Nepal has strong cases in its favour on both the borders with China and India. However, the infighting between the leaders of the government has rendered the case unaddressed. The blanket support extended by the otherwise ever squabbling political parties of all hues to the Indo-Nepal boundary dispute, leading to the publication of the new map, demonstrates the united mindset of the people
Nepal has been unfortunately caught on the crossfires of the political bombshells launched by the Nepal Communist Party Supremo duo K P Oli and Puspa Kamal Dahal at a time when its territory has been encroached by both the neighbours, India and China. Whilst India has inaugurated the construction of a highway passing through the disputed territory of Kalapani, China has built nine buildings inside the territory of Nepal.
Nepal has been like a sleepy deer hunted by tigers in pairs. Sleepy because Nepal was caught unawares when news of the road and the buildings being built broke one after another. The talk of good relations with Nepal going back to times immemorial by both the countries has been nothing more than hollow and empty sweet nothings. It has been rather like the declaration of non-violence by the proverbial cat on a Haj Pilgrimage.
It suddenly reminds one of Nicolo Machavelli, the Italian philosopher and writer who said that territorial acquisition is one of the goals of most states in his famous book The Prince written in 1517. This was the time when a rather aggressive Ratna Malla was ruling in Nepal. He is said to have annexed Nuwakot just on the flimsy ground of a painting of the statue of Rajeswori Devi using a new colour by the Thakuri rulers of Nuwakot. This shows how true Nicolo was.
Long back in 4th century BC, Chanakya had said that a country should immediately attack a weak neighbouring country to enter into a treaty with the strong one. What had remained in the pages of history has suddenly stood starkly in front of Nepal at the present.
Territorial dispute between two neighbours, however, is not anything new in world history. One can come across innumerable numbers of complaints lodged by the neighbouring states at the International Court of Justice.
Territorial claims are generally divided into nine categories. They are based on treaties, geography, economy, culture, effective control, history, elitism, ideology and uti possidetis, the latest meaning the old administrative boundary transforming into international boundary after a political subdivision achieves independence.
The India-Nepal border dispute has its bearing on the treaty, uti possidtis and geography, because the treaty was signed with British India and later India achieved independence.
Moreover, the river forms the border between the two countries. The treaty justification is considered more legal in nature. Claims based on treaties are particularly persuasive. It is because the International Court of Justice statute obligates the court to consider the treaties. Uti possidetis is a principle used to define the post-colonist regime in Latin America, Asia as well as Africa. This is criticised because the colonial borders were mostly vaguely drawn.
Geographical boundaries like rivers present a problem as they are not static but ever moving.
However, the river is more or less in the original position on the Nepal-India border because of the hills and mountains on either side. In the present case, the river has been interpreted differently by the two parties. Whilst India points at the river flowing downstream from Kalapani as the River Kali, Nepal links it to the river which goes around Limpiadhura.
India has occupied our land as it is a strategic area as well as approach to Manosarovar and Kailash pilgrimage site.
Similar dispute erupted between Libya and Chad in 1990, knocking the door of the International Court of Justice when Colonel Muammar Gadaffi annexed a strip of land which was a purported source of uranium. The court, however, rejected Libya’s claim as the 1955 treaty very clearly mentioned the boundary. The court also did not consider it necessary to give attention to uti possidetis because of clear demarcation of the border by the treaty.
The Sino-Nepal border was determined by marking it with border pillars. It shows the effective control exercised by Nepal on the northern border. It can thus be seen as a clear act of naked aggression by virtue of the existing border pillars.
Nepal has thus strong cases in its favour on both the borders with China and India. However, the infighting between the leaders of the government has rendered the case unaddressed.
The blanket support extended by the otherwise ever squabbling political parties of all hues to the Indo-Nepal boundary dispute, leading to the publication of the new map followed by its enshrining in the constitution, demonstrates the united mindset of the people. This is the first time in the history of Nepal that the different political forces have rallied behind the government despite their differences on several national issues Neighbours cannot be wished out of existence.
One has to live with them and die with them. The only way out is to exercise diplomacy and dialogue to resolve the outstanding problems. The court is the last resort. Many countries have used it as a medium to resolve the problem peacefully.
But it needs national unity as well as a strong government to make it a reality.
The rare existence of national unity and a near to two-third majority government in the country have, however, been obscured by the infighting between the top leaders and different factions of the ruling party.
The other anomaly on the part of the government is the deviation from the path of equidistance that the country was pursuing since a long time. This is reflected in the unwarranted hue and cry raised against India instead of a mature heart-to-heart dialogue as against the stark contrast of an unusual hush in the case of China. This will prove fatal to the country in the long run.