Boundary Working Group to be set upIn a significant development, Nepal and India have agreed to set up the Boundary Working Group at the surveyor generals’ level in order to settle boundary disputes in border areas
The two sides have exchanged a diplomatic note on BWG establishment, which is likely to be announced during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. She arrives in Kathmandu on July 25 on a three-day visit.
Senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu told the Post that the mandate of the mechanism would be to seek an amicable technical solution to the unsettled boundary row, to address the border encroachment problem, to reinstate missing border pillars and to repair the damaged ones, and clear the Dashgaja (no man’s land). According to the understanding, Nepal will host the first meeting of the BWG, though the dates have not been finalised yet. The two sides will make field visits to settle encroachment and other border issues. They will follow mutually agreed strip maps for demarcation and to erect new border pillars.
The 28th meeting of surveyor generals from Nepal and India prepared 182 strip maps in 2007, excluding the controversial Susta (Nawalparasi) and Kalapani (Darchula) stretches. Signed at the technical level, the maps await ratification from higher authorities on both sides.
“Establishing the BWG is a positive development,” said Nagendra Jha, director general of the Department of Survey. He estimates that 8,000 pillars, including 640 in rivers, are required to demarcate the Nepal-India border. On land, 1,240 pillars have been missing. Jha said some 2,500 pillars should be maintained or renovated and 400 constructed. For the missing ones, Nepal will present the 1816 situation, before Nepal and British India signed the Sugauli Treaty, as the basis. Jha will lead the Nepali delegation during the boundary talks with India.
Past meetings of the surveyor generals had recommended setting up a boundary working group in order to seek a permanent solution to existing border problems.
Successive Indian governments have urged Nepal to ratify the maps by excluding the two disputed areas, advocating a joint working group to complete the remaining two percent of boundary mapping.
Nepal has been pursuing a more cautious approach, maintaining that it would be difficult for the country to endorse the maps without resolving the outstanding disputes first. The Indian side argues that signing the strip maps will be a confidence-building measure, which could then lead to a resolution on Susta and Kalapani.
Nepali officials, however, maintain that it would be wiser to sign a border agreement with India only after the disputes over the two areas are settled.