A look at Nepal's map machinations

M Vinaya Chandran
M Vinaya ChandranJun 16, 2020 | 10:54

A look at Nepal's map machinations

The boundary between India and Nepal runs along the Kali River, as enunciated in the Sugauli Treaty of 1816.

Nepal is going to publish a new map, purportedly as a first step towards regaining their territory usurped by India. PM Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli has been vociferously threatening India and fomenting nationalistic fervour against India.

Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has been wondering why India is not talking to Nepal while they are doing it with the Chinese on the Ladakh issue. It is important to know what prompted Nepal to go on the warpath.

Origins of the dispute 

Everyone knows that the boundary between India and Nepal runs along the Kali River, as enunciated in the Sugauli Treaty of 1816. The treaty neither had a map attached to it nor does it specify the origin of Kali River as can be discerned from CU Aitchison's A Collection Of Treaties, Engagements And Sanads Relating To India And Neighbouring Countries Vol II, published by the Superintendent Government Printing India, Calcutta in 1909.

A few Nepali scholars like Mangal Siddhi Manandar and Hriday Lal Koirala refer to certain British Indian maps of 1816 and thereafter, showing Lumpiyadhura as the origin of Kali River, which is the basis for the new map being approved by the Nepal parliament. They also say that the maps published by British India after 1850 resorted to cartographic manipulation with a sinister motive and changed the boundary to Lipu Khola. In 1975, the Government of Nepal published a map showing the same Lipu Khola as the boundary, which the authors feel was due to 'incompetence'.

Terming what Nepal Government did as incompetence and what the British Colonial power did as sinister, is not logical. According to international law, technically correct boundaries, however, could only be mapped when the survey and cartographic techniques were adequately advanced to facilitate its demarcation.

In 1815 AD, the Court of Directors in London appointed Colin Mackenzie as the first Surveyor General of India, and in 1818 AD appointed Lambton as Superintendent of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.

By 1856 AD the party had only fixed the positions and heights of 36 snow-covered peaks. This repudiates the claims of some authors that the British maps of 1856 and before showed Lumpiyadhura as the origin of Kali River. Even if there were maps in circulation, they were not scientifically surveyed or published as part of an international treaty.

Lack of logic

Maps, which can be considered for settling the dispute are the ones printed by India and Nepal. The Survey of India published a map in 1954 and adopted by the Indian Parliament and a new one in 2019, which has not made any change in the India - Nepal Boundary. Nepal and China jointly printed a bilingual map as part of their bilateral Boundary Agreement in 1961 and thereafter the Nepal Survey Department printed a map in 1975.

All these maps show Kali River originating near Lipulekh and not Lumpiyadhura as claimed by Nepal now. The claim was not existing before 1996. The issue can be clearly seen on the China-Nepal joint map, where Kali River is marked in the Nepali language.

main_sb_india-nepal-_061620104847.jpgNepal claims that Kuti-Yangti River is the actual Kali River, whereas it is clear in the map that Kali River originates near Lipulekh. The red line shows the China - Nepal Boundary, which starts from Tinker Lipu, which is the highest point between Lipu Dhura and Lipu Lekh passes and their Number 1 boundary pillar is on that point.

The green line depicts the existing India-Nepal boundary, which deviates North of Gunji and runs along the watershed to Tinker Lipu. All these conform to the Indian position. The map is a part of an international agreement and Nepal cannot deny its veracity unless they renegotiate their boundary with China.

No historic evidence

Shyam Saran, who was the Indian Ambassador to Nepal from 2000 to 2004 and later The Indian foreign secretary said that while he was in Nepal as ambassador, the Kalapani issue was put on the agenda of the foreign secretary-level talks held in 2003, as requested by Nepal and when Indian side was ready to have a substantive discussion, the agenda item was dropped by the Nepali side. Apparently the purpose was to merely show that the Nepali side was taking up the issue seriously with India.

In addition to the cartographic reason, there are historic evidence and revenue records to show that the area was always under the administrative control of India. There are also many agreements signed between India and China, which designate Lipulekh pass as the place for crossing over of pilgrims and traders of both countries.

These and the fact that from 1816 to 1996, Nepal has never raised this claim, cast a shadow on the Nepalese intentions. The issue has, however, been a tool for exploiting the Nepalese nationalistic fervour by the monarchy and all political parties.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Last updated: June 16, 2020 | 10:56
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