Nepalese PM’s comment on disputed areas sparks unease along Pithoragarh border
- The Pithoragarh District Magistrate said border patrolling agencies are on alert as always even as the border crossing points remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After months of calm in Lipulekh, Luimpiyadhura and Kalapani near the Indo-Nepal border in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district, there is unease after Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on Sunday said the country would “take back” the three disputed areas from India.
The three places had first come under limelight after India inaugurated a road connecting Dharchula to Lipulekh near border with the Tibet Autonomous Region in China to facilitate pilgrims going to Kailash Mansarovar on May 8 last year.
After Sunday's development, political events have also increased in the Darchula district of Nepal sharing the border with Pithoragarh district where all three disputed areas are located. The Nepal government is also carrying out its own road construction project - the 87-km long Darchula-Tinkar road on its own side of the border after India's move.
According to the officials, there are seven villages in the three areas with a total population of about 6,000. Amid the border dispute, they had asserted that they are Indians since ages and Nepal has no authority over the three areas.
"After PM Oli's statement on Sunday, a political event was held in a village near the border in Darchula on Monday by the leaders of the ruling Nepal Communist Party," a district administration officer said on condition of anonymity.
“In the event which was also attended by a senior official of the Nepalese government, a local leader of the ruling party delivered a provocative speech urging the people of the area to be united to take back these areas from India," said the officer.
Five border crossing points between the two countries in Pithoragarh have been closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Residents on the Indian side of the border say Oli's statement would "create unwanted political tension on the other side of the border."
"The people on both sides of the border have good relations with each other as they have been crossing over for years for trade and other social events. Now, after the issue has flared up again, there will be tension which is not good for people on either side of the border, who don’t want any politics. We have been part of India and will always remain so," said Gurendra Samwal, a resident of Gunji village near Indo-Nepal border.
When contacted, district magistrate Pithoragarh, Vijay Jogdande, said, "We can't do anything much or worry about developments on the Nepal side."
"There may be political events on that side over the border issue, but we can't do anything about it. The border patrolling agencies are on alert as always even as the border crossing points remain closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic," said Jogdande.
Despite several attempts the chief district officer (equivalent to district magistrate) of Nepal’s Darchula district could not be connected for a response.
The relations between the two countries came under strain after Nepal’s Parliament on June 18 passed a constitutional amendment under which it unanimously voted to endorse the new political map showing the disputed areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepal following India's move of constructing a new road connecting Lipulekh in Pithoragarh.
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