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India already had quite a few hostile players to deal with on its borders. And it looks like we have one more unhappy party at our northern border. Nepal's cabinet created quite a bit of noise when it approved a new map of the country. In today's post we discuss the changes in the map and why it is an issue, the strategic importance of Nepal, and the implications of this move for our mutual futures.
The change in the map
The new map released by Nepal puts the territories of Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh in its territory. All of these are a part of India. While the issue has been simmering in the background for quite some time it came to the foreground when India began construction of a special road section for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage in the Pithoragarh district.
Kalapani is of key importance to India being the trijunction between India, Nepal, and China, something we would not like to lose control over. It is also a key pilgrimage route for the Indian people. Via a series of treaties between 1954 (Indo-China), 1961 (China Nepal), and 1962 (Indo Nepal) the fact that these territories do infact belong to India has been established.
Nepal's Strategic importance
Nepal is like the child of two fighting parents, stuck in the between, trying to make the best of the task at hand. The country depends heavily on China for infrastructure investments and India for electricity and trade. With negligible military strength, the country has nothing to drive a claim to the "disputed" territories.
The only rationale for Nepal to push for these territories, therefore, is potential support from the other parent - China, who while on paper has distanced itself from the issue saying that it is a bilateral issue between the two countries, has had a history of trying to chip away at our northeastern borders.
Where do we go from here?
With the coronavirus related linkage already denting China's position on the global stage significantly, it would be hesitant to get into any new issues, especially with a country that has gained a lot of goodwill on the global stage by our pharma exports. Nepal as we discussed in addition to its heavy trade dependence on India, has little military might to assert its claim over said territories, and in the lack of a Chinese backing will have to back out of the issue.
The issue, therefore, seems moot, something that will most likely be quashed, and rightfully so!