Kalapani dispute: Handle with care
Nepal is agitated after the government of India released its political map keeping Kalapani area in its side. Four days after the release of the Indian map, Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) released a press statement objecting to India’s incorporation of Kalapani in its map. However, the press statement seems immature as there is no authorized signature underneath. Similarly, the language used in the statement does not give clear message regarding Nepal’s stance.
Meantime, Raveesh Kumar, Official Spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs of India, has clearly said that the map released by India is accurate and Kalapani comes under the territory of India. Some Nepali leaders are invoking the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 forged between Nepal and the then East India Company regarding control on Kalapani. Government of Nepal in the face of anti-Indian sentiments should handle the situation smartly and commit to smooth running of Nepal-India relationship.
Three things regarding this dispute need to be pondered upon: vandalism orchestrated by student and youth wings of Nepali Congress (NC) and Nepal Communist Party (NCP), NCP government’s inaction and mysterious silence of Nepal government over Chinese encroachment of Nepali land.
Last week onwards youth leaders of NC and NCP have been demonstrating against the political map of India, objecting to placement of Kalapani inside India. But their modus operandi is quite objectionable. Chanting slogans like “Back off India” and abusing Indian citizens in Nepal are offensive acts. Burning the effigy of Indian Prime Minister and vandalizing the gate of the Embassy of India will not help solve the issue. Such acts of NC and NCP have disgraced Nepali leaders at the global arena. Rather than pouring venom on India, youth leaders of leading political parties should ask their leaders how they allowed Kalapani to be a part of India. What were they doing when China and India came to Kalapani border?
Coinciding with recent brouhaha on Kalapani, several media outlets have published accounts of China encroaching upon Nepali land in Sankhuwasabha, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Humla districts. A news website in Nepal has mentioned that ‘around six hectors of land in the Bhagdare River in Humla district and four hectors of land in Karnali have been encroached upon by China’. The news portal has published the news story on the basis of data obtained from Department of Survey. Nepal’s silence over Chinese aggression is deafening. The scribe does not intend to say that Nepal can allow any country to encroach upon its land just because another country has done it. However, staking claim of Nepali sovereignty must not be selective.
The reason for Nepal government not being able to stand its ground is because of Chinese domination. China also has its deep concerns regarding Kalapani, Lipu-lekh and Limpiyadhura dispute. In such scenario, Nepal speaking up can ire China as well. Those areas are immensely critical from security point of view and Nepal needs to think twice before taking any steps. It should point out China as an aggressor like India.
I think Nepal government must have known that just a couple of days ago few members of Chinese think tank and director of Shanghai-based China Institute of Fudan were in Nepal and they said that India has encroached upon China’s land too. Is it a good time to organize such dialogue programme in Nepal? Or is this China’s strategy to add fuel to the fire?
Government of Nepal needs to do two major things as soon as possible. First, the government should not allow any unwanted activities against its southern neighbour. The government must be careful to stop any sponsored agitation against India. Second, Prime Minister KP Oli must be serious in commencing dialogue with India rather than uttering irresponsible statements for public consumption.
Nepal should not allow one neighbour to score brownie points against the other. It needs to maintain equidistance with both its neighbours.
Published on 20 November 2019