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Shaikh Moazzam Khan
India has been the biggest troublemaker in this region so far. Indian ruling elite under the Hindu fanatics is not ready to accept this fact and instead accuse Pakistan of jeopardizing regional peace. Under the nationalist establishment of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, India is trying to accomplish the long pending dream of Akhand Bharat. But this time around, other states in the region are now well aware of Indian nationalist designs. They don’t want to see the Indian hegemony in this region. And as per realist paradigm, no other nation can tolerate the hegemony of other state. The bilateral ties of the states must be on the basis of equality and mutual interests.
However, Indian polity, to accomplish the concept of Akhand Bharat, considers entire sub-continent including Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of Hindustan or Akhand Bharat (India). After the arrival of PM Modi in the power corridor in New Delhi, Indian is trying to illegally extend its feet to Nepal and Bhutan, which is a clear violation of territorial sovereignty of states and international laws. Indian political and security elite is paying no heed to the concerns of these states.
Back in November 2019, India’s inclusion of Kalapani within its territory on a new political map had created an uproar in Nepal and left Kathmandu scrambling for a response. Six months later, with no actual progress from the Nepali side, India on 08 May 2020, announced the opening of a road link in Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh via the Lipulekh pass, another disputed area. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the road. When boundary disputes with India vis-à-vis Kalapani and Susta remain, the opening of a road through Lipulekh is an outcome of Kathmandu’s spectacular failure on the diplomatic front. Indian government is using aggressive measures to manipulate the national and territorial interests of other states such as Nepal and Bhutan.
Lipulekh is a strip of land on the north-western edge of Nepal, lodged between Nepal, India and Tibet. While some call it a tri-junction among these three countries, Nepal has been claiming the southern part of the pass and has refused to recognise it as a tri-junction. Nepali government strongly condemned the decision of Indian government to inaugurate the new road, terming it the violation of the law of lands. Similarly, the ruling Nepal Communist Party said that its attention has been drawn to India’s move of opening a link road via Lipulekh. The ruling party said the action has undermined Nepal’s sovereignty.
After the Indian government, inaugurated a link road to connect India with Mansarovar of Tibet in China via Lipulekh region, a Nepali territory, various youth organisations in Kathmandu staged protests to mount pressure on the government to take necessary steps to make India return the territory. The groups, including All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) members and leaders demonstrating near Indian Embassy, demanded the government to take steps to stop the southern neighbour from using the road built through Nepali territory.
This territorial route is strategically pivotal for Indian interests. During the visit of Chinese Prime Minister in 2015 to Nepal, India and China had in 2015 agreed to expand a trade route via Lipulekh, prompting Nepal to take the issue up both with Delhi and Beijing, saying the territory belongs to Nepal. When India and China agreed to expand a trade route through Lipulekh pass near Kalapani, Kathmandu was caught unawares, and now India has built a road link via the disputed territory, once again surprising Nepali officials.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs vehemently denounced Nepal’s objections. It further said in a statement that the recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in an Indian state of Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India and that the road follows the pre-existing route used by pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. This Indian stance is beyond reality and doesn’t exist practically.
Indian illegitimate actions have serious repercussions for the entire region as these are likely to disturb the existing territorial sovereignty and balance of power equation. India, through its offensive actions, is trying to show that no power can challenge its offensive foreign policy to accomplish strategic interests. Here, the role of world organizations and community is required. They must come up with a lasting solution to contain Indian designs. The smaller states have the same rights as per international laws. International community has to make sure that it may not compromise their interests at any cost by powerful countries. These Indian actions are setting bad precedents for other states. The concept of might be rights must be stopped. The UN and its other subsidiary organs needs to ensure the territorial sovereignty of Nepal and ask Indian authorities to refrain from acting offensively. All states are equal for everyone. India is already having two so-called border disputes with Pakistan and China. On the other hand, Indian government is taking illegal actions against the people of Jammu and Kashmir by imposing worst kind of lockdown. Indian forces have illegally occupied the entire area of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of Pakistan. Instead of resolving its border dispute with Pakistan and China, India is now taking one more step to demonstrate its hegemonic intentions in the region.