NEPAL MOVE COULD HURT RELATIONS
NEWDELHI: Nepal’s lower house on Tuesday made a strong pitch in favour of the constitution amendment bill to redraw Nepal’s political map, a move that could lead to a freeze in relations between Kathmandu and New Delhi. The map counts three Indian territories as part of Nepal. Its passage by the Nepalese cabinet on May 18 had angered India.
THE MAP, CLEARED BY
THE OLI CABINET LAST MONTH, COUNTS INDIAN TERRITORIES OF KALAPANI, LIPULEKH AND LIMPIYADHURA AS PART OF NEPAL
NEW DELHI : Nepal’s lower house on Tuesday evening made a strong pitch in favour of the constitution amendment bill to redraw Nepal’s political map, a move that could lead to a freeze in relations between Kathmandu and New Delhi.
The new political map pushed by the KP Sharma Oli government is set to clear the first legislative hurdle in the lower house.
The constitution amendment bill will next go to the 59-member National Assembly where the ruling Communist Party of Nepal has an overwhelming majority.
The map, cleared by the Oli Cabinet last month, counts Indian territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepal.
Its passage by the Nepalese cabinet on May 18 angered India, which asked Nepal to “refrain from such unjustified cartographic assertion” for an “artificial enlargement of territorial claims”.
That message from New Delhi appears to have gone unheard in Kathmandu.
Analysts said that shouldn’t surprise anyone — supporting India or taking a position aligned with India are seen as signs of weaknesses by many Nepalese politicians, they add.
According to them, the new map is part of Oli’s effort to whip up ultra-nationalistic sentiments at India’s cost and consolidate his weakening hold on the government and the ruling Communist Party of Nepal. It appears to have worked.
On Tuesday, opposition parties that have been attacking the Oli government for his handling of the economy and Covid-19 found themselves coming around to back him in the lower house on Tuesday. The motion for the adoption of principles of the Map Bill was passed by a voice vote. The Speaker has given 72 hours from Tuesday to submit an amendment to the Bill, but HT learns that its passage is now a mere formality.
There has been no formal response from New Delhi to Tuesday’s development.
“There may be one later to set the record straight,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity.
New Delhi is furious and is expected to cold shoulder requests for a dialogue, another government official added, asking not to be identified.
“Once Nepal’s cabinet and then parliament backed changes to its map to incorporate Indian territory, there isn’t a lot to talk about,” this official added, hours after Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali spoke of his country’s desire to talk to New Delhi to resolve the boundary issue.
“We have expressed time and again that Nepal wants to sit at the table to resolve this problem,” Pradeep Gyawali had told news agency Associated Press on Tuesday.
The row began after India reissued its map to incorporate changes in Jammu and Kashmir that had been carved into two union territories.
Like in all previous maps, this one too continued to count Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The two countries planned to hold a round of discussions at the foreign secretary’s level to address Nepal’s concerns but the meetings could not be scheduled.
Oli’s government, however, renewed the attacks after India inaugurated an 80-km road in Uttarakhand that almost goes up till Lipulekh Pass at the India-China border.
This project essentially involved building a metalled road connecting Dharchula town in Uttarakhand to the Lipulekh pass. New Delhi was surprised when Kathmandu protested over the road that had been built in indian territory.
This area, spread over 330 sq km near Nepal’s western trijunction with India and China, had always been part of India in every map that had been issued for more than a century and in terms of the ground situation, a third senior Indian official said.
This claim was also accepted by China when it inked a pact with India to trade via Lipulekh pass back in 1954.
When the two sides mentioned Lipulekh as a bilateral trade route in a 2015 joint statement sixty years later, Nepal registered its protest.
Behind the sharp rhetoric from Kathmandu over the road in recent weeks, Indian officials said, is the fact that Oli wants to be seen as the prime minister who stood up to India.
Analysts say Nepal’s approach contrasts with India’s which when the two countries were looking to redraft their 1950 Treaty of Peace and Friendship asked Kathmandu to put together the first draft.
And when Nepal had reservations over the 50:50 funding format proposed for the Pancheshwar dam project, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked it to contribute what it could and promised to pool in the rest.