to have encroached the latter in as many as nine hundred and twenty-seven places. This is just one facet of how India has been troubling Nepal amidst its ridiculous self-recommendation of becoming Nepal’s most ‘loving and caring brother’.
Border disputes with India:
The 1816 Sugauli Treaty signed by Kingdom of Nepal and British India locates the Kali River as Nepal’s western border with India— the demarcation boundary between India and Nepal in the west. It is therefore clear by default that the Kali River to the west of Kalapani is the main Kali River—the neighboring Nepalis assert that the river coming from Limpiyadhura is the real Kali River and hence the river and any land not beyond the river—the Lipulekh pass and Limpiyadhura— belongs to Nepal. The river borders the Nepalese district of Darchula in Sudurpashchim Pradesh province and the Indian district of Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand state.
The existence of two Kali Rivers has created ambiguity in regard to the scope for claims and counter-claims by the two nations. A million dollar question is: how could there be two rivers with the same name in a few kilomete distances? Who brought the fake Kali River into existence ? We choose to remain uninformed in every respect such as this. Constructing an 80-kilometer road is not an overnight affair . It could have taken months, if not years. But our PM surprises us saying at an all-party meeting called by himself that he had no idea of India constructing the road and that nobody apprised him of what India was doing in Nepal’s territory. What an escape of a PM that drives a nation in the 21st century ? It is true that a confession such as this embodies honesty and humility. But it is so only when the confession is not an artificial.
Nepals’ defence minister, back on February, made an aerial inspection of Kalapani. It was said that the weather did not support him complete his survey. Was it true or false ? Was the bad weather just an excuse to let what he noticed go ignored or to hide the threat that he could have encountered from any corner?
New Delhi published a new political map to include Kalapani within India’s territory six months before. Lately India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 80-kilometre Lipulekh road that is said to be the shortest route between India’s capital New Delhi and Kailash-Mansarovar— a revered Hindu pilgrimage site in the Tibetan plateau.
We could do hardly anything substantial except to call the two all-party meetings—the first immediately after New Delhi placed Kalapani within Indian borders on a new political map on November and the other very recently after India announced the inauguration of a road link via Lipulekh identifying it as the China border.
The ‘Chandrabati’ syndrome:
It was in 2015 that India and China agreed to expand a trade route via Lipulekha. We then could do nothing except to lodge a protest with both New Delhi and Beijing through diplomatic notes (FYI: The Sushil Koirala government did this).
We fail to recognize appropriate time to voice our concern. The time India and China had a standoff over Doklam was an appropriate time for Nepal to raise its border issue with both the countries so as to avoid any possible collusion between them for expanding their business interests. But we failed.
We are aware of the ‘ Swasthani Bratkatha’ that we read once a year in the month of Magha wherein we come across a character called ‘ Chandrabati ‘who suffers ‘Kshyan mai murchha parne, kshyan mai chesta ma pharkane—a back-to-back state of becoming unconscious and gaining consciousness ’ disease. We epitomize the same character.
We feel like making some protests here or serving some diplomatic notes there when we gain consciousness because of public uproar. But most frequently , we remain unaware of responding to our surroundings because we slip into unconsciousness. We cannot act as a sovereign nation as long as we exemplify such syndromes.
India hides its own misdeeds but blames Nepal:
New Delhi is expert in staging a ‘Pani mathi ko ovano—daring to show oneself not mistaken having committed many more blunders’ drama. We have not forgotten India’s cruel economic blockade at a time when we have not been capable of escaping the 4/25 earthquake trauma. Its campaign against Nepal all the way from London to Brussels to substantiate what it did remains always fresh in our memory. It did so simply because we acted as a sovereign nation and denied to be bullied.
Of late, India’s Army chief has dared to allege Nepal that we have been protesting the Indian road in Lipulekh because of China’s instigation. Why should we be that foolish to be guided by China and speak its languages that was in intense talks with India since 2013 to open the three border points to link Mansarover and has ultimately consented to open and expand a trade route through Lipulekh pass near Kalapani?
India knows it better that many of us especially the people at the helm love to work more as the satellite of the alien interests. It is because of this reason that the Delhi lords have been treating Nepal as a fly in its fist right from the controversial 1950 treaty.
We have many long-standing problems with India. Some sample problems include timely execution of India-funded projects, issues relating to defense purchases, increasingly growing trade deficits, boarder security, compensation for Nepalis affected by the Koshi and the Gandaki rivers, inundation and flood controls, exchange of demonetized Indian bank notes etc. It is not that these problems are insuperable. But they can be resolved only when New Delhi people first acknowledge that Nepal is a separate and a sovereign country. Until it is so, Nepal-India friendship is just a liability to us.
India always pains us more at a time when we are already hurt and pained. India once again thought to hurt us by encroaching our territory at a time when we have been busy containing the China’s Wuhan-originated contagion. Delhi has inflicted wounds on us not once, not twice, but many more times. We have been wounded every time even before we get our earlier wounds healed. We may forgive but never forget it for the wounds inflicted on us time and again have pained us heavily and immeasurably. The New Delhi people should realize that Nepal loves its territory stretching from M 2M as daringly as India loves its territory from K2K. A thorough understanding of this kind alone could serve as the sole confidence-building measure and help the two countries to establish the mutually agreed line of actual control.
Better late than never:
Defending national territory is not an issue to be put on hold. But we have always been doing so for want of sufficient guts to contain India as and when it hurts us. The choice then is to resort to a deliberated put-off.
It is heartening to note that the government has made Nepal’s updated political map public today. The new map that includes Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and kalapani is overwhelmingly endorsed by entire Nepalis. This move should just be a beginning, not an end. Nepalis hope that this is not done just for public consumption. Patriotism should be demonstrated in deeds, not in words ; in essence, not in content.
It requires ample homework at the domestic front including the update of our geographical area and searching and gathering all reliable information that substantiate our updated political map.
We need to have satisfactory explanation in regard to why we have been tolerating the Indian troops deployed in Limpiyadhura and Kalapani since New Delhi fought a war with China in 1962.
We have so far depended on maps published by the British India. Subsequent maps drawn by British surveyors show the source of the boundary river at different places. This discrepancy in locating the source of the river serves as a bone of contention. The political map we have produced should address this ambiguity.
The move calls for consistent, untiring and meticulous efforts on our part to establish its global acceptance with vigorous legal, political, diplomatic and strategic initiations.
A small country like Bhutan mediated genuinely in helping China and India to agree to what they call an ‘expeditious disengagement’ during the standoff over Doklam. Nepal may also look for a third party that could arbitrate in a perfectly neutral manner and help both resolve their border disputes once for all.