India - Nepal 

#GS2 #BilateralRelations #Governance 


Recently, India released maps that showed Kalapani at the India-Nepal-China trijunction to the north and Susta to the south as Indian territory. 

Nepal released its new political map including those territories within Nepali borders after India earlier this month opened a road link via Lipulekh to Kailash Mansarovar in the Tibet Autonomous Region. 

Boundary challenge 

  • The notion of boundaries as lines drawn on a map is significant in the Subcontinent. Here, the empires and kingdoms shaded into one another across ambiguous frontiers. 

Indo-Nepal boundary 

  • Neither country has allowed a political boundary to interrupt the age-old traffic of people 
  • People shared ties of kinship, religion, and culture.  
  • This is being threatened by territorial nationalism on the Nepali side and a security state on the Indian side. 
  • The two countries have settled about 98% of their common border and these are reflected in the 182 strip maps initiated by them.  
  • More than 8,500 boundary pillars have been installed, reflecting the agreed alignment.         

Nepali side 

  • Kathmandu Valley remains the crucible of Nepali politics and the arbiter of its domestic and foreign policies.  
  • In Nepal, political groupings try to project bullying and overbearing India to present themselves as custodians of national interest.  
  • Recent demonstrations in Kathmandu show how Left competed with Nepali Congress to oppose India. 

Issue over maps 

  • These maps have nothing to do with Nepal.  
  • They were published to reflect the recent bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) into the two new Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh.  
  • There was no change in the depiction of the India-Nepal boundary. 
  • The perception was created that the publication of the new map was a departure from the past and constituted cartographic aggression.  

Nepal – rhetoric 

  • Most of the time, the Nepali side raises such issues for rhetorical purposes but is uninterested in following up through serious negotiations.  
  • The same happened with Nepali demands for the revision of the India-Nepal Friendship Treaty.  
  • The Indian side agreed in 2001 to hold talks at the foreign secretary-level to come up with a revised treaty. Only one such round of talks has taken place.         

Kalapani area 

  • In the past, Nepal has claimed territory in the Kalapani area and Susta as its own.  
  • The two sides agreed that these differences should be resolved through friendly negotiations. These talks are yet to take place. 
  • The Kalapani controversy has arisen due to a difference in perception over the real and primary sources of the Mahakali river.  
  • The Treaty of Sugauli concluded in 1816 that locates the river as the western boundary with India but different British maps showed the source tributary at different places.  
  • Then the state of cartographic science and less-refined surveying techniques creates these problems.  
  • With regard to Susta, the problem has arisen as a result of the shifting of the course of the river.  
  • There are only two ways to deal with this challenge — either to accept a shifting border as the river itself shifts or to agree on a boundary which remains fixed despite changes in the course of the river.  

Indo-Nepal relations: Pipeline 

  • The Motihari-Amlekhgang pipeline for safe, secure and assured supply of petroleum products to Nepal was launched.  
  • These supplies were trucked across the border in the past. 
  • There were frequents incidents of pilferage and contamination in transit and interruptions due to natural disasters or roadblocks during political protests.  
  • This is a demonstration of what cross-border cooperation can achieve to benefit both countries.  

Bilateral relations: People-People 

  • There are six to eight million Nepali citizens living and working in India.  
  • They enjoy immense goodwill and a congenial and friendly environment wherever they are.  

Way ahead 

India could regularly offer to take up outstanding issues bilaterally even though the Nepali side may wish to side-step.

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