Pressure is mounting on Nepal to deal with boundary issues with China on a similar level as it did with India over its claim of Limpiyadhura, after media reports that several of its Himalayan villages are now in Chinese territory.
A week after Nepal officially endorsed its new national emblem based on a new political map that includes 363 sq km of territory on its northwestern tip, the Annapurna Post newspaper disclosed this week that several villages in Gorkha and Sankhuwasabha districts are actually in China.
Prime Minister K P Oli’s government, which got a multi-partisan amendment to the Constitution this month to stake its claim to the territory occupied by India, has not spoken about the Chinese border issue.
Rui village in north Gorakha and Chyanga and Lungdek villages in northern Sankhuwasabha where inhabitants have documents to prove they are Nepalis, have reportedly fallen inside Chinese territory since a border territory swap between the two countries after a survey in 1963.
Minister of Land Management Padma Kumari Aryal, who is only technically responsible for boundary issues, said while much of Nepal’s boundary claims with China have been resolved, “if any new issues emerge they will be settled through diplomatic dialogue”.
She says the only pending border issues Nepal has with China are about three boundary pillars in Dolakha, and two in the vicinity of Mt Everest.
The reports of Nepal’s villages actually being inside China’s boundary has been replayed widely by the media in India, which itself has been preoccupied with its own violent border clashes with Chinese troops on 15 June in Galwan Valley in Ladakh in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
Opposition Nepali Congress leader Bimalendra Nidhi said Nepal had not been as forthcoming in taking up disputes with China as it did with India.
He listed things that he said proved Nepal’s China tilt: “Questions are being raised in the media about Nepal’s villages falling under Chinese territory in Tibet, about Huawei 5G towers on north side of Mt Everest, about Chinese language teachers coming to Nepal, and the online meeting between the Communist Parties of China and Nepal.”
The video-conference between the two parties last weekend was billed as ‘training’ and was attended by senior leaders including NCP Co-chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Jhal Nath Khanal – both ex-prime ministers.
Nidhi asked: “Why do our communist leaders need to video conference now to get training from Chinese communist leaders?”
Nepal shares a 1,439km Himalayan border with China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, and was demarcated by surveyors of the two countries in 1963 after a two-year mission along the world’s highest mountains. The demarcation set Mt Everest on the boundary between the two countries.
The border has been reviewed twice: in 1979 and 1988 according to Buddhi Narayan Shrestha former director general of Nepal’s Department of Survey. He said both sides exchanged villages in 15 northern districts, with Nepal ceding 1,836sq km of territory, and China giving Nepal 2,140sq km.
“The end result was that Nepal got an additional 304sq km more,” said Shrestha, who thinks Nepal may have “accidentally lost” some villages to China in return of unpopulated terrain in the mountains.
“It may have happened because of our lack of historical knowledge and evidence about the difficult geography and remote settlements,” he admitted, suggesting that the two countries should re-examine the 1963 survey since terrain that marked the boundary may have changed in the past 58 years.