On boundary row, India says it’s open to engage with Nepal on the basis of mutual sensitivity and respectThe statement from Delhi comes just as the Oli government is preparing to table a constitutional amendment proposal to update the country’s map in the national emblem.
In a conciliatory tone, New Delhi on Thursday responded to Kathmandu’s calls for dialogue to settle the boundary row, reiterating that India attaches great importance to its friendly relations with Nepal.
During a regular press briefing at the Ministry of External Affairs in the Indian capital, Anurag Srivastava, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, said: “On the recent developments on boundary issues, we continue to monitor the situation in Nepal. We note that this matter is receiving careful consideration in Nepal, taking its seriousness into account.”
The boundary dispute between Nepal and India has escalated since the former’s release last week of a new political and administrative map depicting Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh, the territories that India also claims as its own, within Nepal’s borders. The map was issued in response to the Indian inauguration of a road that passes via Lipulekh to connect Kailash-Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
India’s fresh statement appears conciliatory since the May 20 response after Nepal published the revised map, when it asked the government of Nepal to refrain from such “unjustified cartographic assertion” and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Nepal has registered a proposal in Parliament for a constitutional amendment to update the map in the national emblem. The proposal was supposed to be tabled on Wednesday but it was not immediately moved forward.
The Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson stated that “India attaches great importance to the deep rooted historical, cultural and friendly relations with Nepal”.
“Even in these challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic, India has ensured unimpeded trade and supply of essentials including medicines to Nepal, besides providing assistance in terms of medical supplies and other facilitation,” read the statement.
Nepali officials said back-channel diplomacy and efforts to ease tension are at work with channels of communication open on both sides.
India wants to de-escalate tension while the Nepali side wants to put maximum pressure on New Delhi so that there are concrete results this time because the KP Sharma Oli government has already taken some strong measures including the releasing of the new map, according to officials privy to the developments.
In an interview with the Hindu newspaper, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said that India should withdraw security forces from the Kalapani region and restore the status quo.
Nepal and India have agreed that they have boundary disputes in Kalapani and Susta and have decided to resolve the issue through the foreign secretary level mechanism.
“We want India to honor the letter and spirit of the [Sugauli Treaty]. The most appropriate way of doing this would be to withdraw security forces from Kalapani and handover the above territories back to Nepal. We merely reiterated that unilateral acts like road construction in Nepal’s territory should not have been done, and the issue should be resolved through talks at the earliest,” Gyawali told The Hindu.
The recent boundary tension flared up after India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the opening of a road link in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh via the Lipulekh pass.
Nepal handed a diplomatic note to the Indian ambassador protesting the opening of the road via the Nepali territory. On May 9, India stated that both sides will sit for talks once two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of Covid-19 emergency.
But Nepal rejected the offer and said that it wants immediate talks with India and unilateral action in the disputed area should be halted. Later the situation turned more serious after Indian army chief MM Naravane pointed out third-party instigation and the Indian media squarely blamed China for the dispute.
Srivastava stated on Thursday that India is open to “engaging with all its neighbours on the basis of mutual sensitivity and mutual respect, in an environment of trust and confidence. This is a continuous process and requires constructive and positive efforts.”