Kalapani Dispute: Why Indo-Nepal Ties Maybe in Troubled Waters

Following the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories on 31 October, the Home Ministry released a revised map of India on 2 November. While the entire country took note of the new boundaries of the union territories of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh, one of India’s neighbours wasn’t impressed.

Nepal objected to the new map released by the Indian government and the bone of contention between the two countries was the tri-junction point where the borders of India, Nepal and Tibet meet, Kalapani.

So, here’s a look at how the Kalapani territorial dispute progressed through the years and what triggered the current situation.

What's All The Fuss About?

Right after the publication of the revised map of India, protests started mounting in Nepal as youths and students of the ruling Nepal Communist Party and the opposition Nepali Congress took to the streets.

In his reaction, Nepal Prime Minister KP Oli said that the Kalapani area at the tri-junction of Nepal, India and Tibet belonged to Nepal, and “India should immediately withdraw its army”.

After Nepal foreign ministry raised this matter with India, MEA was quick to respond saying that the Indian map is absolutely accurate and nothing has been revised as far as the borders are concerned.

"“Our map accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India. The new map has in no manner revised our boundary with Nepal. The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing under the existing mechanism. We reiterate our commitment to find a solution through dialogue in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations.”" - Raveesh Kumar, MEA Spokesperson

Also Read: ‘Have Not Revised Boundary’: MEA on Nepal’s Objections to New Map

Kalapani: Location and Demographics

Kalapani as represented on the Map of India. 

A disputed territory between India and Nepal, Kalapani is situated on the eastern banks of the river Mahakali and is considered by India to be a part of Uttrakhand’s Pithoragarh district, while Nepal contests that the area falls under its district called Darchula.

Kalapani represented on the map of Nepal. 

The 372 square kilometre area is the tri-junction point where borders of India, Nepal and Tibet meet.

The valley of Kalapani, with the Lipulekh Pass at the top, forms the Indian route to the ancient pilgrimage site of Kailash–Manasarovar. Kalapani is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres and borders Uttarakhand in India and Sudurpashchim Pradesh in Nepal.

Where Did It All Start?

The origin of river Mahakali forms the basis of Kalapani territorial dispute. According to the 1816 treaty of Segauli signed between British India and Nepal, the western boundary of Nepal is marked by the river Mahakali.

The river has multiple tributaries. While India states that Mahakali river originates in Kalapani, Nepal contests that the river originates from Lipulekh Pass from where most of the tributaries of the river begin.

This discrepancy has led to boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps including the territory in their own area to support their claims.

Multiple contradicting reports have emerged in connection with the dispute. While some accounts state that Nepal conceded the territory to India in the wake of India-China war of 1962, another report submitted to Nepal Prime Minister Oli claims that India has illegaly occupied 62 square kilometres of land in Nepal.

In the last 20 years, the issue has been raised multiple times by the two countries.

Also Read: Modi inaugurates historic Indo-Nepal petro pipeline

Why is Kalapani Important?

As Kalapani is situated at the tri-junction of India, Nepal and Tibet, the region holds strategic importance from the defence point of view.

Further, the Indian government has presented tax records dating back to the 1830s to support its claims. Nepal has also produced maps backing their claim concerning the origin of Mahakali river.

The rise of Nepali nationalism has resulted in a huge amount of pressure on Oli to resolve the Kalapani dispute. Hence, the dispute is a crucial talking point in Nepali politics.

What's in Store for Indo-Nepal Bilateral Ties?

New Delhi has always had a major role in deciding the course of politics in Kathmandu. India was directly or indirectly linked with all of the important political events of Nepal after 1950. Certainly, the political movements of 1950–51, which ended the Rana regime, the people’s movement of 1990 which ended the Panchayat regime, and the movement of 2006 that ended the royal regime of King Gyanendra, were the result of Nepali consciousness.

However, the Kalapani dispute which has resulted in a stalemate between the two countries even after multiple rounds of talks and discussions might prove to be a roadblock for smooth and flourishing bilateral relations.

Further, this is not the only disputed region between India and Nepal. Susta, an area controlled by Nepal near Uttar Pradesh is another territorial dispute between the two nations. During his visit to Nepal in 2014, Prime Minister Modi had said that the Susta and Kalapani issues would be sorted out.

(With inputs from PTI, The Indian Express, ThePrint, Scroll.com)

Also Read: Nepal's ruling party currying favour with 'Xi Jinping Thought'

. Read more on Explainers by The Quint.RSS & BJP’s Nehru-Netaji ‘Cosplay’: Irony Dies a Thousand DeathsRegular Meets Held to Review Pollution in Delhi: Javadekar in RS . Read more on Explainers by The Quint.