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Unpacking Indo–Nepal Relations

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Amid the clamour created by the India–China stand-off in Ladakh, we seem to have forgotten another tense issue in the region, that is, the recent war of words between India and Nepal over the Kalapani area that got a new flare-up as the contentious map of Nepal became official on 18 June 2020. This new map shows the Indian territories of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh as Nepalese. India has consistently rejected Nepal’s claim on the territories of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh, as these carry “immense strategic significance” for India.

In the 17th century, Nepal, under the fierce and brave Gorkhas, had occupied a large part of the present-day Uttarakhand, before the English East India Company defeated the kingdom in the Anglo–Nepalese War. The Treaty of Sugauli, which was signed after the war in 1816, demarcates the border between India and Nepal. According to Article V of this treaty, Nepal renounced all claims to the territories west of River Kali. This is a properly-defined landmark for the major part of the border. However, the source of the said river is contested by Nepal and the interpretation of the source of River Kali lies at the heart of the present border dispute. The Indian position, since the time of the signing of the treaty, is that the two rivers, Kalapani and Kutti-Yangti, meet a little south of the village of Kalapani, to form the combined river henceforth known by the name of Kali. The Nepalese position is that the Kutti-Yangti river (longer than the Kalapani river) is the actual River Kali, and hence, the source of Kutti-Yangti should be considered the source of Kali. This changes the entire state of affairs of the disputed riparian region.

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