The cabinet of Nepal has approved a new political map on Monday including Lipu Lekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura in retaliation to series of previous development by India on disputed land between Nepal and India West-North border. Nepal and India claim these three regions as its own respective territory based on Sugauli treaty in 1816, a treaty between Nepal and the then East India company. These three are not only regions of dispute between two open bordered countries though.
The tension between two countries began with the deal between China and India in 2015 to use the route through Lipu Lekh for their bilateral trade. Though the issue did not get enough attention to fetch tangible conclusions and postponed to resolve through bilateral talks then, the issuance of new political map issued by India in October including the three disputed regions was perceived as India underestimation of respect for friendly relation through its comparative advantage of its overall tangible power .
The most recent strong pressure builds upon the strongest majority government led by Mr. K P Oli when India inaugurated new road linkage through Lipu Lekh to connect Mansarovar, a popular pilgrimage region in China for Hindu tourists. Further, statement by Indian army general on the issue fueled the sentiment of Nepalese Politician and citizen to have an emergency action by assumed patriotic government of Nepal led by same current Prime minister which fought against the events of unexpressed economic blockade just after promulgation of its new constitution amidst the protest of its regional group, the Madhesi.
India and Indian media have tried to shift the blame to conflicts within leading party for power in Nepal and more to Chinese strategy in diplomatic words to avoid the urgency of situation to resolve against the issuance of diplomatic note by Nepalese government following the inauguration of road to Mansarovar while China seems cautious not to have clear role in all events to play safe both for its bilateral trade benefit with India or to save its face as well-wisher of Nepal.
It is because well known about these facts Beijing without hesitation made a trade deal with Delhi occurred ignoring the well-known fact that Nepal was having a long-standing claim over Lipu Lekh as a disputed region. Recently Beijing has made comments on these developments through the foreign Ministry spokesperson urging both countries to be cautious on unilateral action to avoid complication. Kathmandu-Beijing and Kathmandu-Delhi relation is perceived as zero-sum game by international relation experts, and it is perceived that after unexpressed blockade in Nepal and rise of Communist party as majority government in Nepal, India lost its pie to China. Even at this crisis situation China has been able to position itself in a better way through different supports than India.
On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how India will respond to new development. Whether it will respond or retaliate and how it will save further erosion of its big brother to Nepal and its international image in global diplomacy.
But in all these situations Nepal is at biggest stake. Whether the issuance of a new political map will be limited to ink and print and was just a hurried decision for face saving to retain its patriotic image among its voters or it can materialize its decision through better diplomacy which is the only option with it. Further, it is a biggest challenge for Nepal to make balanced relation with both its neighbors without compromising its sovereign respect and how it will justify its move and this will more dependent on whether New Delhi will respond to accommodate or retaliate to compete to the Nepalese cabinet decision.
Shreeram Thakur (Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo)