Internationalising border dispute: Not a good idea

Dr. Atindra Dahal


Border dispute with India has dominated media headlines recently. India has committed cartographic aggression over few places (approximately 392 square km) of western Nepal. There have been demands to bring forth the agenda to the United Nations or the International Court of Justice.

Some analysts opine that this is the best opportunity to name and shame India internationally. Boldly doing this can help bring anticipated outcome, they say. Lest not, India, at no request, either listens Nepal or ceases to pose big-brother attitude plunging us into catch 22, they urge. Archive evinces that some cases regarding border disputes have been prosecuted for ICJ’s jurisdiction. Kenya Vs Somalia (2012), Libya Vs Chad (1990), Belize and Guatemala (2008), Nicaragua Vs Republic of Honduras (1999), Niger Vs Burkina Faso (2013) are some to worrisomely catch wider attention. Ergo, following the same over recently tailored dispute may have been assumed as an obsessed priority.

Nonetheless, every popular issue won’t be always rational too. Famous scholar Robin Sharma on his book ‘Who will Cry When You Die’ alarms people to muse many times before speaking or taking any action. The advice elegantly fits here as worthy reference for umpteen reasons.

Dispute should not be hurriedly and hastily internationalized. No heavy dose of heartlessness and uncomfortable highhandedness should be forged. We should wait on trying with other modest methods of negotiation and mutual dialogue on noble cause of settling the ruffle with consent, confidence and complacency of each other. At least a dozen of strong basis understandably tender the ground to assimilate that we ought not to be much hyped and awkwardly mired at taking it on the global front.

Not Good at All

First, this is an opportunity to present prudence and prowess of resolving the issue ourselves. Doing so makes our prestige high in international level as well as ensures an accruing psychological satisfaction among citizen as well. But pushing it on court of International Court proves us incapable and having no calibre to address the ruffle self. This move unfolds our incapacity and inaction needed for the moot. Book titled ‘Border and Territorial Disputes’ by Judith Day and Allan Bell regards self-served approach as the best and beautiful method to heal such a deal.

Second, the maps presented from our sides are so controversial that not any standard and uniformed evidence is ready. From 1816 to 2016, much asymmetric maps are sketched and published regarding borders. On which basis shall we file a petition and solicit jurisdiction? It may enervate our legal ground.

Third, India has clearly expressed repudiation and extended statement of denial to face ICJ on border dispute. So, no any border confrontation of India with other nations shall be subject of hearing in ICJ as India has yet not been signatory for such provision.

Forth, there shall be easy access to the third party to have overarching presence and manipulation over Nepal. It avails ground for many international agencies, panels, forces and forums come to Nepal, take space and make stronghold on Nepal and its land to use us for their purpose. Then, we ought to cost to negotiate and face their micro-management at every deal.

Fifth, it debunks highly touted pragmatic legal system. Oriental civilization and resolution methods noticeably rely on modus operandi of arbitration but not on litigation system of justice as given heightened priority these days. Internationalizing it makes a side winner thus places us in endless rivalry and hostility. Lifelong angularities and enmity will be cultivated, feeling of revenges arises. Century long harmony and pact get destroyed over the night.

Sixth, it is foundational necessity that both countries should have negotiated often and have failed to reach to an undeniably agreeable resolution in order to internationalize any issue. The condition is never so and India has expressed repeated readiness to sit for dialogue. Even the recent response from India over our government’s note reconfirms the counter-side’s willingness.

Seventh, there has been nil work to raise Nepalese sentiment among the residents of said encroached zone. How does their emotion count once resolution takes on? Provided the body to settle the ruffle decides to care and count the views of denizens on the disputed land, will that make any weight on our side?

Eighth, decision of ICJ will be advisory, not obligatory and binding. The procedure is so lengthy, complex and technically uphill task that we can hardly afford financially, administratively and legally while mooting.

Ninth, taking the ruffle on global front lets us have promotion, but not necessarily the desired result. Do we look for upshot or mere a promotion? Let’s not overlook the reality.

Tenth, big-power nation will have big-power alliance. Goat hordes for goat, and so does a sheep. Most of ICJ members and bench fellow may support to and incline at side of super power. There may be many other points of power to manipulate the decision.

Eleventh, it hampers the harmony, foils the fabric of society, trade and vector of life for mass. Nepal is heavily relying on India on every micro to macro level need i.e. 90 percent of international trade and 80 plus percent import is from her and rest comes through her. About 2 million Nepalese are in short-term seasonal employment in India. Any irrational and hasty step may annoy a lot tending to cause larger harms.

Twelfth, being hurried to internationalize it, India will seldom have moral pressure and ethical obligation to proactively resolve issue in amicable manner. Rather, it may try to lobby and manipulate international community thus may earn relatively larger leverage and stronghold to granulate us. Therefore, let’s not wage suicidal scandal but wisely act ahead!


Way-out ahead

We should try to sit in dialogue, appeal through every means. We should take Indian apparatus like university people, students, entrepreneurs and lawyers to request and pressure their government to not harm, hurt and hegemonize over Nepal. Besides G2G, other channels like E2E and P2P may pivotally work. Track 2 diplomacy can be enormously instrumental.

India being global power should take neighbours in confidence and company. This step might sufficiently discourage neighbouring nations endorse the motion positively when India tailors its candidacy in the UN Security Council. Owing to these facts, if we raise issue confidently and soberly, India may present lenient enough readiness to resolve the ruffle through gentle-men assembly and efforts.

Many such disputes are resolved through diplomatic dialogue. And still, being passionate enough to engage into very method shall credit us with output as needed. Various researches chart a data that among approximately 150 such disputes, more than 95 percent are bilaterally settled. We should mainstream ourselves as well.

Better and beneficial negotiation, as soft power trick in lieu with Joseph S Nye on his landmark piece ‘Soft Power: A Means to Control the World Politics’, credits us capaciously. Let’s try honest and humble bi-lateral means. Riding through other ways may turn to be harsh and harmful as well.

The writer holds a PhD in Issues of Nation Building.

Published on 27 January 2020