Tit For Tat

Much discussion has taken place on the map of Greater Nepal which showed its existence from Teesta to the Kangra, prior to the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 CE.

May 12, 2020, 9:51 a.m.

This is a saying that many of us have been familiar with during the course of our lives. It has reference to the new road which had been built across the rightfully claimed Nepali soil of Lipulekh / Kalapani and was, in this Lockdown Age inaugurated by way of online by Rajnath Singh, the Defence Minister of India. In view of this an alternative suggestion that has been voiced in the social media is that Nepal’s future action should simply be a tit for tat! The implication of this is a very constructive suggestion for Nepal to be given free access across the narrow Indian Territory, colloquially known as ‘Chicken Neck’ and which lies between Nepal and Bangladesh. This would be a perfect example of connectivity and good neighbourliness amongst countries of the SAARC region.

Much discussion has taken place on the map of Greater Nepal which showed its existence from Teesta to the Kangra, prior to the Treaty of Sugauli of 1816 CE. This has been verified too in maps of the region printed in 1827 and 1846 which shows the River Kali as our Western border and the areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Tinker Bhanjyang East of it. What one does not understand and is a big surprise is that this pertinent road construction was said to have started as long ago as 2012. Surprisingly our authorities do not seem to have known anything about it! Is this true? One wonders as to whether this news is just a red herring or ‘Machcha, Machcha Bhaguto’, in the Nepali context just to put us off track!

One must remember that Nepal was an independent country even during the days that the British Empire existed. After the Treaty of 1923 with Great Britain, Nepal opened its first embassy abroad in London in 1934. Following Indian independence, we signed our Treaty of Friendship with India and an Indian Military Mission came to Nepal to train and organise our Nepali military. It was this body that undertook to build the Tribhuvan Raj Path. After the Indo-China War of 1962, seventeen Indian check posts (? 21) were established on our Northern Borders in July 1969. An Indian Military Mission comprising of 40 members set up position at what was then Shashi Bhawan – now the official residence of the Nepali Chief of Army Staff. There were at the same time 75 Indian army personnel at the seventeen check posts set up in different parts of Nepal. Because of negative feelings in Nepal these personnel were recalled 5th July 1969 and were replaced by Nepali troops in January 1970. Was the Lipulekh a remnant of that exercise or purposely overlooked?

It was during King Birendra’s reign that Nepal came into prominence as a landlocked country. Our King was Chairman for some time and agreement was reached with India to provide facilities at the port of Kolkata and thereby access to other countries of the world. Subsequent developments are that now we have been accorded further facilities at Visakhapatnam in India so that our contacts and trade with the world at large can increase as per our requirements. Subsequent to the earthquake of 2015 Nepal and China signed a deal in 2016 for facilities to increase third country trade. After this a protocol has been signed in Beijing in 2019, in the presence of the presidents of China and Nepal on the occasion of the state visit of Bidya Devi Bhandari to the Peoples Republic of China. This allows Nepal access to seaports at Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang plus also road and rail facilities at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Shigatse. For all this to become a reality, Nepal has however to develop immensely the communication facilities within our country.

Presently SAARC is in the doldrums. Both the SAARC conference and SAG games have not been held as per schedule. The next SAARC conference and SAG games have not been held as per schedule. PM Modi of India and PM Imran Khan of Pakistan seem to be keen to improve the current situation though there are still episodes of tension along the line of control in Kashmir. That there is an underlying desire to improve relationships is verified by the fact that Pakistan is providing an access road to Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak in Pakistan. The Kartarpur Corridor is a visa –free border crossing connecting the Gurdwara Darbar Sahib in Pakistan to the border in India. True, there have teething troubles but one hopes that these will be sorted out soon. Hopefully our current disaster i.e. the Corona pandemic will be over during the course of coming months and lead to improvement in the political atmosphere so that SAARC is rejuvenated once more! An old example of another similar action would the access given to visitors who needed to go to West Berlin when it was surrounded all around by East Germany.

India has been a friend and co-partner in the development of Nepal. The Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace & Friendship with India of 1950 is a milestone in the history of our friendship over many centuries. This treaty however has sometimes become a bone of contention and an attempt to revise it was done by a ten-member team of Eminent Persons Group, i.e. five from each country. After a period of two years a report was submitted to the PMs of both India and Nepal in July 2018. Up to this critical post Corona virus era of 2020 the PMs of both India and Nepal have not had time to look at it. Though India’s new Foreign Minister has said it will be looked at the appropriate time the report is gathering dust at sites in both countries! This may be an appropriate time, on the occasion of the Lipulekh / Kalapani incident to gloss over the facts.

Dr.Hemang Dixit.jpg

Hemang Dixit

The author writes fiction under the name of Mani Dixit. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd

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