Amid a lot of political tensions within Nepal over India’s decision to build a road through the Lipulekh pass which remains an unresolved territory between the two countries, Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali on Monday called in the Indian envoy to Nepal to lodge a strong protest.
In a tweet, the Foreign Ministry of Nepal said, “Foreign Minister Hon. @PradeepgyawaliK conveyed Government of Nepal’s position on boundary issues to Ambassador of India to Nepal H.E. Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra at a meeting held at MoFA today and handed over a diplomatic note in this regard.”
On Sunday, Kathmandu had expressed “regret” over India’s “unilateral” decision of constructing a road in a border area that has to be resolved between India and Nepal.
“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of prime ministers and that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation,” Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday had inaugurated the 80-km road to ease the journey of Kailash Mansarovar yatris which would be curtailed to one week compared to 2-3 weeks it took earlier. The road runs through Lipulekh pass and Kalapani which is under dispute between India and Nepal.
India continues to maintain that the area where the road is coming up is a part of its territory.
“Amb. of India to Nepal Sh. Kwatra met Hon’ble Min. for Foreign Affairs Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali today at Singha Durbar. Amb. Kwatra stated India’s position on boundary issues with Nepal. He also handed over a copy of MEA spokesperson’s response to the Hon’ble Min,” tweeted the Indian embassy in Nepal.
Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, in a statement on Saturday, said, “The recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in the State of Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India. The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.”
The politics over this within Nepal is deep-seated in the fight for power between former Prime Minister Prachanda and Prime Minister KP Oli.
With Prachanda raising the issue in Parliament, KP Oli’s government had to show assertiveness. Therefore, the meeting with the Indian envoy was elevated to the level of foreign ministry rather than the foreign secretary summoning him.
Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli and Prachanda, as co-chairmen of Nepal Communist Party (NCP), had called building Lipulekh road during coronavirus pandemic “deplorable”.
A party statement said, “It is deplorable that this development has taken place at a time when the entire humanity is faced with an unprecedented health crisis in the wake of coronavirus and all our efforts are concentrated on fighting against the pandemic.”
India has been criticised in many quarters of Nepal. The Indian ambassador himself received a lot of flak for his “body language” during his meeting with minister Gyawali.
Many, including think-tankers like Indra Adhikari, questioned the ambassador for sitting cross-legged in front of the Nepalese foreign minister.
This is not a recent issue Nepal had expressed its disagreement with both India and China when the two sides agreed to include Lipulekh pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent in the joint statement issued on May 15, 2015.
Nepal’s foreign affairs ministry had then released a press statement and stated: “The Nepal government firmly believes that the Kalapani is a part of Nepal.” Adding that India’s “unilateral” and illegal move to encroach upon Nepal’s Kalapani goes against the ‘1816 Suguali treaty’ between Nepal and the then East India Company.
In Nepal, this has been an issue ever since India updated its map on November 2 last year which included Kalapani, an area that Nepal claims as its territory.