Nepal escalates tension with India, approves new political map
Kathmandu: Nepal’s Parliament on Saturday voted in favour of an amendment to the Constitution to alter the country’s map, to show three areas that fall within Indian territory, as falling within its own borders, news agency PTI reported.
Nepal maintains that India has claimed the three areas – Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura – by building a road over it. The Indian government has not yet responded to the passage of the bill.
A two-thirds majority was required in the 275-member House of Representatives, or the lower house, to pass the bill. It got the support of all 258 lawmakers who were present in Parliament. These included people from major Opposition parties such as the Nepali Congress, the Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal and the Rastriya Prajatantra Party.
The bill will now be sent to the National Assembly, where it will undergo a similar process. The ruling Nepal Communist Party commands two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. Upon endorsement from both houses, the bill will be submitted to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, who will order issuance of the bill.
The Nepal government had introduced the bill aimed at altering the country’s map in Parliament on May 31. It had also released a revised political and administrative map of the country, with the new areas incorporated. However, India objected to the move and warned Nepal not to resort to any “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims.
“Nepal is well aware of India’s consistent position on this matter and we urge the Government of Nepal to refrain from such unjustified cartographic assertion and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said at that time.
On May 27, Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had failed to table the bill in Parliament, due to differences over it in the ruling party. Instead, he held an all-party meeting at his official residence. The dispute began after New Delhi issued an official map last year, including the Kalapani and Lipulekh area that Nepal regards as its own. The tension escalated further after India inaugurated the 80-km road in Uttarakhand, which connects close to the Line of Actual Control and opens a new route for Kailash Mansarovar yatra via the Lipulekh pass.
Nepal has repeatedly claimed this was a breach of an agreement between the two countries, but India has said the new route is “completely within the territory” of the country. Oli had told the Nepalese Parliament earlier in May that his government would reclaim the disputed region. He had also blamed India for the spread of the coronavirus in his country.