New Delhi: Army Chief Gen MM Naravane will travel to Nepal in the first week of November, the maiden high-level visit from India since ties between the two neighbours came under strain after the Himalayan nation came up with a new political map in May claiming several areas in Uttarakhand to be part of its territory. Officials said Gen Naravane will be conferred the honorary rank of 'General of the Nepal Army' by Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari during his visit, in continuation of an age-old tradition that first started in 1950, reflecting the strong ties between the two militaries.
India also confers the honorary rank of 'General of Indian Army' to the Nepal Army Chief. "The Chief of Army Staff will travel to Nepal early next month. The dates of his visit are being finalised," said an official.
During his visit, Gen Naravane is scheduled to hold extensive talks with the top military brass of Nepal including his Nepalese counterpart General Purna Chandra Thapa and Defence Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, the officials said. "Ways to further deepen defence cooperation between the two countries will be explored during the Chief of Army Staff's visit to Kathmandu," said a senior official.
The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8. Nepal protested the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through its territory. Days later, Nepal came out with the new map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories.
In the midst of the row, Gen M M Naravane said that there were reasons to believe that Nepal objected to the road at the behest of "someone else", in an apparent reference to a possible role by China in the matter. The comments triggered angry reactions from Nepal. India too had published a new map in November 2019 showing the areas as its territories.
After Nepal released the map, India reacted sharply, calling it a "unilateral act" and cautioning Kathmandu that such "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it. In June, Nepal's Parliament approved the new political map of the country featuring areas which India maintains belong to it.
In its reaction, after Nepal's lower house of parliament approved the bill, India termed as untenable the "artificial enlargement" of territorial claims by the neighbouring country. India said Nepal's action violates an understanding reached between the two countries to resolve the boundary issues through talks.
Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has been asserting that Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura belong to his country and vowed to "reclaim" them from India. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory - India as part of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.