Decision Of Communists Led-Govt To Print Country's Map Showing Indian Territories In Nepal On Currency Note Threatens Ties With India

Decision Of Communists Led-Govt To Print Country's Map Showing Indian Territories In Nepal On Currency Note Threatens Ties With India

Nepal had voiced its dissent over India’s newly-inaugurated Link Road which connects the Kailash Mansarovar through Lipulekh Pass.

KS TomarUpdated: Friday, May 17, 2024, 02:54 PM IST
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It was on 2nd December 1815 when 'The Treaty of Sagauli' (in Bihar) was signed between East India Company (Lieutenant Colonel Paris Bradshaw) and Nepal (Raj Guru Gajraj Mishra assisted by Chandra Shekhar Upadhaya) and later ratified on March 4, 1816, which established the boundary line between the Himalaya Kingdom and colonial India.

It preceded the Anglo-Nepalese war which was lost by the latter thereby surrendering Sikkim in the east, Kumaon, Garhwal in the west and basins of Gandaki and Karnali to colonial rulers. As per treaty, Kali River was accepted as a boundary between two countries but Nepal kept on claiming its ownership of Lipulekh, Limpiyadhur and Kalapani which has got no linkage with reality on the ground. A large number of maps have been published between 1816 and 2024 which has made boundary issues complex and the outcome of boundary commissions set up by both governments did not yield desired results.

Now, the flashpoint came when Nepal indulged in unilateral action of the communists' government to print a controversial new map on its currency note which portrays Indian territories viz. Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani in Nepal thereby endangering age-old ties as such an undiplomatic move may lead to an open confrontation in future.

INDIA MAY ADOPT FLEXIBLE STANCE TO PRESERVE THE TIES WITH NEPAL

It is ironic that Indian Prime Minister, Narender Modi had taken special pain to strengthen the relations with Nepal and visited more than half a dozen times which included Lumbini in May,2022 and addressed a gathering of monks, Buddhist scholars, and dignitaries. Modi had remarked that Budha’s relevance knows no geographical boundaries as he is for everyone. He compared the Indo-Nepal ties with the height of mountains and preferred to extend the same to the fields of technology, science and infrastructure development. But the communists government seems to be hell bent upon damaging the ties which will be against the national interest of people of Himalaya Kingdom. A coalition government headed by pro India, Nepali Congress prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba was sworn in as prime minister for 5th time on July 13, 2021 and continued for 15 months which witnessed the ascendency in relations with India. But the Nepali Congress leader made a serious blunder of withdrawing the support from the government which was led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Prachanda who was entrapped by his rival, EX PM, K.P.S.Oli and both joined hands to form the current dispensation in Nepal which is doing its best to please Dragon and hurt India. India’s blockade in 2015 to protect the citizenship of the Terai people adjacent to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, had damaged the ties hence the Modi government made relentless efforts to bring the same on the track. Now it will be a litmus test for the new regime in Delhi to reset the strategy to deal with pro-China regime in Nepal which will be in the interest of both countries.

COMMUNISTS ARE AT THEIR OLD GAME AGAIN THAT TOO ON THE BEHEST OF CHINA

Diplomatic experts are unanimous over the role of China in encouraging the communists led government in Nepal to needle India which could lead to strained relations thereby enhancing Dragon’s role. Prachanda led coalition government, having Pro China and India baiter, former prime minister, K.P.S.Oli as a major partner , recently took a most offensive decision to print new map on NPR100 currency note which depicts disputed territories of India like Lipulekh,Limpiyadhura and Kalapani in Nepal. Indian external affairs minister. S. Jaishankar was firm in his opinion and made it clear that Nepal’s move will not change the situation or reality on the ground. He said “Our position is very clear and we are having discussions with Nepal about our boundary matters through an established platform. In the middle of that, Nepal has unilaterally taken some measures on their side.” India has already termed such an attempt by Nepal as artificial enlargement and untenable.

Contrary to it, Nepal has been claiming that three territories have been illegitimately occupied by India after 1962 Indo-China war which had been a bone of contention as it is far from reality and against the spirit of The Treaty of Sagauli. Nepal communists’ government took the recent decision on April 25 and May 2 to print the new map on currency note which had surprised many in New Delhi.It may be recalled that former PM ,Oli had brought Nepal-India ties to the lowest ebb when a map was redrawn showing Indian territories like Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territories which had infuriated India and it had out rightly rejected this mischievous move. Oli also objected to the opening of an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand by defence minister Rajnath Singh on May 8, 2020. It connects the Lipulekh pass having a height of 17,060 feet along the border with Tibet in Uttarakhand with Dharchula in Uttarakhand in Pithoragarh district. The Ministry of Defence had clarified about the religious motive behind the construction of the road and said, “The road originates from Ghatiabagarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, a gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar.

In this 80-km road, the altitude rises from 6000 to 17060 feet and with the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous, high-altitude terrain can now be avoided by the pilgrims of Kailash-Mansarovar”. Nepal had voiced its dissent over India’s newly-inaugurated Link Road which connects the Kailash Mansarovar through Lipulekh Pass. Nepal government expressed its disagreement and raised objections over the construction of the road in Uttarakhand that connects Lipulekh Pass along the border with China. The new 80-km long road is supposed to be a shortcut to reach the Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet and will make it easier for devotees to reach the pilgrimage site nestled in the Himalayas.

In a related development, on January 16, 2022, Indian embassy in Kathmandu made it clear that India’s position on its boundary with Nepal is well established, consistent and unambiguous which should not be questioned by anyone hence India is within its right to undertake construction activities in areas which Nepal has included in its map. Nepal had also opposed India’s action to bring out a revised political map showing the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh which had created bitterness. Experts say that there is every danger of raking up this issue which is connected with the security of India hence India will have to be more watchful in the new regime. Another serious issue relates to China’s ambitious plan about implementation of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and any forward movement as well as progress will be a security risk due to an open border of 1,770 Kms. China has invested more than 1.34 billion USD in Nepal and is always pressured by the Himalayan Kingdom pressed for execution of the project which may get fillip under the new government.

THE FUTURE OF AGNEEPATH IS IN DANGER AND CHINA MAY STEP IN

India had launched the Agneepath scheme on June 15, 2022 which was extended to Nepal also but it is still in limbo in Himalayan Kingdom owing to certain reservations. Field reports suggest that there are unemployed youths who may be keen to join the army as Agniveers but two previous governments had dragged its feet and the 3rd one may not be different. The Indian army had planned to recruit 40,000 Agnieers in 2022 and army chief Manoj Pande had made it clear to withdraw the vacancies if the decision was not filled by the government but nothing has been done so far and there is every chance of rejection by the communists' government. Nepal general elections were held in Nov, 2022 but the Agnipath scheme is still hanging in fire as some retired generals in Kathmandu have opposed the scheme. As per record, the scheme is regulated by the 1947 Tripartite Treaty on Recruitment between Britain, India and Nepal hence Nepal believes that it has been violated by the Agnipath scheme. At this juncture, China may allure Nepal to opt for Gurkhas recruitments in PLA which will unsettle 1947 tripartite agreement which governs the intake of youths from Nepal in Indian army. As the Betrawati Treaty of 1792 was signed between China and Nepal, there is a clause of the former helping to defend the latter against any external aggression that may become handy to the communist regime.

OLI MAY BE BLACKMAILING PRACHANDA

Experts say that new government is primarily the combination of ‘Pro China’ loyalists factions headed by Prachanda’s CPN(Maoists Centre) and CPN-UML, Communist Party of Nepal(Unified Marxist- Leninist),headed by EX PM,K.P.S Oli which makes a deadly duo. It is a harsh truth that Oli is dominating the new dispensation as he is having a majority of 77 MPs as compared to Prachanda who is having a meagre strength of 32 MP in the parliament. Prachanda and Oli are diehard communists who may not be feeling comfortable in dealing with India and China.

TRILATERAL POWER TREATY MAY SURVIVE

A trilateral power agreement had become a reality after several years of stalemate which would ensure the import of 10,000 MW of power from Nepal to India for 10 years thereby earning thousands of crores of revenue and subsequently providing an advantage of additional availability of electricity for consumers in India. It will enable Nepal to start the import of power up to 60 MW to Bangladesh through India . At the same time, Nepal and India had described it as a path breaking event as buyers and sellers can sign power agreements for 25 years and Nepal can visualize its prosperity through energy export to India or other countries. Experts say that the new communists’ regime may not upset this power agreement which is beneficial to people of both nations.

APPROVAL OF CITIZENSHIP BILL AIMED AT AN OUTREACH TO INDIA AND UNITED STATES

Observers feel that the approval of the citizenship bill was seen as an attempt by the previous Prachanda-Deuba government to exhibit its closeness to India which had infuriated China. Second, Prachanda chose India over China for his maiden visit in 2022 which had sent a good signal as it proved fruitful which was evident from the signing of seven power and trade agreements thereby benefiting people of both countries. Prachnda had refrained from touching the ticklish issue of boundary dispute. But in the changed scenario, preference may be given to China as both top leaders Viz. Prachanda and Oli have communist ideology which is in consonance with Xi Jinping's principles. In this backdrop, it appears that prachnda has become a captive in the hands of Oli who is forcing him to take anti India decisions thereby hitting the interest of people of his own country.

NEPAL’S DEPENDENCE ON INDIA

It is an established fact that Nepal fully deadens upon India for essential commodities ranging from salt to petroleum products which were exported from India to the tune of in January, 2024 which may not be topographically feasible if Nepal wants to switch over to China. The india’s exports touched a new height of Products ($185M), Iron And Steel ($75M), Rice (Other Than Basmati) ($33.9M), Industrial Machinery For Dairy Etc ($14.4M), and Drug Formulations, Biologicals ($14M). The data revealed that top imports items of India from Nepal included Spices ($11.1M), Vegetable Oils ($9.08M), Iron and Steel ($8.05M), Manmade Yarn, Fabrics, Madeups ($6.7M) and Misc Processed Items ($4.87M) in Jan., 2024. Similarly, the decrease in India’s exports to Nepal witnessed a decrease in product exports in Petroleum Products ($-32.8M or -15.1%), Iron And Steel ($-26.1M or -25.8%), and Two And Three Wheelers ($-19.1M or -89.8%)., India exported $539M and subsequently imported $62.1M from Nepal thereby exhibiting a positive trade balance of $477M. Data of trade and industry also releveled that the exports of India have decreased by $-58.3M (-9.77%) from $597M to $539M, while imports decreased by $-4.84M (-7.23%) from $67M to $62.1M between January 2023 and January 2024.

In final assessment, China has recently weaned away Maldives which is on war path with India and Nepal is following suit. It poses a serious challenge to Indian diplomacy hence India must tackle two warring nations with restraints, flexibility and preferring all permissible avenues of dialogue to preserve the ties besides checkmating China’s policy of expansionism in the region.

(The writer is political analyst and has got six year experience of covering the transition of democracy in Nepal)

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