India on 9 May 2020 rejected Nepal’s claim that the recently inaugurated link road in Uttarakhand passes through its territory, saying the region lies completely within Indian borders. The high-altitude road from Dharchula to Lipulekh near the China border, which cuts travel time to Mansarovar, was inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 8 May 2020. Nepal’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying: The government of Nepal has learnt with regret about the inauguration by India of a link road connecting to Lipulek (Nepal) passing through it.
 
 
What
  1. The unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the Prime Ministers’ level that a solution to the boundary issue would be sought through negotiation.
  2. Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said: The recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India. The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. 
  3. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders. 
  4. The news of the inauguration of the road prompted protests by students in Kathmandu, including one in front of the Indian Embassy and another in the Maitighar Mandala area, within a half-km radius of the Central Secretariat and the Parliament building.
  5. The statement from Nepal said: “The government of Nepal remains committed to seek diplomatic solution to the boundary issues on the basis of historical treaty, documents , facts and maps in keeping with the spirit of close and friendly ties between the two countries.”
  6. India’s response echoed this statement. “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, the MEA spokesperson said.
  7. Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalised between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of COVID 19 emergency.
  8. The Nepal government said it has consistently maintained that as per the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, all territories east of Kali (Mahakali River) including Limpiadhura, Kalapani and Lipulek belonged to Nepal and this claim has been made known to the Indian government.
Flashback
  1. The Kalapani region lies in a junction bordering three countries - India, Nepal and China
  2. Nepal and India both claim this region as part of their respective territories; India as part of Uttarakhand and Nepal as part of Darchula district
  3. Complicating the matter is the Sugauli Treaty - signed between the East India Company and Nepal in 1816 - which marks the Mahakali river as the western border of Nepal.
  4. Subsequently, a number of British surveyors showed a different point-of-origin for the Mahakali river.
  5. While India maintains that the river begins in the village of Kalapani, Nepal claims that it begins from Lipulekh Pass
  6. The contention here is that if the Mahakali river - considered the border between India and Nepal - had a different point-of-origin, the areas under the countries’ respective borders would be skewed.
  7. If the river began at the point Nepal claims - the Lipulekh Pass - then the Kalapani river would stretch longer, thereby affording a lengthier border between India and Nepal and giving India’s neighbour rights over the village of Kalapani.
  8. India claims the ridge line towards the east of the Kalapani territory, and hence includes it in the Indian Union.