IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 19th Aug 2020
“What would you do if you weren’t afraid.” –Spencer Johnson
EDITORIAL HUNT #116 :“India-Nepal Relations 2020“
Kanak Mani Dixit
Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is founding Editor of the magazine, ‘Himal Southasian’|(India-Nepal Relations 2020)
Time for India and Nepal to make up
The mending of the most exemplary inter-state relationship of South Asia must be as dramatic and rapid as the rupture
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 2 : IR
India-Nepal Relations urgently need top level bilateral talks for better socio-economic prosperity at both the sides. Comment -(GS 2)
- Current prospects of India-Nepal Relations
- Past Misadventures
- Claims and Counter effects
- A possible Solution for better engagement.
INDIA-NEPAL RELATIONS 2020
- THE NATIONALIST CLIMAX : Kathmandu’s polity bristled at the accusation adopted a new map which included Limpiyadhura.
- LESS COMMUNICATION : There has been much blood-letting over the past four months, with one side (India) petulant, the other angry.
- MEDIA COVERAGE : Some TV channels have targeted Nepal’s Prime Minister K.P. Oli with revolting coverage.
- RETALIATION : Nepal abandoned diplomatic decorum to question India’s commitment to ‘satyameva jayate’ and then claimed the true birthplace of Lord Ram was situated in present-day Nepal.
- STEPPING- UP : De-escalation must happen before the social, cultural and economic flows across the open border suffer long-term damage.
FEAR OF ABANDONMENT
- LIMPIYADHURA TANGLE : It would help them in unravelling the Limpiyadhura tangle and accepting the need to go back to the archival papers of the East India Company .
- OTHER ANGLE : From the Kathmandu perspective, Indian diplomacy seems increasingly unresponsive.
- GALWAN INTRUSION : With regard to China, New Delhi has nurtured a paralysing paranoia regarding the Himalayan range that goes back to the 1962 debacle.
- GEOPOLITICAL CAPACITY : Nepal, Bhutan and India’s own Himalayan tracts are regarded merely as strategic buffers under this ossified policy.
- ASSERTIVE STATE : A confident nation-state without fear of abandonment would have behaved differently on Limpiyadhura.
- DISPUTED TERRITORIES : The cause of the chasm between Kathmandu and Delhi relates to the disputed ownership of the triangle north of Kumaon, includes Limpiyadhura ridgeline, the Lipu Lek, and the Kalapani area.
Kathmandu’s implied acquiescence through its silence and the omission of Limpiyadhura on its own official maps.
- STANDING WITH SUGAULI : Nepal’s claim is centred on the Treaty of Sugauli (1815), whose language reads the “Rajah of Nipal renounces all claim to the countries lying to the west of the River Kali”.
- CARTOGRAPHIC MISADVENTURE : No agreement has superseded that treaty by the Company Sarkar or successor governments can undermine the 1815 document.
- OLD MEASUREMENTS : Essentially, Nepal wants to stay with what was considered the upstream Kali at the time of the treaty’s signing 205 years ago.
- BEFORE SINO-INDIA WAR : Land records were kept in Nepal’s district headquarters of Darchula and Baitadi until access was blocked in the 1960s by the Indian base at Kalapani.
- AFTER SINO-INDIA WAR : Kathmandu responded with sensitivity by allowing the Indian army post to be stationed within what was clearly its territory at Kalapani and not publicly demanding its withdrawal.
- POST WAR : Nepal preferred quiet diplomacy and that Kalapani had never been off the table since talks began in the early 1980s.
ROAD TO LIPU LEK
- DEMARCATION : A border demarcation team was able to delineate 98% of the 1,751 km Nepal-India frontier, but not Susta along the Gandaki flats and the upper tracts of the Kali.
- BORDER WORKING GROUP : In 2014, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj agreed to the establishment of a Border Working Group. It too failed to make headway.
- FOREIGN MINISTRIES : In August 2019, India’s Minister for External Affairs S. Jaishanker and Nepal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradip Gyawali assigned the task to the two Foreign Secretaries.
- UNTAMED DIPLOMACY : But diplomacy did not get a chance, with the Ministry of Defence with much fanfare, digitally ‘inaugurated’ the unfinished track to Lipu Lek on May 8.
- NEW MAP : Prime Minister Oli’s position became untenable, and he proceeded with the constitutional amendment to certify the new map.
- SPACE FOR FUTURE TALKS : Indian diplomats lobbied to keep Nepal’s Parliament from adopting the amendment, but Kathmandu needed it for the sake of cartographic parity with India in future talks.
DOUSING THE VOLCANO
- RE-ACTIVATION : Talks must be held, for which the video conference facility that has existed between the two Foreign Secretaries must be re-activated.
- INTER-DEPENDENCE : As the larger country, India may think it will hurt less, but only if it disregards its poorest citizens from Purvanchal to Bihar and Odisha, who rely on substantial remittance from Nepal.
- POLITICAL PRIORITY : Given political will at the topmost level, it should be possible to douse the Limpiyadhura volcano just as quickly as it has erupted.
- MAINTAIN STATUS QUO : While India’s Foreign Office has thankfully remained restrained in its statements, India is required to maintain status quo in the disputed area.
This means halting construction on the Lipu Lek track.
- BACK TO TABLE : The negotiating teams must meet with archival papers, treaties and agreements, administrative records, communications, maps and drawings.
- REDRAW THE MAP : The formal negotiations should begin with a public commitment on by both sides to redraw their respective maps according to the negotiated settlement as and when it happens.
- DECLARING PEACE ZONE : Not to prejudge the outcome, If Nepal were to gain full possession of Limpiyadhura, it should declare the area a ‘zone of peace and pilgrimage’.
- DEMILITARISED AREA : The larger area must be demilitarised by both neighbours to ensure security for themselves, while the Kailash-Manasarovar route is kept open for pilgrims.
There is an immediate need to de-escalate and compartmentalise.
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL | India-Nepal Relations 2020