Friday, 12 April, 2024

India Must Show Good Neighbourliness

Dwarika Pd. Shrestha


Nepal and India are close neighbours. The people living in either side of the border have had good contact and familial relations since time immemorial, thanks to the open border. Most of them speak similar languages and follow the same tradition. So, their relations are regarded as historic and traditional one. India is bigger than Nepal in many respects. As Nepal is surrounded by India on three sides, this small nation is often called as India-locked country. Only our northern border is linked with China. That's why Nepal is sandwiched between the two Asian giants.
Since our southern border is very plain, it has been easier for the movement of people to and from India. It is worrying that India has been encroaching upon Nepal's border land time and again, giving rise to increased number of border disputes between the two nations. India always pretends it does not know about the border issues. As Nepal raised the issue of Lipulek, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura and called for holding dialogue after India opened a link road passing through Lipulek in May this year, the Indian leadership said that it was busy fighting the COVID-19.

Border dispute
The border dispute has become a big issue at this moment. The Indian government constructed the road connecting the Indian border with Kailash Manasarovar in Tibet of China through Nepal’s Lipulek area without consulting the latter. However, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi held a telephone conversation on Saturday (August 15). The two leaders agreed to deliberate on the bilateral issues in the days ahead. This should be taken in a positive light. It was the first high-level communication between the two nations in the last four months.
Despite being a small country, Nepal has been a sovereign and an independent nation since ancient time. In 1816, the Sugauli Treaty was signed between Nepal and the then British-India. The map issued during the time of Sugauli Treaty includes the areas such as Kuti, Nabhi, Gunji, Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani in Nepal’s territory. The Indian army was allowed to be stationed in the areas for a certain period only by the order of King Mahendra at the friendly request of the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. But now the Modi-led government neither thinks of giving it up nor is ready to hold talks with Nepal's representatives on the vexing border issue.
Nepal was almost closed to the foreigners and the foreign countries during the Shah and Rana regime from long time before. However, some of Heads of State of Nepal had paid few state visits to countries like Britain and Japan. Nepal, after the political change in 1950, came to be known as a friend to many countries in the world diplomatically. India is one of them. By that time India had been free from the British domination and become nation state and declared it as the Republic of India in 1947. Nepal's diplomatic relation with India was established in 1950. So, India was nowhere there in the world map when the map of Greater Nepal was issued in 1816. Therefore, the claim over the territories as mentioned above by India as their own was simply ridiculous. The old maps and many other documents available so far are the live witness of the fact.
The shifting of border pillars in the south by the Indian officials is a matter of serious concern for us. It's reported that more than 300 border pillars have been shifted to miles away on the Nepali side.
According to the 1950 Treaty, India must return land covering 60,000 sq. miles to Nepal. The then leaders of India had reportedly committed to giving back the land to Nepal. But it is yet to be done. India has remained mum on the issue at the moment. Indian PM Modi seems very smart in applying his self-oriented policy for the friendly neighbouring countries. Bhutan could be one of the examples.
Plenty of water that flows into India’s territory through Nepal serves as the lifeline for the India’s vast agriculture and industries. Gorkha soldiers are always there for the security of India. In 2015, India and China jointly agreed to boost border trade through Lipulek Pass that falls into Nepal’s territory. Both of the Asian giants could not think of their small developing neighbour. It is tri-junction point where all three countries' borders meet.

Peaceful ties
In his book 'Nepal and the World' Vol.1, M.R. Josse writes that “the strain in Nepal-India relations was temporarily relieved by the visit of late King Mahendra to India in November 1955 and President Rajendra Prasad to Kathmandu in October 1956.” President Rajendra Prasad still found it necessary to allay the fears in Nepal “that India had no territorial ambitions is significant. ...” Nepal is a peaceful country and friendly to each and every other country in the world. She wants to continue the similar relations with all of them. The commoners view that India should come to the ground reality of the historic facts and give up the occupied lands peacefully to its neighbour.
In the meantime, our elder citizens are of the opinion that PM Modi was blessed by Lord Pashupatinath after he visited the holy shrine during his visit here. This apparently helped him win Hindus’ votes in the polls. But since then the Indian government started constructing a long road connecting Kailashmansarovar via Lipulake near Kalapani. Modi also faced political and social unrest in his own country. Nepal is strong enough to protect her land. Traditionally, we are good friends but sometime our political relations run into roadblocks.

(Shrestha was the first news reporter of The Rising Nepal.)