Sharachchandra Bhandary, KATHMANDU:- Though small in terms of area and its economic prowess, Nepal has always retained its glorious existence as a sovereign and independent nation in the comity of nations since time immemorial. And, with the endorsement on June 13 by parliament of the Constitution second amendment bill, the territorial reach of Nepal has further extended to Lipiyadhura in the far-west frontiers.
The Federal Parliament passed the constitution amendment bill by an overwhelming majority. The amendment to the Schedule-3 related to Article 9 (2) of the Constitution has effectively revised the map of Nepal represented in the Coat-of -Arms by incorporating Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani, the Nepali territories in the far-west corner of the country encroached upon by India since 1962.
The constitution second amendment has not only extended Nepal’s territorial area by 335 square kilometres but has also demonstrated the government’s determination in resolving the problem extending back to almost 60 years. This bold decision of the government has been hailed from all sections of Nepali society.
With the endorsement of the new map of the country issued in consonance with Nepal’s border demarcated by the Sugauli Treaty, time has come to promptly start high-level diplomatic initiatives with India to regain possession of the Nepali territories and establish Nepal’s unfettered rights over the entire Kalapani -Limpiyadhura region.
(The Treaty of Sugauli was signed between Nepal and the then British East India Company. It was signed on 2 December 1815 and ratified by 4 March 1816. It established the boundary line of Nepal, following the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16.)
The unprecedented national consensus demonstrated by the sovereign parliament, together with the whole nation, in support of nationality, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest, has also added energy in the campaign to retake the encroached land.
Citizens of both countries who consider the Nepal-India friendship is bound by blood relations and special ties with the epithet ‘roti-beti ties’ are unequivocal that solution to all outstanding problems between the two countries, including the border issues, should be sought through serious diplomatic dialogue. However, Nepal government’s requests for talks with the proposal of date for the same remaining unreciprocated from India has given rise to suspicions that the cordial bilateral bonds between the two South Asian nations might be undermined.
Against such backdrop, it is imperative that India immediately responded to Nepal’s requests for talks and start genuine dialogue with Nepal by translating into action the ‘neighbourhood first’ policy that Prime Minister Narendra Modi proffered in his first term in office. It is believed that the Indian Prime Minister must have propounded this policy realizing the need to make the Nepal-India relations, which is based on peace, friendship, brotherhood, cooperation and collaboration, more cooperative and focused on the broader interests of the peoples of the two countries.
In the era of globalization when these mutually interdependent relations have been further facilitated by the development of information and technology, the two countries can sit together for talks by using this technology even though there is no situation for face-to-face meeting in the prevailing context of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the senior political leadership of both Nepal and India has been emphasizing on holding dialogue using technology, it appears that the side concerned in New Delhi is not heeding sincerely to it.
There is no room for skepticism that India will backtrack from the reality of resolving the issues between the two countries through extensive and sustained dialogue at the governmental and people’s level as well as at the level of all stakeholders including the intelligentsia. Nevertheless, it would not benefit both countries and the peoples of the two close neighbours if India failed to announce the date for talks by breaking the stalemate and its silence to convey the message that New Delhi has taken its relationship with Nepal positively and wanted to see it becoming rich and forward-looking.
New Delhi should now no longer delay the Government of Nepal’s deep expectations for talks as India has lately settled dispute with China by giving continuity to diplomatic dialogue even amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s further prevaricating talks does not reflect the commitment the Indian Prime Minister made during his last state visit to Nepal that India supported and cooperated in meeting the national aspiration of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali’ envisaged by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
It is indispensable for India to sit for dialogue even to settle its differences with Nepal by accepting the new political and administrative map recently issued by the Government of Nepal since the reality that the Kali River that originated from and flowed through Limpiyadhura is the actual origin of the Mahakali River and that areas to the east of this river including Lipulek and Kalapani belonged to Nepal have been established from historical evidences, documents, maps and other testimonials.
It should not be ignored here the citizens of both India and Nepal are in agreement that the bilateral cordial relations which have been restored and nurtured from a new approach by forsaking all the past bitterness should be undermined by negating talks on any pretext.
The call made by a former Minister of External Affairs of India and the Indian National Congress to immediately resort to talks with Nepal at the earliest is also worth mentioning here.
India’s longstanding cooperation to Nepal in various sectors including infrastructure development, hydropower development, education and socio-economic development and the role it played in the immediate rescue and relief distribution at the time of the Gorkha Earthquake in 2015 are a testimony of India’s goodwill towards Nepal. Based on such cooperative approaches, it cannot be incoherent that India is intolerant and uncooperative towards Nepal.
Nepalis are of the view that South Bloc would not rebuff Nepal’s sincere expectation of peace, friendship and goodwill from its southern neighbour and it should internalize Nepal’s uncompromising and consistent stance towards national interest, dignity, historical facts and truth and evidences.
India should come for talks realizing the fact that although the countries might be large or small in terms of geography, population or the economic and other powers but these alone did not determine the dimensions of a nation’s sovereignty, nationality, independence and respect. It is expected that the world’s largest democracy will soon fulfill Nepal’s aspiration of moving ahead the friendly relations on the pedestal of trust and confidence. The Nepali side’s repeated request for talks should not be protracted and the onus rests on the mode government in breaking the deadlock. RSS
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