Foreign Policy Watch: India-Nepal

India-Nepal dispute over Kalapani RegionPriority 1

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Kalapani Region

Mains level : India-Nepal relations and the Chinese hinderance


Nepal has protested against India’s inauguration of a Himalayan link road built in a disputed territory which falls at a strategic three-way junction with Tibet and China. Kathmandu claims the highly strategic areas of Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, although Indian troops have been deployed there since the 1962 war.

Practice question for mains:

Q. The India-Nepal bilateral relations these days are increasingly seen through the lens of China factor. Examine.

Kalapani Region

  • Mapped within Uttarakhand is a 372-sq km area called Kalapani, bordering far-west Nepal and Tibet.
  • A treaty signed between Nepal and British India in 1816 determined the Makhali river, that runs through Kalapani, as the boundary between the two neighbours.
  • The Treaty of Sugauli concluded between British India and the Kingdom of Nepal in the year 1816, maps the Makhali river as the western boundary with India but different British maps showed the source of the tributary at different places which was mainly due to underdeveloped and less-defined surveying techniques used at that time.
  • However, the river has many tributaries that meet at Kalapani. For this reason, India claims that the river begins at Kalapani but Nepal says that it begins from Lipu Lekh pass, which is the source of most of its tributaries.
  • While the Nepal government and political parties have protested, India has said the new map does not revise the existing boundary with Nepal.
  • India claims that the river begins at Kalapani but Nepal says that it begins from Lipu Lekh pass, which is the source of most of its tributaries.

Legal Dimension of Issue

According to International Laws, the principles of avulsion and accretion are applicable in determining the borders when a boundary river changes course.

  • Avulsion: It is the pushing back of the shoreline by sudden, violent action of the elements, perceptible while in progress. Also it can be defined as the sudden and perceptible change in the land brought about by water, which may result in the addition or removal of land from a bank or shoreline.
  • Accretion: It is the process of growth or enlargement by a gradual buildup. It is the natural, slow and gradual deposit of soil by the water.

If the change of the river course is rapid – by avulsion – the boundary does not change. But if the river changes course gradually – that is, by accretion – the boundary changes accordingly.

Since, the Gandak change of course has been gradual, India claimed Susta as part of their territory as per international laws.

  • On several occasions, India has tried to resolve the issue through friendly and peaceful negotiations, but the Nepali leadership has always shown hesitation in resolving the issue.
  • In Nepal, the issue has become a tool for arousing strong public sentiment against India. Therefore, resolving the issue may not be in the best interest of Nepal’s domestic politics.

Significance for India

  • The Lipu Lekh pass serves strategic importance for India as a key point to monitor Chinese troop movement.
  • The link road via Lipulekh Himalayan Pass is also considered one of the shortest and most feasible trade routes between India and China.
  • The Nepalese reaction would probably have triggered in response to Chinese assertion.

An undefined boundary claimed by Nepal

  • Nepal’s western boundary with India was marked out in the Treaty of Sugauli between the East India Company and Nepal in 1816.
  • Nepali authorities claim that people living in the low-density area were included in the Census of Nepal until 58 years ago.
  • Five years ago, Nepali Foreign Minister Mahendra Bahadur Pande claimed that the late King Mahendra had “handed over the territory to India”.
  • By some accounts in Nepal, this allegedly took place in the wake of India-China War of 1962.

Treaty of Saguali

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