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Nepal backs new map as India land row escalates

June 14, 2020

The lower house of the Nepal parliament has voted unanimously to clear a new political map that includes contested territory with India. New Delhi has said the measure was "not tenable."

Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali
Image: picture-alliance/AP/N. Shrestha

The lower house of Nepal's parliament on Saturday approved a constitutional amendment to change the country's political map to include a region claimed by both Kathmandu and New Delhi, escalating a territorial dispute with neighboring India. 

The new map includes Lipu Lekh and contested areas in Kalapani and Limpiyadhura. The speaker of the House, Agni Kharel, said all 258 members present voted in favor of the new map. The bill needed the backing of two-thirds of the 275 lawmakers of the House of Representatives to move forward.

"This is in favor of the people and national interest. This was unanimous agreement with no opposition," Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli told the media. "It is not just the Parliament, but the entire nation is behind this". 

The bill now needs approval from the upper house and then the president's signature.  

Read moreWhy are India and Nepal clashing over disputed Himalayan territory?

India responds

India on Saturday responded to the move by saying the measure was "not tenable."

"This artificial enlargement of claims is not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable,'' Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said in a statement. "It is also in violation of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues".  

The contested claims over the region have their roots in a treaty signed between Nepal and British India in 1816. The Sugauli treaty determined the Makhali river, that runs through Kalapani, as the boundary between the two neighbors. However, the river has many tributaries that meet at Kalapani. Due to this, India claims that the river begins at Kalapani whereas Nepal says that it begins from Lipu Lekh pass, which is the source of most of its tributaries. 

In 2019, a new map of India showed Kalapani within its state of Uttarakhand, drawing strong protests from Nepal.  

Tensions between the South Asian neighbors were renewed this year in May when India inaugurated a new road that connected Dharchula in Uttarakhand to the Lipu Lekh pass. 

Read moreNew road rouses territorial dispute between India and Nepal

A few weeks later, Nepal's ruling party cleared the map that showed the contested territory within its borders. 

The two countries have been embroiled in an exchange of strong remarks for over a month now. 

Nepal has proposed resolving the dispute through dialogue, but officials claim they have not received any response from New Delhi.

dvv/stb (AFP, AP) 

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