New Delhi: The upper house of Nepal’s parliament on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment to give legal backing to a new map that depicts the Kalapani region as Nepalese territory, a move that could exacerbate a border row with India.
The National Assembly, or upper house, unanimously voted to endorse the new political map issued last month that shows the disputed areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as part of Nepal. The amendment was passed by 258 votes in the House of Representatives, or lower house, on April 13. Its passage in the upper house was considered a formality as the ruling Nepal Communist Party has a majority, unlike in the lower house.
However, even the lower house passed the bill by a two-thirds after it was backed by key opposition parties such as the Nepali Congress and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. The bill will be sent to President Bidya Devi Bhandari for approval.
Thursday’s developments came days after the Indian side on Monday said that the onus is on the KP Sharma Oli government in Nepal to create a “positive and conducive atmosphere” for talks to resolve the row over the Kalapani-Lipulekh region.
India has repeatedly conveyed its readiness to discuss the issue, with the latest offer for talks between foreign secretaries of the two sides made around the time the Nepal government tabled the constitutional amendment in Parliament on May 31, people familiar with developments said.
The boundary row with Nepal has flared up at an inopportune time for India, which is engaged in a tense border stand-off with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). A violent face-off between Indian and Chinese troops on Monday night left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.
The border row erupted last month after India opened an 80km road to Lipulekh on the border with the Tibet Autonomous Region to facilitate pilgrims going to Kailash Mansarovar.
Nepal lodged s strong protest and Oli’s government issued a new map that showed Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as Nepalese territory. It then moved the constitutional amendment in Parliament to give legal backing to the map.
Almost 98% of the 1,750km land and riverine border between India and Nepal has been delineated and differences remain only in the Kalapani sector in Uttarakhand and Susta sector in Bihar.
The Indian side has said Nepal’s “shifting” claims are contrary to the Treaty of Sugauli signed in 1815 by Nepal and the British, a ruling by the British governor general in 1817, and Nepal’s boundary treaty with China of 1961 and protocols signed by these two countries in 1963 and 1979.