‘Boundary deal before maps’Minister for Physical Infrastructure & Trans-port Bimalendra Nidhi has said there was no rush for signing strip maps with India as a tiny unresolved matter could create troubles in future.
“Why not we complete the demarcation of the remaining 2-3 disputed spots first,” Nidhi said on Monday, during the release of a report on “India-Nepal Open Border: A field-based Study on Problems and Prospects” by the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Studies.
This is the first time that a senior official has voiced the government’s position on signing boundary maps with India since officials from both the sides prepared them in 2007 using GIS and GPS systems.
The 28th meeting of the Joint Survey Generals from Nepal and India had prepared 182 strip maps of Nepal-India boundaries in 2007 excluding the controversial Susta (Nawalparasi) and Kalapani (Darchula) sketches, and signed them subsequently, paving the way for higher authorities to ratify them.
Successive Indian governments have been urging Nepal to ratify them by excluding the two areas, advocating a joint working group on border management for completing the remaining two percent boundary mapping.
Nepal has been pursuing a “wait and watch” policy, maintaining that it would be difficult for the country to endorse the boundary maps without resolving outstanding disputes. The Indian side argues that signing the strip maps should be seen as a confidence-building measure on both sides which could lead to a resolution on Susta and Kalapani.
“It’s not the question of two percent,” said Minister Nidhi, adding that sometimes point five percent also creates a lot of pain. “It is desirable to sign all the strips together.”
But he suggested that a joint working group may be formed to settle the row. “We can ratify them once we form the joint working group to complete the remaining tasks. We have never said we will not sign them.”
On the occasion, Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae made a clear offer to Nepal to sign the maps. “There are encroachments in bordering areas because we do not have an agreed map. Once we do, we can identify where the border is and it makes it easy for us to settle claims and counter claims.”
Urging Nepal to sign the prepared strip maps at the earliest, the Indian envoy said the remaining demarcation of Susta and Kalapani stretches may be resolved at the political level. Dispelling the alleged notion that New Delhi is indifferent to the border problem, Rae said that any issue is dealt with urgently.
The 150-page report released on Monday urges an end to the status quo on Susta and Kalapani by signing the strip maps. The report, prepared on the basis of 36 field visits to Nepal-India entry points, highlights the challenges, problems, prospects and ground realities and presents a 10-point recommendation.
Nepali Congress lawmaker Amresh Kumar Singh said Nepali and Indian authorities were responsible for the boundary row and creating troubles in the region. He called for scrapping the bilateral 1960 Motor Vehicles Agreement in order to allow Nepali vehicles to travel to India hassle-free.
UCPN (Maoist) leader Hisila Yami said the border is a political issue with a lot of public sentiment.