New Delhi: Nepal foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali has personally handed over a diplomatic note protesting a new road constructed by India, even as he told Nepali lawmakers that Kathmandu cannot wait till the end of the COVID-19 crisis to hold boundary talks.
On Monday afternoon, Nepal’s foreign ministry reported that Gyawali summoned the Indian ambassador, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, for a meeting and handed over a diplomatic note that “conveyed Government of Nepal’s position on boundary issues”.
Foreign Minister Hon. @PradeepgyawaliK conveyed Government of Nepal’s position on boundary issues to Ambassador of India to Nepal H.E. Mr. Vinay Mohan Kwatra at a meeting held at MoFA today and handed over a diplomatic note in this regard.
— MOFA of Nepal 🇳🇵 (@MofaNepal) May 11, 2020
The diplomatic note has been handed after two days of high political activity in Kathmandu, with ruling and opposition leaders urging the Nepal government to take a more forceful stance on the latest controversy over boundary with India.
The Indian embassy later tweeted that Kwatra explained India’s position on boundary issues and handed over MEA spokesperson’s response to the Nepal foreign minister.
Amb. of India to Nepal Sh. Kwatra met Hon’ble Min. for Foreign Affairs Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gyawali today at Singha Durbar.
Amb. Kwatra stated India’s position on boundary issues with Nepal. He also handed over a copy of MEA spokesperson’s response to the Hon’ble Min.@MEAIndia
— IndiaInNepal (@IndiaInNepal) May 11, 2020
The issue erupted after defence minister Rajnath Singh on May 9 inaugurated a new link road to Lipulekh on the Sino-Indian boundary, which would reduce the length of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.
Nepal issued a lengthy statement on Saturday, decrying India’s “unilateral” action, claiming that the road was encroaching onto territory claimed by Kathmandu as per the 1816 Sugauli treaty.
In New Delhi, Ministry of External Affairs had responded by saying that the road section “lies entirely within the territory of India”.
India had also stated that it was ready for a meeting of the two foreign secretaries “once the dates are finalised between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of COVID-19 emergency”.
On Monday, Nepali parliament’s international relations committee summoned Gyawali to discuss the boundary issue.
According to Kathmandu Post, Gyawali said that Nepal cannot wait for the coronavirus crisis to be over to hold talks with India. “We are ready for talks at any level with India – at the prime minister’s level or foreign secretary’s level,” he said.
Gyawali also told the parliamentary panel that a new border post will be set up near Kalapani, with a battalion of Armed Police Force to be stationed in the area.
The Nepali foreign minister reportedly said, as per Republica, that government had failed to safeguard Nepali territories in the western frontier with India as it could maintain a presence in the region on a long-term basis. “It is very unfortunate that Nepal could not make its presence in Kalapani for several years,” he said.
Nepal had first sought foreign secretary-level talks last year, after India had issued a new political map to show the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Union Territories. Nepal had objected as it showed Kalapani as part of Indian territory.
However, the meeting never took place, with India waiting for a new foreign secretary to take over and then the eventual COVID-19 crisis.
The latest boundary controversy is raising tempers in Kathmandu, with lawmakers from across the aisle condemning India for constructing the road and also trading political barbs during a meeting of Nepal’s House of Representatives on Sunday.
During a meeting of the Parliamentary state affairs and good governance committee on the same day, several members suggested that Nepal government should approach international court to resolve the boundary dispute.
This was reportedly rejected by both the Nepalese foreign minister Gyawali and the chairman of the ruling party, NCP, Pushpa Kamal Dahal. “The time has not come to go in that direction,” Dahal said.