Kathmandu: On December 25, Himalkhabar reported that the Survey Department of India published a new map renaming Kali river as ‘Kuti Yangdi’ essentially placing the Kalapani area—that includes the territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura—within the boundaries of India.
The incident that should have caught the country by alarm, however, has gone largely unnoticed in Kathmandu. Nepal is even not talking about it.
A similar move by India in 2019 had triggered a wave of outrage across the country putting intense pressure on the government of Nepal to respond to what Nepali scholars called India’s ‘cartographic aggression’ on Nepal.
In November 2019, the government of India had published a new map by including the territories of Kalapani, Lipuekh and Limpiyadhura, which Nepal considers as its own, inside the Indian territory. Kathmandu quickly reacted by sending the diplomatic note to India. When on May 8, 2020, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh “inaugurated” a jeep track towards Lipulekh, Nepali political parties as well as the people rose up in protests. Following the protests, the government led by KP Sharma Oli decided to bring out a new map by including 335 square kilometers strip of Kalapani area inside Nepal. Parliament of Nepal in June passed the map guaranteeing its legal status.
The move had found a resounding national unity with all the political parties voting in favor of the new map. K P Sharma Oli was showered with praises.
Experts say that the new map by India seeks to invalidate the 2020 map of Nepal which asserts Nepali sovereignty over Kalapani area. “The new map you are talking challenges the map that Nepal issued last year,” said border expert Buddhi Narayan Shrestha. The new map does not only question Nepali map but also question our constitution which, through its amendment, has recognized the territories of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as the territories of Nepal,” said a constitutional expert.
According to Shrestha, Nepal needs to enquire about this issue through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by sending a note. “Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba is going to participate in the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit. He needs to raise this matter with his Indian counterpart,” said Shrestha.
Political parties in Nepal have not given any reactions about the matter so far. The government has not been questioned about it nor has it issued any statements about the matter. Even the opposition parties have stayed silent.
Rajan Bhattarai, Standing Committee Chief of CPN(UML), however, disagrees. “We have been raising this issue and we will continue to raise it,” said Bhattarai. “Nepal has claimed those territories based on historical facts. If India has facts to the contrary, they need to sit on the dialogue table and present those facts.”
Bhattarai said that the government should raise this issue with urgency. “What is very strange about the whole episode is that nobody is talking about it in the government. Coalition parties are pretending ignorance,” he said. “This silence from the media as well as other political parties shows that all they wanted was to displace K P Oli from the government. To stay silent over such a serious issue of the country is dangerous.”