DEFENSE MINISTER IN KALAPANI Conciliation or Provocation?

Deputy Prime Minister Ishwor Pokharel's recent air inspection of the disputed Kalapani border rebuffs foreign minister's efforts to solve the problem through diplomatic channels

Feb. 23, 2020, 1:01 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: VOL. 13 No. 13 ,Feb.21-Mar.12,2020(Falgun.09, 2076) Publisher: Keshab Prasad Poudel Online Register Number: DOI 584/074-75

At a time when Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has been working quietly to settle the Kalapani issue through diplomatic channels, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ishwor Pokharel's air inspection in the disputed areas is likely to produce a setback.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Gyawali in his reconciliatory statement recently said that Nepal is in communication with the Indian government for dialogue and settlement of the border issue of Kalapani thorough diplomatic channels.

Addressing the 72nd Anniversary Program of Nepal Council of World Affairs (NCWA), he said that the governments of Nepal and India were trying to find a suitable date to hold discussions to solve the Kalapani issue. Minister Gyawali said that the leaders on both sides had displayed a clear vision, commitment and required political will to take the relationship to a higher plane of trust, cooperation and friendship.

However, Defense Minister Pokharel came out with a contradictory statement, which is likely to provoke India. The air inspection by a sitting minister of such a heavily militarized border point is risky as well.

"The government will talk to India about the border issue face-to-face," he said, adding, "This is the first time Nepal Government wrote a diplomatic note to India following the Sugauli Treaty and we will produce pieces of evidence that such (encroached) parts belonged to Nepal."

Defense minister Pokharel said security posts on Nepal's border would be added gradually. He said that Nepal had decided to establish the APF post at Byas for border security.

Although his helicopter did not permit the landing due to weather, the consequences would have been unimaginable had the other side mistakenly reacted to the 10-member team inspecting the disputed site.

The Deputy Prime Minister was accompanied by Deputy Speaker of Sudur Paschim Assembly Nirmala Joshi Badal, House of Representatives (HoR) member Ganesh Singh Thagunna, SA members Man Bahadur Dhami and Gelbu Singh Thagunna and his private secretary Deependra Shrestha.

Minister Pokharel was made aware of Indian security posts set up at a distance of three kilometers along the border in Kalapani. He also observed the proposed site for establishing an Armed Police Force's border security outpost (BOP).

This is the maiden visit to Darchula by Pokharel after he assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Prior to this, he had been here in 2053 BS in his capacity as the then CPN (UML)'s the central member.

Kalapani is situated in Byas rural municipality of Darchula district bordering China to the north and India to the west. It may be noted Nepal has been expressing its objection after India lately placed the Nepali territories of Kalapani, Lipulek and Limpiyadhura in its political map.

Given the current situation when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Gyawali has been using his quiet work to make a conducive environment, DPM Pokharel's action will provoke the other side to postpone the talks.

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