The map dispute is based on different interpretations of the treaty signed by the British East India Company with the king of Nepal in 1816, which established the border between the two countries. Although both sides have long claimed the territory as their own, Wednesday marked the first time that Nepal published a map that includes the controversial area. India already includes the contested area on its official map.
The dispute was rekindled on May 8, when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh practically inaugurated a newly constructed 80-kilometer (50-mile) road linking Indian Dharchula to the Tibetan Autonomous Region via the Lipulekh Pass, which is part of of the contested area.
India expects the route to facilitate trade and movement of Hindu pilgrims to Mansoravar Lake in Tibet administered by China, which is considered auspicious.
But hundreds of angry Nepalese protesters took to the streets across Nepal opposing the Indian inauguration, burning the effigy of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and calling it a violation of their territorial sovereignty.
Nepal responded quickly. On May 9, his foreign ministry issued a statement asking India to “refrain from carrying out any activity within the territory of Nepal”.
India responded by stating that the inaugurated road section is “completely” in its territory and that the two countries would discuss it after the worst coronavirus pandemic passed. “Both sides are also planning talks at the level of foreign secretary that will take place once the dates are concluded between the two sides after the two companies and governments have successfully addressed the challenge of the Covid-19 emergency”, the Indian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The following day, the Nepalese government summoned the Indian ambassador to the issue.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli suggested that India was bullying Nepal and warned: “We will not let go of the Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani issue. This is our land and we will lay claim to it. It is not a disputed land. It is our land. India has created unnecessary controversy by claiming it as them. This government will make concrete efforts to recover the territories. “
China also weighed on that day, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying during a daily press conference: “We hope the two countries resolve their differences correctly through friendly consultations and refrain from taking any unilateral action. that can complicate the situation. “
On Wednesday, Nepal officially unveiled its revised and expanded national map, a move that the Indian Foreign Ministry quickly criticized as “one-sided” and devoid of “historical facts and evidence”. “Such an artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India,” added the ministry in its statement.
Nepal has not explained why the areas had not previously been included in its national map.
An earlier version of this story misinterpreted the role of Defense Minister Rajnath Singh. This has been corrected.
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