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July 8, 2020

Why can’t India live peacefully with neighbours?

Islamabad

July 8, 2020

India is one country that has confronted all its neighbours at one time or the other; it has been in permanent confrontation with some countries including Pakistan and China and has fought several wars with them. Now India’s tension with China is mounting in Galwan Valley. Surely, the Nepalese government must be realizing it now that the Indian tendency is to sneak and occupy territories of neighbouring countries or try to put them under pressure one way or the other. The building of a link road in Kalapani in Nepali territory was just one episode in this direction.

Since 2015, India-Nepal relations have been historically low when New Delhi mounted an economic blaockade of the landlocked country. On the other hand, China and Nepal’s bilateral relationship has been on an upward trajectory in recent times. In October 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Himalayan nation, the first time in 23 years.

The dispute emerged after the Indian forces built and Indian defence minister inaugurated the 80-km-long Lipulekh road through video conferencing on May 8, 2020. Nepal protested against India’s road inauguration and the Nepalese foreign minister summoned the Indian ambassador based in Kathmandu, rather an unprecedented event, and sent a diplomatic note expressing deep concerns over the occupation of territory.

The disputed area, roughly 35 square kilometres, is in Kalapani territory in western Uttarakhand, Pithoragarh district, which is claimed by Nepal. The British had acquired the above Nepali area after the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1816 but did not return it at the time of Partition. The Nepal government is not taking the Indian incursion lying down. As diplomatic relations between India and Nepal have deteriorated, the Nepalese government published a new map of the Nepal territory for the first time, including places like Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani. It has also sent armed police to the area and set up border out-posts there. The Nepal prime minister has even claimed that India wants him out.

On the other hand, India’s Army Chief General M.M. Naravane was quick to blame China for the trouble. He claimed that that the diplomatic objection made by Nepal to India’s newly-constructed link road near its tri-junction with China and Nepal was likely at the behest of “someone else”. The mindset in New Delhi is that Pakistan and China create troubles and friction for India, who is blameless. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali said the decision to send a diplomatic note to India on the link road was not Chinese; rather it was “based on internal decision-making”.

Tuneer Mukherjee in Indian media has advised the Indian government: “The political tension surrounding the Kalapani dispute demonstrates, that New Delhi cannot continue to remain complacent vis-à-vis Kathmandu’s demand for resolution of the dispute. New Delhi needs to step-up its diplomatic outreach before this escalates further in the international arena. In future, the Indian strategic establishment needs to be pro-active in its dealings with neighboring countries to avoid giving any quarter to China in the region.”

India, in pursuit of anti-China moves, is now claiming that China is using increased road construction in Tibet to encroach on Nepali land and may set up border outposts in these areas. One report in Indian media stated: “New Delhi is evaluating strategic implications following China’s decision to allegedly occupy parts of Nepal’s territory amid Ladakh faceoff. New Delhi is evaluating the exact location of the Chinese encroachment in Nepal and its proximity to the Indian border and whether the move was made in connivance with a section of the political leadership in Kathmandu or by taking the KP Sharma Oli OIi government for a ride.” India is also claiming that Nepal’s belligerent and pro-China government is making anti-India moves, warning it that in China’s orbit it would pay a price in terms of its autonomy. Nevertheless, the Nepal government remains on a collision course with India.