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China and Nepal Agree Mt Everest Grew by Nearly 3 Feet. Here's Why it Matters to India

China and Nepal have found that the height of the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest, is 8,848.86 metres above sea level  | Image credit: Reuters/Reuters

China and Nepal have found that the height of the world's tallest peak, Mount Everest, is 8,848.86 metres above sea level | Image credit: Reuters/Reuters

This is the first time that Nepal and China have declared a joint statement on the new height of Mount Everest, which is 86 centimetres more than India's 1954 estimate.

Mount Qomolangma, better known to the world as Mount Everest, is not done growing yet. On Tuesday, Nepal and China today jointly announced that the revised height of the world’s highest peak was 8,848.86 metres above sea level.

The new height is about 0.86 metres or 86 centimetres (or approximately 2.8 feet) more than the previous measurement done by India in 1954.

But how did this happen? And what is the significance of the sudden growth?

Has Everest really grown?

According to both Nepal and China, Mount Everest has grown by 86 centimetres since it was last measured during the Survey of India in 1954. The Nepal government decided to measure the exact height of the mountain amid debates that there might have been a change in it due to various reasons, including the devastating earthquake of 2015.

But the height of the world’s tallest peak has always been the subject of controversy, owing to its strategic location between Nepal and China.

Has it ‘grown’ before?

While the 1954 Indian estimation 8,848 metres had been accepted by the world, the National Geographic Society in the United States conducted its own survey in 1999 and found Everest to actually be as tall as nearly 8,850 metres. But one other crucial player to not accept either measurement was China. According to China’s past measurement, the height of Mount Everest was 8844.43 metres which was four metres less than India’s calculations.

How did Nepal and China arrive at the new height?

China and Nepal settled their border dispute in 1961 with the boundary line passing through the summit of Mount Everest. With the new announcement, the country, which shares Everest with Nepal, has for the first time agreed upon a mutually accepted height. Chinese surveyors have conducted six rounds of scaled measurement and scientific research on Mount Everest and released the height of the peak twice in 1975 and 2005, which was 8,848.13 metres and 8,844.43 metres respectively. The latest findings, however, have for the first time brought Nepal and China together.

Both Nepal and China conducted their own, independent studies and arrived at the same conclusion. Nepal had concluded its studies last year while China concluded its studies earlier this year. The two nations have signed an MoU, agreeing on the new height of Everest.

Why is the change in Everest’s height significant?

On 28 April 1960, China and Nepal signed the Sino-Nepalese Treaty of Peace and Friendship to officially ratify the border separating Nepal and China. Though several critics at the time felt that the treaty was a means for China to exert its image as a benevolent Asian nation following the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the last five decades have seen relative peace and diplomacy between the two nations. And yet, reports emerged in September about China building nine buildings in Nepal and encroaching on Nepali land in Limi of Humla. The reports were followed by widespread protests outside the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu. In November, China’s defence minister General Wei Fenghe met Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli to discuss issues of mutual interest. The agreement on the new height of Everest in wake of the tensions could work as a diplomatic buffer for the neighbouring nations.

Will Everest’s new height impact India?

The historic declaration is being lauded by both China and Nepal, with the latter calling Mt Everest as “age-old symbol" of the ties with China. Beijing also said that the declaration marked the beginning of a “new era" of strategic partnership with Nepal. While the news of Everest’s new height does not come as a surprise to India, the growing footprint of China in Nepal, coupled with its strengthening diplomatic ties with the Himalayan nation may be a cause of concern for India. While India and Nepal have always maintained peace and diplomacy via a multitude of treaties and agreements, recent years have seen Indo-Nepalese relations deteriorate. The joint declaration may be construed by India as yet another means of Chinese assertion following a year of tense Indo-China relations.

(With inputs from PTI)

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