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Focus: GS-II International Relations


  • When the Nepal-India dispute over the Himalayan territory of Limpiyadhura (Kalapani row) flared up, a series of events involving: Indian media coverage of Nepal, Accusation of Nepal acting under Chinese influence, Nepalese questioning of India’s commitment to ‘satyameva jayate’, Nepal’s claim that the true birthplace of Lord Ram was situated in present-day Nepal, etc., have put the India-Nepal relations under a lot of avoidable strain.
  • De-escalation must happen before the social, cultural and economic flows across the open border suffer long-term damage.

Click Here to read more about the Kalapani Row

The Cause

  • The cause of the split that has opened up between Kathmandu and Delhi relates to the disputed ownership of the triangle north of Kumaon, including the Limpiyadhura ridgeline, the high pass into Tibet at Lipu Lek, and the Kalapani area hosting an Indian Army garrison.
  • New Delhi’s position on the dispute is based on its decades-long possession of the territory, coupled with Kathmandu’s implied acquiescence through its silence and the omission of Limpiyadhura on its own official maps.
  • Nepal’s claim is centred on the Treaty of Sugauli (1815), whose language reads the “Rajah of Nipal renounces all claim to the countries lying to the west of the River Kali”.

History of administration

  • Land records were kept in Nepal’s district headquarters of Darchula and Baitadi until access was blocked in the 1960s by the Indian base at Kalapani.
  • Kathmandu responded with sensitivity to Indian strategic concerns before and after the 1962 China-India war by allowing the Indian army post to be stationed within what was clearly its territory at Kalapani and not publicly demanding its withdrawal.

Road to Lipu Lek

  • A border demarcation team was able to delineate 98% of the 1,751 km Nepal-India frontier, but not Susta along the Gandaki flats and the upper tracts of the Kali.
  • It was after India published its new political map in November following the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh that the pressure arose for Kathmandu to put out its own map incorporating the Limpiyadhura finger.

Way forward: Dousing the volcano

  • The ice was broken on August 15 when Nepali Prime Minister Oli called the Indian Prime Minister on the occasion of India’s Independence Day, but that is just the beginning.
  • Talks must be held, for which the video conference facility that has existed between the two Foreign Secretaries must be re-activated.
  • Delay will wound the people of Nepal socially, culturally and economically, and it will also hurt Indian citizens from Purvanchal to Bihar and Odisha, who rely on substantial remittance from Nepal.
  • India does have experience of successfully resolving territorial disputes with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan bilaterally and through third-party adjudication. Given political will at the topmost level, it should be possible to douse the Limpiyadhura issue very quickly.
  • While India’s Foreign Office has thankfully remained restrained in its statements, India is required to maintain status quo in the disputed area.
  • One difficulty is the apparent absence of backchannel diplomacy between the two capitals, which helped in ending the 2015 blockade.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024