Kalapani has become an issue of contention between India and Nepal after the Nepal government raised objections to its inclusion in India’s new political map. The Nepal government claimed that the Kalapani territory located in its far-west is an integral part of its region.
Kalapani territory is a disputed territory between India and Nepal. While Nepal claims Kalapani to be a part of its Darchula district, the region is administered in India as a part of Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand. Kalapani is located at an altitude of 3600m on the Kailash Manasarovar route.
It borders Uttarakhand in India and Sudurpashchim Pradesh in Nepal. Since the Indo-China war of 1962, Kalapani is controlled by India’s Indo-Tibetan Border Police.
Nepal claims that the river located towards the west of the territory is the main Kali River and thus it falls in its territory, India claims a ridgeline towards the east of the Kalapani territory and hence, includes it in the Indian Union.
Under the treaty of Sugauli signed between Nepal and the British East India Company in 1816, the Kali River was located as Nepal’s western boundary with India. It, however, made no mention of a ridgeline and subsequent maps of the areas drawn by British surveyors showed the source of the Kali River at different places.
This discrepancy has led to the boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps including the territory in their own area to support their claims. The exact size of the Kalapani territory also varies in different sources.
As per the statement issued in Beijing when the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi visited China on May 15, Both India and China countries have agreed to expand border trade through Lipulekh Pass.
The 28th point states that ‘the two parties decided to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border trade at the Lipulekh Pass.’
The main intention of the statement issued in Beijing is to identify as well as to improve border areas co-operation through border trade, pilgrimage by people of the two countries. It also agreed to effectively promote mutual trust, and broaden co-operation, so as to transform the border into a bridge of cooperation and exchange.
According to point of view from Nepalese, there could be an issue as whether China and India needed to obtain Nepal’s consent to expand border trade at Lipulekh Pass, a Far-Western spot of Nepal, is a piece of Nepal. The Lipulekh Pass is situated at the Nepal-China boundary.
However, Indian military forces have occupied it since 1962 after the Sino-India border war. This is a very old way for pilgrims as well as traders transiting between Nepal along with Tibet.
Nepali nationals, even those on a pilgrimage to the Manasarovar Lake and Mount Kailash are not allowed to enter into Kalapani area and Lipulekh Pass. It is baffling that Nepalese cannot even travel through their sovereign territory.
Regarding the issue of Lipulekh-Kalapani-Limpiyadhura area, Nepal has also, in a sense, been negligent. It has not yet delineated the origination of the Mahakali River, though the treaty of Sugauli (1816) mentions, ‘Kali is the western border of Nepal with India.
Even the Joint Technical Level Nepal-India Boundary Committee, which worked for 26 years up to the end of 2007, never ventured into delineating the source of the river Kali, because it needs a political decision.
Self Decision Made By India and China without Presence of Nepalese representative:-
The two countries i.e. India and China had agreed to open a trading post in Lipulekh, another disputed area near Kalapani. Xi and Modi had made a joint announcement mentioning that Lipulekh is a two-sided trade route between the two countries.
Nepal had never supported the announcement saying the announcement was in opposition to the provisions of the 1816 Sugauli Treaty signed between Nepal and India.
In February, Foreign Affairs Minister Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali had told that China and India could not talk about Lipulekh in the absence of Nepal. Talking in a conference held by International Relations Committee of House of Representatives, the Minister Gyawali had told Nepal would not sign on the Nepal-India border strip map unless Kalapani disputes were resolved.
“The Nepal government does not accept Lipulekh as tri-junction between Nepal, India and China. It will be finalized only after Nepal and India agree to demarcation,” Gyawali had said. “Not a single country can talk about Nepal’s land in Nepal’s absence,” Minister Gyawali said.
Ex- foreign secretary Mr. Madhu Raman Acharya told that there was an adequate amount of evidence to suggest that Nepal’s westernmost boundary with India went beyond Lipulekh and Kalapani.
“Nepal has to suggest India to remove any map that alters the status until the disputed boundary is resolved bilaterally,” he said in a Twitter post. This area has been occupied by the Indian safe keeping forces since the year 1962, due to this reason, the kalapani and lipulekh area has been as a controversial topic ever since after that.
Action of Nepal Government:-
Nepal’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that during foreign secretary-level joint meetings, the responsibility of resolving border disputes between India and Nepal were assigned to the foreign secretaries of both the countries in consultation with the concerned technicians.
In the mean time, the Nepal government and some political party leaders have raised serious concerns over the recent understanding reached between the India and China regarding Nepal’s Lipulekh Pass.
The ministry further stated that the entire outstanding border issues between the two nations need to be resolved mutually and any unilateral move was unacceptable to the Nepal Government.
Nepal’s foreign ministry stated that the Nepal government was committed to protect its international border and any border-related issue of two friendly countries needs to be resolved through the diplomatic channel, based on historical documents and evidence.
By Saugat Thapa