Nepal’s Constitution & Emerging Developments

Nepal’s Constitution & Emerging Developments

Explained: History of India and Nepal’s border issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Bilateral Relations; Neighbouring countries; India and Nepal;

Mains level: Neighbouring countries; India and Nepal; Border issues with Nepal;

Why in the News? 

Nepal’s Cabinet last week decided to put a map on its Rs 100 currency note showing certain areas administered by India in Uttarakhand as part of its territory.

  • India’s External Affairs Ministry said that such “unilateral measures” by Kathmandu would not change the reality on the ground.

Genesis of the issue: 

Territorial dispute: The territorial dispute is about a 372-sq-km area that includes Limpiadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani at the India-Nepal-China trijunction in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district. Nepal has claimed for long that these areas belong to it both historically and evidently.
  • Treaty of Sugauli (1815-16): This treaty marked the end of the Anglo-Nepalese War and resulted in Nepal ceding significant territories to the British East India Company, including lands east of the Kali River. Article 5 of the treaty delineated the boundary along the river, thereby affecting Nepal’s jurisdiction over the area.
  • Historical division: Maps issued by the British Surveyor General of India in the 19th and early 20th centuries depicted the Kali River as originating from Limpiadhura. These maps served as crucial references for defining territorial boundaries between Nepal and British India.
  • Depiction of Kali River: Maps from different periods showed variations in the depiction of the Kali River, with some using the name “Kuti Yangti” and others referring to it as the Kali River. Additionally, discrepancies emerged regarding the river’s exact origin point, with some maps showing different sources.
  • Map issued by Britisher (1947): The last map issued by the British before they left India in 1947 reverted to showing the initial position of the Kali River originating in Limpiadhura, indicating a reaffirmation of the historical boundary according to British cartographic records.

Argument given by Nepal to claim land:

  • According to Shrestha, villages in this area — Gunji, Nabhi, Kuti, and Kalapani, also known as Tulsi Nyurang and Nabhidang — were covered by the Nepal government census until 1962, and the people paid land revenue to the government in Kathmandu.
    • However, the situation changed after the war between India and China in 1962.
  • Nepal also says that then Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru approached King Mahendra of Nepal asking for permission to use Kalapani, which was strategically located close to the trijunction, as a base for the Indian Army.
  • Prominent personalities representing Nepal in bilateral talks have claimed that India has made assurances regarding the resolution of border disputes if Nepal could provide evidence for its claims.
  • Despite assurances and agreements to expedite the resolution process, progress has been slow or stalled.

Frictions in Bilateral Ties:

  • From 2005-2014: The period from 2005 to 2014 saw India mediating Nepal’s transition from a Hindu Kingdom to a secular federal republic.
    • However, tensions arose in 2015 when Nepal’s Maoist Party rejected India’s suggestion to delay the adoption of a new constitution until the concerns of the Terai parties were addressed.
    • The subsequent 134-day blockade by India in September 2015 exacerbated distrust and led Nepal to seek alternative trade routes, including agreements with China.
  • During 2020: Nepal’s inclusion of disputed territories, such as the 372 square kilometres in Uttarakhand, in its new map in 2020 escalated tensions with India. While Nepal aimed to assert sovereignty over these areas, India condemned the move as “cartographic aggression.”
    • Despite India’s stance that the issue should be resolved diplomatically based on evidence, no concrete steps have been taken to address the dispute.
  • During 2024: The decision by Nepal’s cabinet to include the new map on its currency notes in 2024 has reignited tensions between the two countries.
India-Nepal Border Dispute

Way Forward:

  • Need for Dialogue: While both India and Nepal agree on the need to resolve territorial disputes through dialogue and evidence-based discussions, there has been no concrete progress in scheduling meetings or setting a timeframe for resolution.
  • Need for Dispute settlement: Nepal has successfully resolved boundary issues with China in the past through bilateral meetings of the boundary commission. However, the unresolved disputes with India highlight the importance of timely and effective diplomatic engagement to prevent future complications and ensure peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours.
  • Joint Border Commission: Establishing a joint border commission comprising representatives from both countries can facilitate a systematic review of historical documents, maps, and evidence related to territorial claims.

Mains PYQ: 

Q Border management is a complex task due to difficult terrain and hostile relations with some countries. Elucidate the challenges and strategies for effective border management.

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