The border disputes in Kalapani and Susta must be resolved through diplomatic channels and based on historical documents
Five days after the Indian Government (Ministry of Home Affairs and Survey of India) made public a political map of India depicting some parts of Nepal as its territory, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Wednesday issued a press statement, clearly saying that the Kalapani region that lies in the north-western edge of Darchula district is Nepali territory. In the statement, MoFA has said any outstanding issues related to the border between Nepal and India should be resolved on the basis of mutual agreement. The statement has reminded the Indian side that the foreign minister-level joint commission in 2014 had delegated the foreign secretaries of both the countries to work out a solution to the outstanding border-related issues in consultation with experts. The statement has also clearly said, “Nepal does not accept any decision taken unilaterally”, adding, Nepal was “committed to protecting its international borders”. Nepal has also emphasised on resolving the disputed border issues through diplomatic channels.
The new Indian map depicting Kalapani, Lipulekh as Indian territory is actually Nepali territory, and Limpiyadhura is a tri-junction between Nepal, India and China. The disputed region has been occupied by India since the 1962 war between India and China. Although Kalapani and Lipulekh are claimed by both Nepal and India, China and India agreed to open a trading post in Lipulehk in 2015. Nepal immediately lodged a strong protest against the agreement with China and India, saying the deal was against the provisions of the 1816 Sugauli Treaty signed between Nepal and the then East India Company. Immediately after China and India reached the deal to open a trading post in Lipulekh, Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali had told the parliamentary International Relations Committee that ‘no country can discuss Nepal’s territory in Nepal’s absence”. Due to the border dispute over Susta and Kalapani, Nepal and India are yet to finalise the borders strip map although 98 per cent of its work is said to have been completed.
As per the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, Kalapani and Lipulekh is Nepali territory. The border dispute surfaced only after India deployed troops in the region following the 1962 war with China. After the joint technical committee from both the sides failed to resolve the dispute over the Susta and Kalapani regions, a joint foreign secretary-level committee was formed in 2014 to resolve them. The joint committee should work without any further delay so that the border dispute can be resolved once and for all. Nepal has enough evidence and documents to prove that the Kalapani and Susta regions belong to Nepal. The Nepal-India joint technical committee, formed in 1981, has already resolved 76 disputed border points out of 78, and has also prepared 187 strip maps, based on which GPS-based pillars have also been erected there. India’s Ministry of External Affairs has issued a statement reiterating “commitment to find a solution through dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations”. This is a welcome statement. It is, therefore, in the best interest of both the sides to resolve the border dispute through diplomatic channels based on evidence and documents.
No, not again
For the third time, Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA) in Bhairahawa is to miss the project completion deadline, which was scheduled for December 31. Like other national pride projects, the GBIA is having to reschedule its completion date time and again for one reason or the other. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), although the physical structures would be completed as scheduled, the erection of imported equipment and lights will take some more time. The upgradation project, beguns in 2015, was to be completed by December 2017, which was extended to July 2019.
The constant postponement of the completion date of pride projects has diluted the people’s confidence in the government’s way of doing things. And it is unlikely that the fourth deadline being set for GBIA’s completion will hold any credence. According to CAAN, lack of effective coordination between government agencies and other stakeholders are holding back the timely completion of the project. Despite the setback, the GBIA is inching towards completion, and the government would do well to negotiate for high altitude air route clearance from India in time to ease international flights.
A version of this article appears in print on November 08, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.