It is a measure of China’s mischief that Nepal, apparently under Beijing’s instigation has published a map that shows Indian territory in the Kalapani area on the India-China-Nepal trijunction as belonging to it, thereby raking up a new territorial dispute. This is in keeping with Chinese president Xi Jinping’s newfound aggressive stance in the South China Sea with some Southeast Asian countries and China’s assertion of territorial claims as opposed to Japanese sovereignty in the east China seas. That India has rejected the Nepalese claim in no uncertain terms is as it should be but that Kathmandu’s communist government chose to rake up a phoney claim exposes an ominous intent. That the diplomatic route to a solution has been jettisoned is an index of Chinese dictation to Nepal. Facing increasing pressure on non-performance within his country, Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Oli is playing even more aggressively the China card against India.
Administrative and revenue records dating from the late 1800s prove that Kalapani was indeed part of India’s Pithoragarh district and there was never a dispute raised by Nepal over it. What is new is that India decided to construct a new road to Kailash Mansarovar, a place of pilgrimage which until now was only accessible through two long and difficult routes via either Nathu La or Nepal. Sino-Indian trade is also likely to gain from this road. Besides, the control of the Kalapani trijunction essentially provides India with a strategic advantage in case of an invasion. India must indeed nip the so-called dispute in the bud through swift, meaningful talks.