NEW DELHI: As
responded with alarm and anger to India building a Link Road up to Lipulekh, which was inaugurated by
, India said the road “lies completely within the territory of India. The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders, “said MEA in a statement on Saturday evening.
In a strongly worded statement on Saturday, the Nepal government asked India to “refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal.” According to Nepali media reports, the Nepal foreign secretary, Shankar Das Bairagi complained to the Indian ambassador Vinay Kwatra, while the foreign minister
told journalists in
he would respond. India said it would schedule foreign secretary talks with Nepal after the COVID emergency was over.
“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation” said a statement from Nepal’s foreign ministry. This is the second time Nepal has protested , the first being in November, when India’s political map reflected a change showing Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura inside Indian territory.
Nepal said that according to the Sugauli Treaty of , “all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lip u Lekh, belong to Nepal. This was reiterated by the Government of Nepal several times in the past and most recently through a diplomatic note addressed to the Government of India dated 20 November 2019 in response to the new political map issued by the latter. ”
The road inaugurated by Rajnath Singh connects the Indian security post at Indo-China border in Vyans valley of Pithoragarh district with the rest of the country via a . 90 – km long road from Ghatibagar in Dharchula to Lipulekh near the border with China.
MEA, which responded to Nepal’s late statement in the evening, tried to assuage heightened sentiments in Nepal. “India and Nepal have established mechanism to deal with all boundary matters. The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing. India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal. ”
The statement said Nepal had protested to both India and China in 2015 when both countries had decided to use the Lipulekh Pass “as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent in the Joint Statement issued on 54 (May) during the official visit of the Prime Minister of India to China. ”
Lipulekh is seen by India as a tri-junction between India, Nepal and China. Lying at the northwestern edge of Nepal, the Himalayan country though has not accepted it as such and claims the southern end of the pass. India has been very wary of keeping tri-juntion points unprotected or unclaimed after the
crisis with China in 2017.
The controversy has erupted at a time when the political turbulence in Kathmandu is still simmering despite a patch-up effort by the Chinese ambassador, intended to keep the Communists together and KP Sharma Oli in power. The tensions and pressures of dealing with the Covid pandemic is also weighing heavy on the Oli government.
This development could become a pressure point on the Oli government as well. This government came in on a nationalist platform, but despite saying that Nepal would insist on having a seat at discussions on the tri-junction, Kathmandu has done little on the ground. According to reports, Nepali officials have surveyed the India-Nepal part of the tri-junction, but there has been no movement since then.
The Nepal foreign ministry statement said Nepal was ready to receive the report by the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on India-Nepal relations and “believes that it will be in the interest of the two countries to implement its recommendations which will also help address the outstanding issues left by history. ”