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Nepal's updated political map sparks controversy in India

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The Nepali government on Wednesday, May 20, issued a new, map of the country which shows disputed Indian territories of Lipulekh, Kalapani, Limpiyadhura as its own.

Earlier this month President Bidhya Devi Bhandari addressing the joint session of the Parliament said the new maps of the country will be published that will show all areas it considers its own.

President Bhandari said, "Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani region are Nepal's territory and concrete diplomatic efforts will be taken towards reclaiming these territories.

An official map of Nepal will be published accordingly incorporating all the territories of Nepal." Bhandari stressed that the "government of Nepal is committed to safeguarding the international borders of Nepal" and "Outstanding border disputes with India will be resolved through diplomatic medium relying on available historical treaties, maps, facts and evidence"

Nepal new map shows upto 335 kilometres of land area as Nepalese territory. The valley of Kalapani along with the Lipulekh pass forms the Indian route to the Kailash-Mansarovar which is an ancient pilgrimage site.

It is joined by the Limpiyadhura pass five miles south-west. India considers these areas to be part of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district. Nepal raised the disputed border issue after India's defense minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new road from Dharchula to Lipulekh. Indian envoy to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra was called by Nepal's Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali who raise the issue.

In a strongly worded statement, Nepal's Foreign Ministry said the decision to build the road through territory at the Lipulekh pass as its territory is a breach of an agreement reached between the two countries to discuss the matter.

"The Government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the 'inauguration' yesterday by India of 'Link Road' connecting to Lipulekh, which passes through Nepali territory," said the statement.

"This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation," the statement said, referring to the agreement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala in 2014 for Foreign Secretaries to work out the "outstanding boundary issues."

Chinese connection

New Delhi sees increased Chinese role in Nepal as a reason for current comments by Kathmandu. Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane on Friday hinted at foreign involvement with Nepal raking the Lipulekh issue.

Army Chief speaking at a think tank IDSA's online meet said, "I do not know exactly what they are exactly agitating about. Never been a problem in the past, reasons to believe they might have raised these problems, issues at the behest of someone else and there is very much a possibility."

The Indian Army Chief did not name China, but he hinted that Beijing was the only interested party to it. The assertion was made by Naravane during a discussion on "Covid and Indian Army: Responses and Beyond" at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in Delhi.

Interestingly, China has said that the issue is between Nepal and India. "The issue of Kalapani is between Nepal and India. We hope the two countries will resolve their differences properly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action that may complicate the situation," said Zhao Lijian, spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, in response to a question at a regular press briefing.

Although Zhao referred to Kalapani, the current dispute regards Lipulekh, a pass that is close to Kalapani. Shankar Das Bairagi, the Nepal foreign secretary, has already met with Chinese ambassador Hou Yanqui to share Nepal's position on the issue.

Indian Map of Nov 2019

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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