By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, May 21: India and Nepal’s territorial dispute has flared over a new road built by India leading to a Hindu pilgrimage site in Tibet but Nepal says that it passes through its territory. Kathmandu issued a new map on Wednesday which showed the disputed area, including Limpiyadhura, Lipu Lekh and Kalapani, as part of Nepal, to indicate a toughened stance on territorial issues with India.
The move has drawn a strongly worded response from the Indian government. “It is contrary to the bilateral understanding to resolve the outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue,” India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said in a statement. “Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India,” he said, noting that the road falls “exclusively within India”.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 80 km road which makes up the shortest route from New Delhi to Mount Kailash, a sacred area in Tibet. Nepal has strongly contested India’s claim to the territory since early 19th century due to its potential as a trade route between India and China. Indian map shows the territory as a part of its state of Uttarakhand.
Nepal has strongly condemned the construction of the road as it claims that the new road passes through its territory and views it as an act of bullying. “We will get them back,” said PM Khagda Prasad Sharma Oli asserting that the disputed territories belong to Nepal. It has long claimed the areas of Limpiyadhura, Kalapani, and Lipu Lekh under the 1816 Sugauli treaty with the British colonial rule whereas Indian troops have controlled these areas since its war with China in 1962.
Nepal opposed an agreement between its two Asian giants, India and China, to promote Lipu Lekh as a bilateral trade route without the consent from the Nepalese government in 2015. The zones form a region of more than 300sq km considered important because it is where the Nepalese and Indian borders touch China. Officials said the new map will be printed in school and college textbooks, official documents and will be used for all administrative purposes.