On Friday, 13 months after the inauguration of the single lane road from New Delhi to Mansarovar via Nepali territory through video conferencing, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh made further progress. Nepal has been disagreeing with India’s construction of roads on Nepali territory.
Despite talks between the Foreign Secretary and the Foreign Minister last year on the border dispute, India has not stopped construction. On Friday, Singh lauded the Border Roads Organization (BRO) for constructing a new road for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage, saying it was still a priority for India to build roads in the area.
It was Singh who started the construction of this road from Delhi on 8 May 2020. Addressing the BRO from New Delhi on Friday, he said, “The BRO has made remarkable achievements in the last five to seven years. Whether it is the launch of a new world-class construction like the Atal Tunnel Rohta or the construction of a new route for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, the BRO has set a new record.
After India encroached on the land, Nepal had decided to send a 35-member security team of the Armed Police Force (APF) to Chhangru on May 13, 2020.
On September 17, the then Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa reached Chhangru and laid the foundation stone of the Gulm Bhawan, in which a team of 50 people was deployed. Even though the number of APFs has increased, it has not been able to stop the activities taking place at the border from India. The APF, which is in charge of border security, is located about 7 km from the border area. They have to buy food grains with the help of Indian security personnel across the border due to lack of support from the center.
After India built the road on Nepali soil without Nepal’s knowledge, the then Foreign Minister Pradip Kumar Gyawali, while informing the International Relations Committee of the Parliament, had clarified that ‘India has built the road in 19 kilometers of Nepal’s territory’. The day after Singh inaugurated the road, the foreign ministry issued a statement urging India not to operate on the land immediately. According to the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani were Nepal’s lands. On the same day, India, through the Ministry of External Affairs, said that “the road has been built on its own soil and if there are any problems, talks can be held after the corona virus infection.”
The new political map released by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs on 11 November 2019, which included Jammu and Kashmir, included Nepal’s territory of Lipulek, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani. Nepal immediately sent a diplomatic note to India. Since then, Nepal has sent diplomatic notes five times to resolve the border issue after India built the road on Nepal’s territory.
After India said that talks could be held only after the end of the Covid-19 transition, Nepal had also issued a new map on 20 May 2020, including its territory including Limpiyadhura. India said “Nepal’s map is unacceptable”.
Nepal’s political ups and downs, Indian Intelligence Agency (IAA) chief Samanta Goyal came to Nepal on 21 October 2020 and met with Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. After that, Army Chief Manoj Mukund Narwane visited Nepal from India. After Vijay Chauthaivale, the foreign affairs chief of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, also visited Nepal, an atmosphere was created for the Nepal-India diplomatic talks to move forward. Nepal-India Foreign Secretary level talks were held in Kathmandu. Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Bardhan Shringala arrived in Nepal on December 11 to 12. But despite talks on borders with other parts of the country, there was no discussion on the territory of the Kalapani region.
Although Foreign Minister Gyawali later returned to Delhi on January 14 after meeting with Defense Minister Singh, it has not been revealed what happened on the border. On his return to Kathmandu, Gyawali told reporters that the two countries were committed to resolving the border issue as soon as possible.
Despite the political agreement to resolve the issue of Indian encroachment in Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura through talks, the Indian side has been resisting. Former foreign minister and diplomat Bhekh Bahadur Thapa thinks that India has not given him a place to start dialogue. “It’s a sensitive issue. (From India) is being forced. The main (Nepal) government had to look. At the government level, the foreign secretary and the foreign minister have to look into it, ‘he said.
Another former foreign minister, Narayan Kali Shrestha, accused the Oli government of deviating from all positions of national independence and integrity. “The government has accepted foreign intervention for the sake of power,” he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sewa Lamshal said that the process would be taken only after understanding the latest incident from the concerned division and the Nepali embassy in Delhi. When contacted by The Gurkha Times, the Indian Embassy in Nepal declined to comment.