China as Source of Dilemma between Nepal and India

Dr. KunwarPushpendraPratap Singh

The people republic of China has lost the credibility during the Covid-19 pandemic. On the other hand India is helping the world and dealing with the corona crisis in a much matured manner, as a result of which China is becoming impatience and therefore trying to disturb the peace in the border areas of India. Nowadays Nepal is very close to China because of its ideological communist government. Recently PM K.P. Sharma Oli has attacked India in his speech in the parliament saying that virus from India ‘looks more lethal’ than Chinese and Italian one. China has captured Tibet a long back and now it has a strong influence over the present government of Nepal. India is trying to develop connections to Hindu pilgrimage site in Tibet. On this point Nepal has a serious objection. The road to the Hindu pilgrimage site in Tibet is not going to create trouble for Nepal but it appears that the present government of Nepal is fulfilling the interest of China by opposing the border road projects.

PMOli said that Kalapani-Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura are in the trilateral Nepal-India-China and will be included in Nepal’s map at any cost. Let us tell that on 8 May, India inaugurated the KailashMansarovar Road Link in script, which Nepal had objected to.

The new map of Nepal has received approval of the cabinet on Monday i.e., 18 May 2020. On this occasion, Oli said, “Now we will try to get these areas through diplomacy, if anyone is offended by our move, then we are not worried about it. We will present his claim on his land at any cost.”

A few days ago, Indian Army Chief General ManojMukundNarwane indicated that Nepal is opposing the support of China on the road to Lipulekh Pass on the way to Mansarovar. Narwane had said that Nepal is protesting at the behest of someone over the script. Oli said, whatever we do, we do with our mind. Prime Minister of Nepal KP Oli also asserted that he takes every decision himself without succumbing to any internal or external pressure.

Oli said that he wants a good relationship with India but he wants to ask if he believes SatyamevJayate or SinghmevJayate. Oli’s stance was about India’s military strength.

The PM of Nepal further said, the idea of ending historical misunderstandings is only to deepen friendship with India. Negotiations are also being held with China on this issue and Nepal has made its stand clear.

 Nepal’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement a day after the road link was opened in script and also lodged a protest and handed a diplomatic note to Indian Ambassador, Vinay Kumar Quattra. Nepal said that it would not even wait for the Corona virus crisis to end for talks with India on the border dispute. However, the documents that Nepal makes to base claims on these areas are missing from him.

India defended in response by asserting that the road construction has taken place in the Indian Territory itself, but given the close relationship with Nepal, it is in favour of resolving this issue through diplomatic means. India also said that both countries should now focus to successfully deal with the present pandemic of corona virus and later the border dispute will be negotiated. However, Nepal insists on talks at the earliest.

Nepal asserts its claim on areas such as Kalapani, Lipulekh on the basis of the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, although it has lost the original copy of this important document. Also, Nepal does not have the original copy of the 1950 Peace-Friendship Treaty. Both these treaties are an important part of Nepal’s history and its foreign policy. This carelessness of Nepal will strengthen India’s favor.

Nepal has been making repeated attempts to talk with China over the issue of border dispute with India but Beijing has opted out of it.China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, the issue of Kalapani is a matter between Nepal and India. We hope that the two countries will resolve their differences through friendly consultation and avoid taking any unilateral action which worsens the situation.Chinese officials have said that the agreement between India and China was on the extension of an old trade route for pilgrims and that it would not affect the current state of the country’s borders or trilateral functions in any way.

India explained that it has signed an agreement with China in 2015 to build a road from Uttarakhand to Mansarovar in Tibet. This road also passes through the script which Nepal claims. Nepal has opposed the agreement, asserting that building a road in scripture without Nepal’s consent is completely unacceptable.

Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Shankar Das Bairagi has met with Chinese Ambassador Hou Yankee on this issue. However, contrary to Nepal’s expectation, China has left the issue to the wisdom of both India and Nepal.

Here this is essential to discuss the root cause of this issue. Sugauli Treaty was signed between Nepal and East India Company in the year 1816. After losing in a war with the East India Company, Nepal lost a lot of its share. After the end of the war, the Sugauli Treaty was signed by Parish Bradshaw on behalf of the company and Raj Guru Gajraj on behalf of Nepal and on the basis of this treaty the boundary line of British India and Nepal was fixed.

In this treaty, the Mahakali river of Nepal was made the basis of the border between the two countries. However, in the last 200 years, the river changed its route many times, due to which the boundary dispute deepened. Due to the lack of original copies of old maps and documents, it has become even more difficult to resolve this border dispute.

At the same time, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship of 1950 is very important for relations between Nepal and India. The treaty was signed between the then Rana regime of Nepal and the Government of India. Under this, both countries were asked to give equal status to Nepalis and Indians in most cases. However, some people in Nepal describe some terms of this treaty as unilateral and non-equal.

In 2016, when the talks between the two countries’ special representatives (Eminent Persons Group) were held to renew the relations between Nepal and India and to change the 1950 Treaty of Friendship, the original documents were not presented by Nepal. The friendship treaty was signed by the then Prime Minister of Nepal Mohan Shmsher and the Indian Ambassador to Nepal Chandeshwar Prasad Narayan Singh.

After the talks between the representatives of the two countries in 2016, a parliamentary inquiry was launched in Nepal to trace these documents. On 22 July 2016, the investigation team told the Parliament of Nepal that the original copies of Sugauli Treaty and Nepal-India Friendship Treaty are missing from the country.

Nepal Foreign Minister PradeepGyawali said that his ministry has copies of both the treaties but he is not aware whether they are original copies or not. Gyawali said that they are also trying to find historical documents and maps in India and the UK.

Some historians and MPs believe that original copies of important documents of Nepal are in other countries. President of Nepal’s Parliamentary Committee on International Relations Affairs, Pious Niraula said that the original copy of the Treaty of Friendship is with India while the original copy of the Sigouli Treaty is in London.

The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said, “The Government of Nepal has today released a revised official map of Nepal, which includes parts of the Indian territory. This unilateral act is not based on historical facts and evidence. To resolve outstanding border issues through diplomatic negotiations is contrary to bilateral understanding.” With this, India has opposed Nepal’s move.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman AnuragShrivastav said that Nepal is well aware of India’s position on this matter and we urge the Government of Nepal to refrain from making such unfair claims and respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He said that we hope that the Nepalese leadership will create a positive atmosphere for diplomatic dialogue to resolve outstanding border issues.

Oli’s Communist Party has been more closely related to China. A few days before PM Oli met with the ambassador of China to Nepal. It was being said in some reports that when Oli’s rebellion took place within the party this month, Chinese Ambassador Hou Yankee helped to save his chair. Oli said refuting such charge that “some people say that a foreign ambassador saved my government from falling … This is a government elected by the people of Nepal and no one can throw me out”.

China’s influence in Nepal has increased in the last few years. Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Nepal last year the time when he visited India. This was the first visit of a Chinese President in Nepal in the last 23 years. During his visit to Nepal, Jinping also announced 20 agreements and financial assistance of $ 500 million.

(Dr. KunwarPushpendraPratap Singh is the expert of India-Nepal relationships and International relations. He did his Ph.D. on ‘Role of Mass Media in Development of Nepal Since 1947’ from Centre for the Study of Nepal, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.)