China has no role in India-Nepal border issue: Senior Nepal leader
DEHRADUN: Bishnu Rijal, deputy chief of Nepal’s department of foreign affairs and member of the central committee of the NCP (Nepal Communist Party), which is currently in power, in an interview with Mohammad Anab regarding the stand-off between India and Nepal on the Kalapani issue, said that it is a fallacy to assume that Nepal is acting on behest of China on the border dispute. Alleging that China has no role to play in Nepal’s internal matters, Rijal said that the Nepal Communist Party and the Communist Party of China are very different from each other in character and the political systems of both countries are also different. He further said that Nepal was forced to redraw its map after India passed a map in November 2019 that showed Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, which were recognised as disputed territories by both countries, as part of its map, adding that Nepal has historical documents to prove its claim on the territories. Excerpts:
India and Nepal have had very strong ties for several centuries. In this context, the souring of relations between the two countries over a border dispute is being seen by many people as having happened because China is exerting pressure on Nepal and the NCP is taking steps on the directions of the Communist Party of China. How do you react to this?
The foreign policy of any country is not determined by ideology but on the basis of national interest. If ideology determined foreign policy, then there wouldn’t have been any war between China and Russia in the 1960s. We understand that we have two great friends in India and China and we share different kinds of relationships with both of them. As far as India-Nepal issues are concerned, we must not bring China into it and similarly, India should not be brought in when we talk of Nepal-China matters. It is unfortunate that some of the Indian officials are alleging Chinese influence in the current matter. In fact, both the communist parties (Nepal Communist Party and the Communist Party of China) are very different from each other in character. We have a multi-party democracy system while in China, the CPC is ruling for several decades. There are no similarities in both the political systems. Therefore, there is no Chinese influence at all in this issue. In fact, they never interfere in our internal matters.
What is the basis of Nepal’s claims that Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani which lie in Uttarakhand, are part of Nepalese territory?
Before I elaborate, let me point out that India and Nepal have not signed on a common map (regarding the border area) yet. Since the 1980s, both countries have been working on finalising a map. Both of us believe that 98% of the mapping is completed. The remaining 2% is the disputed part which is yet to be resolved. This 2% comprises the Kalapani region bordering Uttarakhand and Susta region bordering Bihar. In 1997, then-Indian PM I K Gujral had visited Nepal and both countries had issued a joint statement of 25 points. The 21st point clearly states that the Kalapani-Lipulekh issue will be resolved with consensus. Even though Indian Army is present there, India also agrees that Kalapani is a disputed territory. In 2015, when India and China issued a joint statement after the visit of PM Modi to China, they declared that Lipulekh pass will be a trade route. We expressed our reservations on this and wrote letters to India and China stating that the territory belongs to us too and the Lipulekh pass cannot be declared a trade route without our consent. China replied to the letter stating that they are willing to have a dialogue if we have some reservations but India didn’t respond to our letter. Later, when PM Modi visited Nepal, both countries agreed that Kalapani issue will be resolved but no meeting has been called to resolve the matter.
If the issue was to be resolved with dialogue, why bring out a new map now?Wouldn’t this destabilise potential talks?
After the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, India issued a new political map in November 2019 which showed the disputed territory as part of Indian territory. We expressed our dissatisfaction and handed over a diplomatic note to the Indian embassy in Kathmandu immediately. Later, we also wrote to the Government of India to hold a meeting to resolve that problem. But we never got any reply. We again wrote a letter to the Indian government in December 2019. Later, both countries got busy with coping with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is only after not getting any response that Nepal was compelled to bring out a new map which is based on various historical documents.
What are those historical documents?
India and Nepal have had many treaties to demarcate our border. One treaty, namely the Treaty of Sugauli of 1815 categorically describes the border between the two countries as the Kali River. Our stand is that the river originates in Limpiyadhura and therefore the area is part of Nepalese territory. India claims that the river originates at Kalapani. However, even maps made by western countries have shown that the river originates from Limpiyadhura. In addition, we have historical documents from the time of the British rule to support our claim.
What do you have to say about the recent claim made by PM Oli that India was trying to destabilise his government?
It is our party’s internal matter and our party will review the performance of the government. If there is a problem inside NCP, then we will rectify it.
TimesofIndia: China has no role in India-Nepal border issue: Senior Nepal leader