India downplays Nepal’s provocation over border dispute

File Photo: Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

New Delhi: A miffed India today downplayed a provocation from Nepal, made ostensibly at the behest of China, as the Himalayan country approved a map showing parts of Indian territory as its own.

The controversy over the map, showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as Nepalese territory amidst a border dispute with India, has been raging for a while even as India expressed the hope that the matter would be resolved through dialogue.

However, Nepal, a long-time ally, decided to go ahead with the controversial move, which has soured relations between the South-Asian neighbours.

“We have noted that the House of Representatives of Nepal has passed a Constitution Amendment Bill for changing the map of Nepal to include parts of Indian territory,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

“This artificial enlargement of claims is not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable. It is also violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues,” he said.

Nepal has had deep relations with India, which shares a significant two-thirds role in its trade and provides cent percent oil supplies. The revised map had raised several eyebrows in the Indian establishment, which was able to identify China as the probable instigator, but did not name the country.

Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane had recently remarked that Nepal was probably protesting “at someone else’s behest”.

Significantly, India is engaged with China, both diplomatically and militarily, to resolve the ongoing border dispute along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh after the China’s People’s Liberation Army pushed troops to the defacto borders, pitched tents and built defence structures in a show of aggression.

The Lipulekh pass is the western point near Kalapani over which both India and Nepal lay their claim. India says it is part of Uttarakhand state’s Pithoragrh district, while Nepal maintains the land is part of Dharchula district.

At the heart of the controversy is a road connecting Lipulekh and Dharchula in Uttarakhand that India says will facilitate the annual pilgrimage to the Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet that passes through Nepal.

Nepal had earlier offered to provide the facility of a road on the same route on a lease basis but without any territorial rights over the land mass. India, however, went ahead with its road construction, provoking both China and Nepal in the process. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the 80-km stretch of the road on May 8.

“The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra,” Anurag Srivastava had previously said.

The souring of the India-Nepal relations over the past month had also been reflected in the form of Nepalese Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli‘s recent illogical remarks that India was responsible that the Indian virus was deadlier than the Chinese variant or the Italian strain.

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