Nepal’s Parliament on 13 June 2020 unanimously voted to amend the Constitution to update the country’s new political map, laying claim over three strategically key areas along the border with it. In a show of unprecedented national unity, Opposition parties including the Nepali Congress, Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and Rastriya Prajatantra Party voted in favour of the bill to amend Schedule 3 of the Constitution to update the national emblem by incorporating the controversial map featuring new areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura along Nepal’s border with India.
  1. India last month reacted angrily to Nepal showing the three areas as Nepalese territory in the new map and cautioned the country that saying such “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims will not be acceptable to it. India has been maintaining that these three areas belong to it.
  2. India has said it deeply values its friendly ties with Nepal and the multi-faceted bilateral partnership has expanded and diversified in the recent years. Indian Army chief Gen M M Naravane on 13 June 2020 said the relationship between the two countries has always been strong and will remain so in the future.
  3. As soon as Nepal’s Parliament meeting started on 13 June 2020 afternoon, lawmakers from different political parties took part in deliberations on the bill. All 258 lawmakers who were present in the House voted in favour of the amendment bill.
  4. A two-thirds majority was required in the 275-member House of Representatives or the lower house to pass the bill.
  5. The endorsement of the lower house will now pave way for the government to expedite the process to replace the political map in Nepal’s national emblem.
  6. Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba said that Nepali people have stood united on the issue of nationality and territorial integrity. As per the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, the land east of Mahakali river belongs to Nepal.
  7. The government had registered the bill in the Parliament on May 22 and Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Shivamaya Tumabahangphe presented it before the House on May 24.
  8. On June 9, the Parliament unanimously endorsed a proposal to consider the Constitution amendment bill to pave way for endorsing the new political map amid the border row with India. 
  9. Now, the bill will be sent to the National Assembly where it will undergo a similar process. The ruling Nepal Communist Party commands two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
  10. The ties between India and Nepal came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
  11. Nepal reacted sharply to the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through Nepalese territory. India rejected the claim asserting that the road lies completely within its territory.
  12. Nepal last month released the revised political and administrative map of the country laying claim over the strategically key areas, more than seven months after India published a new map in November 2019.
Why is Lipulekh pass important? 
  1. The region juts into the Himalayas and is connected to the other side of the mountain range through the Lipulekh pass, which has been used for centuries by Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims and tourists on their way to Kailash Mansarovar.
  2. The nearby markets have been used by various mountain communities.
  3. The Himalayas have several passes that connect the Gangetic region with the Tibetan plateau but Lipulekh is strategically located as it is nearest to the heart of the Indian state or the National Capital Region and can be of particular concern in case of an armed conflict with China.