India’s Revisionism in Lipulekh
Since 1947, India has been applying various tactics in its neighborhood to acquire territory and enlarge its military in order to be recognized as a regional hegemon. In its latest move, it has tried to acquire Nepal’s territory through linking a road to Nepal via Nepal territory. According to India’s Ministry of Defence, India’s Defence Minister “Raksha Mantri inaugurated the Link Road from Dharchula to Lipulekh (China Border) famously known as Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra Route.”
Taking notice of India’s move of opening a link road via Lipulekh, the ruling Nepal Communist Party’s KP Sharma Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal said “[Our] serious attention has been drawn to the ‘inauguration’ by India of a link road to Lipulekh of Nepal via Nepali territory,” regarding it as act of undermining Nepal’s territorial sovereignty. The Communist Party following the Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs objection towards India’s move clarified that “The Nepal Communist Party believes in good neighbourly relations between Nepal and India based on the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual respect and benefit”. “All historical facts and evidence, including the Sugauli Treaty, clearly stipulate that the areas east of Kalli (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh are territories of Nepal,” said the party. MoFA stated, the Government of Nepal “has consistently maintained that as per Sugauli Treaty (1816), all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh, belong to Nepal.”
Lipulekh is situated at the northwestern edge of Nepal and is lodged between Tibet, Nepal and India. Though Nepal has refused to recognize it, but many also regard this land strip a tri-junction. In 2005, India and China agreed on some sort of understanding to expand the trade route via Lipulekh, but Nepal refused to accept that agreement. The Communist Party of Nepal said that “the same fact was reiterated by Nepal on May 15, 2015 in response to the inclusion of the Lipulekh pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent in the joint statement issued during the official visit of the prime minister of India to China.” Instead of resolving the issue through talks, India published a new map, which showed Kalapani within Indian borders, prompting uproar in Nepal in November 2019.
Nepal demanded to hold talks with India, but received a cold shoulder: “The NCP is aware of the initiative taken by the government of Nepal by proposing dates for the meeting foreign secretaries who have been mandated by the leaders of the two countries to resolve boundary issues through diplomatic means taking into consideration the age-old friendly ties between the two countries,” said party in the statement. “The current unilateral action has come contrary to Nepal’s repeated requests for resolving the boundary issues through an established mechanism as agreed upon by the two governments at the highest political level.” The ruling party said “it urges governments of Nepal and India to immediately take necessary initiatives to resolve all the boundary issues through diplomatic means as per the understanding reached between the two sides.” “The NCP calls for immediate halting of the road construction work in that area by India and urges it to refrain from carrying out any activity that will further complicate the matter,” reads the statement.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs, however, stubbornly responded to Nepal’s Government statement. According to the statement, “the Indian Government claims that the recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in the 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”. Furthermore, it states that “India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue, in the spirit of close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal.” As a result of India move, two groups held demonstrations in order to protest against the inauguration of the link road by India, wherein “around 35 persons — one going to stage a demonstration at Maitighar Mandala and another about to protest near the Indian Embassy, Lainchaur — were detained by police for violating lockdown.”
India’s stubborn behavior has become a new norm in the region now. To its surprise, Western countries still regard India as a secular country despite its grave human rights abuses in India and hegemonic tendencies towards its neighbors, including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other neighboring countries. It is need of the hour to portray the true face of India to stop its continuous abuses of International law.