India by inaugurating the link road to Mansarovar of China through Nepali territory of Lipu Lekh on Friday has betrayed the centuries old friendship between the two countries. The fact that India inaugurated the road in complete disregard to the last understanding between the two countries to resolve the dispute through dialogue has once again exposed India's hegemonic tendency towards her neighbors.
The government was prompt in its response. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement the next day expressing regret over the unilateral construction and urged India to refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal. It then summoned the Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra on the first working day for both the countries after the Indian inauguration, and handed a diplomatic note conveying Nepal's position on the issue. Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali has also said that the government cannot wait for the end of the Pandemic for bilateral dialogue as suggested by the Indian side.
The Sugauli Treaty (1816) states that all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) River belong to Nepal clearly implying that the area including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh lies in Nepal. The government has maintained that Nepal conducted a census in Kalapani area in 2018 BS and also has historical evidence of Nepal collecting tax from the surrounding areas in the past.
It is high time that the government made those and other evidence public. Hopefully, the international media, including the Indian media, will pick the issue in light of the evidence. The international community will take note of how the largest democracy and an aspiring Superpower is blatantly encroaching territories of a small and friendly neighbor.
The then Sushil Koirala government had expressed its disagreement in 2015 through separate diplomatic notes addressed to both India and China when the two sides agreed to include Lipu Lekh Pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent. The area is a tri-junction between Nepal, India and China, and the government should again raise the issue with China reminding that note. The government should engage China at the earliest on the issue and request that the northern friendly neighbor deny access of the recently inaugurated link road to the Chinese side until India resolves the issue with Nepal amicably.
At the same time, Nepal should also pursue diplomatic communications with India. Foreign secretary level dialogue is the mechanism agreed by both the countries to resolve the border disputes. So far India has not shown any interest despite Nepal twice proposing the dates for holding the meeting since the border issues were exacerbated after India published its political map including the Nepali territory of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipu Lekh in November 2019. The government should call for an immediate foreign secretary level meeting or talks at the level of foreign ministers or even prime ministers.
The government should clearly tell India, and even China, its willingness to take the issue to the United Nations (UN) if India again dawdles, and China becomes complicit in the encroachment by allowing access to the newly inaugurated Indian link road. Nepal has always believed in maintaining close and friendly ties with both India and China. We are still committed to our shared future and look forward to deepening ties with both the neighbors. At the time, we are also committed to defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity. In no circumstance, we will be ready to compromise and cede any piece of our land.