Kalapani dispute: A rare opportunity for Nepal to turn map to reality
When the sun, moon and the earth arrive in the same line, we observe the eclipse. This is the time that Nepal is observing the eclipse. One of the many beliefs is that these three outstanding members of the solar system arriving at the same line producing this uncommon, if not rare, event of eclipse is a time to get over with the sins one has committed during whole their life.
Nepal has arrived at this very rare juncture, I would call it a rare opportunity, to correct its mistake it had made some sixty years ago, during the 1960s after the Sino-Indian war. To cut the whole story short, it is the then government that forced the sixteen border army posts from India to evacuate from Nepal in 1970 but one. This one border post made its permanent stay at the Kalapani region of Nepal, which eventually became the headache for Nepal.
For long the Nepali side had not been able to show its presence in the region due to the weather extremes around the region while the Indian side put its best efforts to settle the army post there since it realized the strategic importance of the region. It eventually claimed the whole region of a little less than 400 square kilometers as lying within Indian borders.
The area had long been occupied by Indian border security force and Nepal had turned its blind eye towards it. However, a new political map of India unveiled in the late 2019 included the region within the Indian map became an eye opener for Nepal. The Nepal Government could not stay mute due to the widespread pressure from the common public who came to the streets chanting BACK OFF INDIA, STOP IMPERIALISM and KALAPANI-LIPULEKH-LIMPIADHURA REGION IS OURS. Not only were the main streets in Nepal bustled with the crowd but also did the Indian Embassies around the globe receive same kinds of responses from Nepalese staying abroad. The issue got into shadow with time especially after the Nepal government promised its citizens that a bilateral diplomatic and/or political dialogue would be initiated to deal with the border issue.
However, the recent live video inauguration of the 80 km long Link Road to Mansarovar Yatra by the Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh added insult to injury for the Nepali side. Not only did the patriot public reappeared in the street amidst the COVID-19 pandemic fear but also did the government respond quickly by sending a diplomatic note to the Indian counterpart asserting its dissatisfaction over the inauguration of the road that is built through the territory of Nepal without Nepal’s notice, let alone approval. Going a step forward the government of Nepal made a cabinet decision to release an updated map of Nepal which included Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, and Lipulekh within its territory that is to come into force in everyday use besides being circulated to all the diplomatic missions in Nepal.
Soon after this, the Indian government released its counterstatement not only refuting Nepal’s claim over the region but also claiming that the region has always been India’s part. The hypocritical Indian media took this stunt of hypersensitizing the issue especially after the Bollywood actress of Nepali origin Manisha Koirala praised Nepal’s firm stance on the issue and tweeted that the border issue should be resolved in a tripartite dialogue between Nepal, India and China since the road connects all the three nations. The media went on accusing Manisha Koirala of turning her back to India, the country that gave her the stardom and went even further of falling a prey to the Chinese conspiracy. Some of the prime Indian think tanks also followed media’s footsteps accusing Nepal of acting with the backing of Beijing.
Shall Nepal produce all its evidences and back its claim of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiadhura region as its territory in the international arena India shall immediately retreat its troop from the Nepali soil.
In so doing, however, they completely disrespected the sovereignty of Nepal and its citizens. Whereas people are fearful to go to grocery stores in most of the countries the citizens of Nepal congregated in the streets and in front of the Indian embassy with no respect to the horror of the pandemic. This should be a very clear message to the Indian think tank, media, bureaucracy and the government that Nepalis can tolerate anything but not any attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of their motherland. Shall Nepal produce all its evidences and back its claim of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiadhura region as its territory in the international arena India shall immediately retreat its troop from the Nepali soil. Not to mention, those people who conducted census in villages like Byash, Nabi, Tinker etc. of the region are still alive and they are the living evidences of how the region is a part of Nepal. India might have crookedly seized some of the documentary evidences proving the region falls within the border of Nepal. However, there are still people with determinations in Nepal who shall prove that the evidences smuggled are not all and enough for India to disprove Nepal’s claim.
Clearly India seems have chosen to threaten Nepal through the likes of General G.D. Bakshi, Sayd Zafer Islam-the national spokesperson of BJP and the media on top of the counterstatement released by the Ministry of External Affairs rejecting Nepal’s new map.
Although India has been asserting the relationship between Nepal and India of a unique kind, i.e. Roti-Beti relationship (bread and bride relationship) in no time in the history has India respected this relationship honestly. There had been treaties and agreements against Nepal’s interest. Oftentimes promises made have gone in vain and proved ineffective. There are Indian monopolies in main rivers of Nepal, thanks to the selfish Nepali leaders, who signed such treaties and agreement against the interest of Nepali people. But time has changed, and Nepalese are no longer ignorant of their rights and geographical advantage on natural resources. Sooner or later such generations would come into power who would look into all such crooked agreements and treaties that keep Nepal on the losing side.
Despite all such frustrations towards the ruling Indian class, the common Indian people are still loved by the Nepalese since it is among these common people the relationship of Roti-Beti exists and such relationships have not yet built border between them. There had been times in the history when Nepal had tolerated inhuman blockades from the Indian rulers. The timings were such that Nepal would already be in grave situations like the blockade in 2015 in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake. Similar was the situation when on the one hand there had been political movements demanding multi-party democracy on one hand and on the other an earthquake had recently hit when the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi forced a blockade in 1989. Every time Nepal is in some sort of turmoil, India has taken the best advantage out of it; be it the Koshi agreement, the Gandaki agreement, or the Mahakali agreement. General Bakshi recently said how India backed and assisted the Maoists to destabilize Nepal and how they acted secretly in helping the Maoists to come into power.
Having mentioned all these instances, one cannot completely disregard the special relationship between Nepal and India, and it is the responsibility of either side to keep this relationship ticking. And India being larger in size has to come forward displaying its heart of similar size. Contrary to this, India had mostly been a neighbor one can neither trust nor rely upon.
Having said all this, it is still through dialogues that the current border dispute shall be resolved. India is roughly 22 times bigger than Nepal and therefore as an ordinary Nepali citizen I do not see any point of India encroaching Nepal’s territory. India has to believe that Nepal is still its trusted South Asian neighbor; however, it has acted occasionally in eroding this layer of trust. It is very evident that if India keeps its imperialistic mindset and not respect Nepal’s sovereignty and territorial integrity Nepal would distance itself from India, which would harm India. Besides, if India believes that it is an atomic superpower in the region and threatens Nepal on being militarily weaker the result will be even devastating since it is not only the soldiers and the arms that resist but it is the love of its people to its motherland and the passion to continue loving it. Not long in the history had the superpower of the world, the United States of America, had to bear a major loss in Vietnam ever since its supremacy especially after the World war II. Truth cannot have been hidden from India that while India had been under the rule of Alexander the Great, the Mughals, the British Raj, and what not Nepal had still been a sovereign and virgin land that successfully resisted all such attempts against its sovereignty. History of brave Gorkhas had been ascribed in monuments and carved in stones even in different nooks and corners of India too.
Nepal still bleeds from the fact that it lost about 105,000 square kilometers of land to the British in the Sugauli Treaty and India has been its beneficiary. Any coercion from India would make the wound of Nepalis worse and if the increasing pain turns to hatred of Nepalis towards the Indian rulers, the demand that Nepal shall raise its voice for Greater Nepal would mark its appearance in the political discussion. This would be catastrophic for Indian rulers; therefore, it is the message of peace, kindness and tranquility that both these countries shall adhere to to keep this age-old relationship between these neighbouring countries intact.
The writer is currently studying International Relations and Global Studies at Roskilde University in Denmark.
Published on 24 May 2020