India-Nepal diplomatic row escalates over Pithoragarh road

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Published : May 10, 2020, 11:35 AM IST

Rajnath Singh

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh through video conferencing inaugurated a road between Dharchula to Lipulekh, near the China border, a territory claimed by Nepal. The move has snowballed into a diplomatic spat between India and Nepal, writes senior journalist Smita Sharma.

New Delhi: A recently inaugurated road in Uttarakhand to shorten the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra has snowballed into a Diplomatic spat between India and Nepal. India today denied allegations of any border violation in response to formal objections lodged by the Nepalese

Foreign Ministry pertaining to inauguration of a road in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand earlier. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday through video conferencing inaugurated a road between Dharchula to Lipulekh, near the China border, a territory claimed by Nepal.

  • Border Roads Organisation connects Kailash Mansarovar Route to China Border.

    While combating Covid-19 pandemic, BRO in Uttarakhand has connected Kailash Mansarovar route to Lipulekh pass at a ht of 17,060 ft; thus providing connectivity to border villages and security forces.

    — रक्षा मंत्री कार्यालय/ RMO India (@DefenceMinIndia) May 8, 2020 " class="align-text-top noRightClick twitterSection" data=" ">

On Saturday in a stern lengthy statement expressing regret at what it called India’s “unilateral act” , the Foreign Ministry of Nepal called upon India to refrain from carrying out any activity on ‘Nepalese territory’- underlining its claims on all territories east of Mahakali river, “including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh” as per the 1816 Sugauli Treaty.

“This was reiterated by the Government of Nepal several times in the past and most recently through a diplomatic note addressed to the Government of India dated 20 November 2019 in response to the new political map issued by the latter,” the statement said.

MEA statement
MEA statement

However denying any violation of sovereign territory as accused by Kathmandu, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said, “The recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in the State of Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India.”

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“The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders,” the MEA statement issued Saturday late evening further added.

Tensions over border disputes have been brewing between the two neighbours since India published its new political map post the abrogation of Article 370 and reorganisation of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh into two Union Territories.

The new political maps depicting Kalapani as Indian territory had led to strong objection from Kathmandu and street protests in Nepal, though India maintained that the map depictions were the same as the earlier ones.

In its latest statement today , Kathmandu reminded of two separate protest notes issued to India and China in May 2015 when the two countries had agreed to include Lipu Lekh pass as a bilateral trade route in its joint statement issued without seeking Nepal’s consent.

“This unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation,” reminded Nepal today.

“India and Nepal have established mechanism to deal with all boundary matters. The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing. India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal,” said MEA in its response on Saturday evening.

India has further informed that both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks ‘after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of COVID-19 emergency’.

Incidentally the Nepalese Foreign Ministry statement also claimed that Kathmandu had twice proposed dates for holding meeting between the Two foreign secretaries after the Kalapani controversy gathered momentum last year but with no outcome.

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