Nepal objects to India’s unilateral opening of road link via LipulekhIn a statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asks India to refrain from carrying out any activity in Nepali territory.
Nepal said on Saturday that India’s move of opening a road via Lipulekh is against the understanding reached between the two countries and urged Indian government to refrain from carrying out any activity inside the Nepali territory.
“The government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ yesterday by India of ‘Link Road’ connecting to Lipu Lekh (Nepal), which passes through Nepali territory,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. “The government of Nepal has consistently maintained that as per the Sugauli Treaty (1816), all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh, belong to Nepal.”
India’s Ministry of Defence announced on Friday that Defence Minister Raj Nath Singh inaugurated the link road from Dharchula to Lipulekh, identifying Lipulekh as “China border”.
“Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh today inaugurated the Link Road from Dharchula to Lipulekh (China Border) famously known as Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra Route,” Indian’s Defence Ministry tweeted on Friday.
Prompt reactions followed in Nepal, with many pointing at the Nepal government’s failure to resolve outstanding border issues with the southern neighbour.
The Indian move of opening of the link road on Friday caught Nepali officials unawares, just like in May 2015 when Delhi and Beijing agreed to expand a trade route through Lipulekh pass.
Lipulekh is a strip of land on the northwestern edge of Nepal, lodged between Nepal, India and Tibet. While some call it a tri-junction between these three countries, Nepal has been claiming the southern part of the pass and has refused to recognise it as a tri-junction.
“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of prime ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation,” said the ministry. “The government of Nepal remains committed to seeking a diplomatic solution to boundary issues on the basis of the historical treaty, documents, facts and maps in keeping with the spirit of close and friendly ties between the two countries.”
The new development comes six months after India placed Kalapani, a territory Nepal claims as its own, within Indian borders in a map released in line with New Delhi’s decision to repeal the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and split up the two into two federal territories.
After uproar over the Kalapani issue, the Nepal government had formed two committees, headed by the joint secretaries of the India and China desks at the Foreign Ministry, to conduct field visits and prepare a status report on the border. The committee surveying the border with India has completed its visit, but the committee that was supposed to study the China border had yet to start its work.
From Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli to Foreign Minister Gyawali, along with other ministers as well as top leaders of the ruling party, had all vowed to reclaim the disputed tract of land after the Kalapani issue emerged. But not a single round of talks has taken place in the last six months.
Analysts told the Post on Friday that India’s unilateral opening of the link road to Lipulekh could invite further diplomatic friction between Kathmandu and Delhi.
The government of Nepal said on Saturday that it reemphasizes that pending boundary issues between the two countries should be resolved through diplomatic means.
“It may be recalled that the government of Nepal had expressed its disagreement in 2015 through separate diplomatic notes addressed to the governments of both India and China when the two sides agreed to include Lipu Lekh Pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent,” said the ministry.
After the Kalapani issue in November last year, Nepal has been seeking dates for dialogue but it has yet to materialise.
“The government of Nepal has proposed twice the dates for holding the meeting of the foreign secretaries of the two countries, as mandated by their leaders, for which the response from the Indian side is still awaited,” said the ministry. “It may be noted that the two governments had constituted the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Nepal-India Relations with a mandate to recommend measures and institutional framework with a view to elevating the existing relations to a new height.”
The EPG has concluded its task and prepared a consensus report.
The group, however, has not been able to submit its report, largely due to lack of time of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The government of Nepal is ready to receive the report and believes that it will be in the interest of the two countries to implement its recommendations,” said the ministry, “which will also help address the outstanding issues left by the history, thereby paving the way for ever stronger neighbourly relations.”