24 May, 2020
7 Min Read
Reasons behind India and Nepal fighting over Kalapani?
Part of: GS-II- International Treaties and Convections (PT-MAINS-PERSONALITY TEST)
What is the strategic importance of the region?
Why do both sides stake claim to the area?
The dispute over Kalapani, which lies on the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, between Nepal and India was revived in November 2019 when India published a revised political map showing the newly created Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Both India and Nepal lay claim to Kalapani.
The map showed Kalapani as part of Pithoragarh district (PT). Nepal protested immediately and drew attention to the lingering issue. On May 8, India inaugurated the Darchula-Lipulekh pass link road, cutting across the disputed Kalapani area which is used by Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar. Nepal hit back by summoning the Indian Ambassador to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra.
Where is Kalapani located?
What is the cause of the dispute?
Why is Lipulekh pass important?
The region juts into the Himalayas and is connected to the other side of the mountain range through the Lipulekh pass, which has been used for centuries by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims and tourists on their way to Kailash Mansarovar. The nearby markets have been used by various mountain communities. The Himalayas have several passes that connect the Gangetic region with the Tibetan plateau but Lipulekh is strategically located as it is nearest to the heart of the Indian state or the National Capital Region and can be of particular concern in case of an armed conflict with China.
What are Nepal’s claims regarding Lipulekh pass?
Where have Nepal and India erred?
India and China were in clear violation of Nepal’s concerns during the 2015 Lipulekh agreement between India and China which renewed India’s Mansarovar pilgrimage connection.
Neither side consulted Nepal or sought its opinion before that agreement that boosted pilgrimage and trade to Tibet. Nepal’s then Prime Minister, the late Sushil Koirala, reportedly cancelled a visit to Delhi following this agreement.
Diplomats also maintain that India should have resolved the issue with Nepal when the late Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala raised it with India during the 2006 India visit when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh received him at the airport in Delhi.
Indian officials suggested that it could be resolved later. Analysts now say South Block should have acted promptly on Koirala’s suggestion.
Though Nepal has been steadfast in citing the Sugauli treaty as the foundation of its territorial claims, on occasion, some of the new generation leaders have spoken against the treaty.
According to Uddhab Pyakurel of Kathmandu University, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” for example had indicated frustration with the Treaty of Sugauli after his Prime Ministerial stint in 2009 saying that the treaty had become irrelevant and championed the cause of a Greater Nepal going into the region west of the Kali. This shows that the Nepali claim based on the Sugauli treaty is not consistent either.
What is the current position?
Nepal has published a revised official map incorporating the territory from the Limpiyadhura source of the Kali to Kalapani and Lipulekh pass in the northeast of the triangular region as its territory. On May 22, the Cabinet led by Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli registered a constitution amendment motion to grant constitutional status to the map. Indian observers say this move makes any future solution on the Kalapani issue nearly impossible as a constitutional guarantee will make Kathmandu’s position inflexible.
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