India on Wednesday rejected Nepal's decision to issue a revised map that included Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani. In a sharp reaction, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said, “This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence… such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India.”
Nepal's Ministry of Land Management officially released the map on Wednesday afternoon. During a televised press conference, Land Reforms Minister Padma Aryal unveiled the new map.
Addressing the Parliament on Tuesday, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had said the territories belong to Nepal but India has made it a disputed area by keeping its Army there. Nepalis were blocked from going there after India stationed its Army, he said.
A Cabinet meeting chaired by Oli on Monday endorsed the new map incorporating Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as territories of Nepal.
The new map has been updated in the schedule of the Constitution and coat of arms and will be kept at government offices, said Aryal, adding it will be tabled in Parliament for necessary constitution amendment.
The move comes weeks after Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali said efforts were on to resolve the border issue with India through diplomatic initiatives. He had also summoned the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Kwatra, two days after India inaugurated the link road in Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand to Lipulekh, raising objections against the move.
India had responded to the objections, saying the road “lies completely within the territory of India”.
The MEA spokesperson had further added that the road follows the pre-existing route used by pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. “Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders,” he had said.
India had underlined the fact that it is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue. After the release of the revised map by Nepal on Wednesday, India said it hopes the “Nepalese leadership will create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic dialogue”.
Both sides are in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks to be held once the threat of the pandemic is over, as per India.
The development also comes a day after Oli directed some bizarre allegations against India with regard to the spread of Covid-19 in his country. While addressing the Parliament, Oli said the virus in people who came to Nepal from India was more acute than the one in those who entered from Italy and China.
Interestingly, analysts believe that Oli is using the boundary issue to divert attention from his government’s response to this pandemic.
Senior journalist Chandra Kishore told News18, “The issue bigger than Kalapani for Nepal at the moment is overcoming Covid-19. This is the need of the hour. The boundary issues like Kalapani are seven decades old. By releasing a new map, the Nepal government is playing the nationalistic card. The boundary issue should be resolved peacefully through diplomatic means.”
Last year, following the carving out of the union territory of Ladakh from Jammu and Kashmir, the new map issued by India showed Kalapani as part of Pithoragarh. Meanwhile, on May 8, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 80-km link road on the Kailash Mansarovar route in Pithoragarh leading to Lipulekh.
Nepal has raised objection to the inauguration of the road, saying the "unilateral act" was against the understanding reached between the two countries on resolving the border issues.
The new Nepalese map includes 335-km land area including Limpiyadhura in the Nepalese territory, officials said, adding technicians at the Survey Department prepared the map with accurate scale, projection and coordinate system.
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 Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.
Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane last week said there were reasons to believe that Nepal objected to India's newly-inaugurated road linking Lipulekh Pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand at the behest of "someone else", in an apparent reference to a possible role by China on the matter. He said there was no dispute whatsoever between India and Nepal in the area and road laid was very much within the Indian side.
The new map was drawn on the basis of the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 signed between Nepal and then the British India government and other relevant documents, officials said.
(With inputs from PTI)