As Nepal moves forth to table the Second Constitution Amendment Bill, the world observes a reset in the Indo-Nepal relations. The territorial dispute of India with Nepal concerns three areas – Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
The current dispute can be traced back to earlier this year in May when the Defence Minister, Rajnath Singh virtually inaugurated the Himalayan road link (the Lipulekh Pass) that passes through the already disputed area of Kalapani.
This was not the first time that Nepal expressed its discontent over the border that it shares with India. In November 2019, the opposition Nepali Congress raised protests against Lipulekh being designated as a part of India’s new map. The K.P. Oli government, under tremendous pressure from the opposition and the Nepalese press, decided to take these disputes further- worsening its relations with New Delhi.
It would be wrong to assume that the dragon has had no role to play in the new developments in India- Nepal bilateral relations. China’s increasing financial and military assistance to Nepal, combined with a strong inclination of the Oli government to the Chinese, have played a great hand in promoting anti-Indian sentiments of the Oli government.
Among other factors which have contributed to the ongoing dispute, there is a major financial cause which is important to make note of. On May 11, this year, India cancelled all its licences which allowed import of refined palm oil from Nepal. As a result, Nepal had a hefty amount of 2.93 lakh tonnes of refined palm oil in its inventory with nowhere to go.
The Modi administration has received a major blow as the opposition Nepali Congress decided to vote in the favour of the second amendment of the Nepali Constitution. Although there are parties such as the Samajbadi Party and others from the Terai plains that are still ambiguous about their stance on the amendment, it will most likely not make a difference against the larger majority that is voting for it.
Engrossed in the ongoing Indo-China dispute in Ladakh, the Indian diplomatic representatives are now also looking at another challenge from the friendly Nepalese neighbour. It is a complex situation that the Ministry of External Affairs is dealing with. It is impertinent that diplomacy should take a lead over warfare in the current scenario to improve the situation which is presently worsening. There is a strong need for India to prioritise on re-establishing relations with its neighbours in the region and maintain peace.