Nepal’s media has also supported the country’s historical claim to the territory, but the coverage has been much more measured with a lot of the blame also going to successive governments in Kathmandu for not pushing Nepal’s rightful claim to the region more assertively.
The former Director General of the Topographic Survey of Nepal Punya Prasad Oli says there was a “gentlemen’s agreement” between officials from Nepal and India to publish maps only after demarcation/delineation activities and the joint issuance of strip maps of their common border. After India issued its map in November, there was no recourse for Nepal but to issue its own.
It was only in 1981 that the two countries set up the Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Group which decided to demarcate the borders, carry out maintenance of dilapidated and disappeared boundary pillars, and to densify them in built-up areas.
As has been exhaustively pointed out, Nepal’s position regarding the Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpiyadhura regions is based on the British East India map published after the 1816 Sugauli Treaty — especially British maps up to 1857.
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India’s position on the other hand is based on the British Survey of India maps between 1857-1881 and later. It should be remembered that the Topographic Survey of Nepal published Nepal’s first map in 1976, but Kalapani, Lipu Lekh and Limpiyadhura were not shown on them. On the other hand, Nepal’s maps published in text books during the Panchayat period incorporate these regions. The new political map has an appendix-like portion that juts out of the northwestern corner of Nepal.
There is no other treaty that Nepal has signed with British India which states that Nepal’s western boundary has changed because of natural causes. Even if the course of rivers changed in some sections of the Tarai after the Treaty, as per the international boundary principles, the position of the river at the time of the Treaty will be taken as the border.
One Indian contention is that it was British cartographers who kept shifting the line demarcating the Kali river eastwards for strategic reasons, and therefore Nepal should just accept it without any questions asked.
There are no records in Nepal to suggest that these demarcations were done jointly between British East India Company and Nepal. The shifting of the international boundary based on changes in the course of a mountain river does not hold water, literally. Even if these changes in the course of the river were depicted in the maps published by the Survey of India during British rule, they cannot be used as reference in deciding the international border.
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Perhaps the most vexing statement was made last week by Indian Army Chief Gen M N Naravane, who hinted that Nepal was influenced by a ‘third party’ in bringing forth the Kalapani issue. This created an uproar not just in Nepal, but even in India itself where a former Indian ambassador to Nepal called the statement ‘ill-advised’.
According to Bishwabandu Thapa, who was the Home Minister during King Mahendra’s rule in Nepal in 1962, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote a personal letter to King Mahendra asking him to let the retreating India Army stay temporarily in an open area in Kalapani during the Sino-Indian war.