Nepal must create a ‘positive atmosphere’ for talks: Officials

Updated on Jun 16, 2020 04:26 AM IST

The Indian side has repeatedly conveyed its readiness to discuss the issue, with the latest offer for talks between foreign secretaries of the two sides being made around the time the Nepal government tabled a constitutional amendment in Parliament on May 31 to give legal backing to the country’s new map.

Nepal's House of Representatives members sign as they vote on an amendment to update the national emblem with a new controversial political map in Kathmandu on June 13, 2020.(AFP)
Nepal's House of Representatives members sign as they vote on an amendment to update the national emblem with a new controversial political map in Kathmandu on June 13, 2020.(AFP)
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By

The onus is on the KP Sharma Oli government in Nepal to create a “positive and conducive atmosphere” for talks with India to resolve the border row over the Kalapani-Lipulekh region, people familiar with developments said on Monday.

The Indian side has repeatedly conveyed its readiness to discuss the issue, with the latest offer for talks between foreign secretaries of the two sides being made around the time the Nepal government tabled a constitutional amendment in Parliament on May 31 to give legal backing to the country’s new map, they said on condition of anonymity.

The Indian side didn’t receive any response to these overtures and it is now up to the Oli government to create the positive environment needed for talks, the people said.

“As recently as when the [constitutional amendment] bill was being tabled in [Nepal’s] Parliament and before that, India offered a phone call and a video-conference between the foreign secretaries and visits of the foreign secretaries. However, the Nepalese side didn’t respond to the offer and went ahead with passing the bill,” one of the people cited above said.

“The onus is now on them to create a positive and conducive atmosphere for talks,” the person added.

The people said Nepal’s unilateral action of issuing a new map that includes Indian territory has created a difficult situation and “pre-judged the outcome of any talks”. It also wasn’t clear why Oli or his government hadn’t told the Nepalese people or Parliament about the Indian offers for talks, they said.

Nepalese officials have said they made three offers for talks to India between last November and May but got no response.

The border row erupted last month after India opened an 80-km road to Lipulekh on the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region to facilitate pilgrims going to Kailash Mansarovar.

Nepal lodged a strong protest and the government issued a new map that showed Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepalese territory. A constitutional amendment to give legal backing to the map was passed by the lower house of Nepal’s Parliament last week and is set to be taken up by the upper house this week.

The people said almost 98% of the 1,750-km land and riverine border between India and Nepal has been delineated and differences remain only in the Kalapani sector in Uttarakhand and Susta sector in Bihar. Nepal’s “shifting” claims are contrary to the Treaty of Sugauli signed in 1815 by Nepal and the British, a ruling by the British governor-general in 1817, and Nepal’s boundary treaty with China of 1961 and protocols signed by these two countries in 1963 and 1979, they added.

“Their new map is not based on facts and evidence. The Nepalese government decided to form an expert team to find and collect evidence to establish its ownership in Kalapani up to Limpiyadhura and in Susta area after publishing the map and passing the bill in the lower house,” the person cited above said.

Describing Nepal’s new map as a “tool for political gains”, the person added: “The Nepalese government’s unilateral act of updating the map and the hasty effort to amend the constitution in Parliament reflect the intention of Prime Minister Oli and his government to politicise the boundary issue.

“These actions do not reflect any seriousness on their part to resolve the issue through dialogue, and these actions are myopic and self-serving to further a limited political agenda.”

Despite the border row, India remains committed to cooperating with Nepal on key humanitarian and connectivity projects, including rail links, and on the Covid-19 crisis, the people said. So far, India has provided medicines and equipment worth more than Rs 4.5 crore to Nepal to fight the coronavirus pandemic, they said.

The people also dismissed Oli’s repeated comments that Covid-19 was being spread in Nepal by people coming from India, describing them as “false and distorted”. Only a small portion of the 8 million Nepalese citizens living in India had returned home, they said. They noted that even as the constitutional amendment regarding the map was being discussed in Parliament, there were protests in Kathmandu over the Oli government’s handling of the pandemic.

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