Let’s not make border dispute a ‘political stunt’: NC leader Lekhak

Amrit Raj Kaphle

November 21, 2019


Let’s not make border dispute a ‘political stunt’: NC leader Lekhak
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After India published a map incorporating Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulek within India’s territory, the issue of border dispute has been the talk of the town. In an all-party meeting held in Kathmandu recently, all political parties including the main opposition party Nepali Congress had advised PM Oli to initiate high-level talks to address the border issue. Despite urges from all sides, the government has not made its stand public in writing, neither has it spoken to India through diplomatic channels. The only response from the PM was the affirmation of not letting even an inch. The agitating people are waiting impatiently to hear about the diplomatic efforts of the government. The main opposition party, which is expected to be the watchdog of the rights of the people, has bogged down into internal conflicts. In this context, Khabarhub talked to Ramesh Lekhak, former Minister of State for Labor and Transport Management and now a central committee member of the Nepali Congress, on the issues including the Nepal-India border dispute and the power conflict within the NC. Excerpts:

How has the main opposition party taken the Nepal-India border dispute resulted in by the map the Indian government has made public recently? 

Regarding the ongoing border dispute, Limpiyadhura, Lipulek and Kalapani of western Nepal are ours. The area mentioned belongs to Nepal. There are various facts supporting it. Firstly, the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, the treaty signed between Nepal and East India Company stipulates that Nepal shall not claim for the part lying beyond the Kali River. Secondly, the map drawn during East India Company has clearly depicted where the Kali River lies.

The map clearly indicates that the river flowing downwards from Limpiyadhura is Kali River. Thirdly, the river which India calls Kali is the Mahakali here, and the Tibetans call it Kutiyangdi. Kuti in Tibetan means black and Yangdi means river, so it is the same the Kali River. There is only one river originating from Limpiyadhura that is Kali or Mahakali.

I don’t think there is anything to debate about as the land belongs to Nepal. At least there is no doubt about it among the Nepali people.

Another remarkable incident is that both the ruling party and the main opposition party are seen united on issues related to national border, sovereignty and national interest. This is a very positive sign in Nepal’s political history.

We should extend this culture ahead and in other important national agenda as well. While forming and functioning as a government, a party may run the government and another party may need to be at opposition, but when the issue of national interest arises, all should stand together.

Regarding the question whether India has shown any wise concern or not, I think India should feel the long term impacts such issues may have. India is larger than Nepal in terms of population and geography, and may be in democratic history; India should keep it in mind that some of its behaviors are not much liked by Nepali people.

Nepali people are very conscious and concerned about the issues relating to nationality and sovereignty, they can’t put these things at stake. Frequent undermining in such issues has given rise to anti-Indian sentiments in Nepal.

India could not be considerate enough in welcoming the new Constitution drafted and promulgated by the Constituent Assembly. A good neighbor is expected to respect the feelings of the neighbor.

Again, the border dispute, as it has come to the fore, is nurturing anti-Indian feelings among Nepali people. This is not good for a neighbor. India should take such things into consideration. It should not undermine people’s sentiment. We cannot change the neighbors, neither can India. We have to live together for thousands of years. Things now are completely changed than they were in 1950s.

The anti-Indian sentiment that has cropped up in the children of today shall impact after 30 years. India should take this issue more seriously.

What do you think the government should have done to resolve the border dispute? Is it working on that?

I think the time to make judgment on whether the government is working sincerely on the border dispute has not come yet. It’s my personal opinion. The border dispute is not the dispute erupted in recent weeks or not even in decades. Its has roots in history. Let’s assume that the government has been doing some homework on this issue.

How should we go ahead then? There are nearly eight battalions of Indian Army at Kalapani, and India has already made its map public incorporating the Nepali land. 

The Indian government has said they have made the map including Jammu and Kashmir public. Had they included Jammu and Kashmir, such things would not have occurred. Perhaps technicians can tell why they did so.

Perhaps they know their priorities. But we are and we were clear about Kalapani. We had raised our disagreement with their claim. A thorough survey has been done by both countries but it has not yet to be signed jointly. The main cause behind the delay in the sign is the dispute about Limpiyadhura and Susta. We have told the Indian government that we will not sign the document unless the dispute is resolved.

Some claim 97% task is complete, others say 98% is over; yet, what is noteworthy is the crux of the dispute still ongoing. Water needs 100 degree temperature to boil, 99 degree or 98 degree is close to 100 but the last 1 or 2 degree that’s still prime. However big the list of the border demarcation tasks may be unless it includes the places like Limpiyadhura and Susta it’s never complete.

Unless the final signature is done from both sides, the map of Nepali border should not have been made public. They know the reason behind the delay in signature. Nepal has been reiterating that once the dispute about the encroached land is resolved, Nepal will sign the documents instantly. Indians seem to be undermining Nepali claim. I think, we are right in what we have done.

On 15th May, 2015 Indian and Chinese Premiers signed a bilateral treaty making Lipulek a two country border, ignoring Nepal. Is it the crux of the problem?

When India and China signed a treaty on Lipu Lake in 2015, the Nepal government had claimed the land and demanded that Nepal should be included in it as well. We were busy in rescue and relief work after the 2015 earthquake.

Sushil Koirala, the Prime Minister then, had expressed his concern formally. Dr. Ram Sharan Mahat, the Foreign Minister then, was working hard to organize international conference of prospective donors for Nepal. In his meeting with the Indian government representatives, Dr. Mahat had expressed Nepal government’s dissatisfaction about the said agreement between India and China. The government had formally protested then.

Back to the present dispute, in the all-party meeting called by PM Oli, our President, very openly stated that Limpiyadhura and Kalapani belong to Nepal and the Indian security forces encroaching Nepali lands should be sent back. Our President advised to hold high level talk at Political and diplomatic levels. That’s Nepali Congress’s opinion as well.

When we talk about high level talk, we don’t mean the talk at the administrative or secretary level. First, the talk should be started at Prime Minister Level and the Premiers can assign the technical, administrative or diplomatic teams offering them the guidelines prepared to resolve the issue.

I got that the Prime Minister spoke about the issue in a public program. Such talks don’t work actually. He is the executive PM, mandated in this issue, even by the opposition party. It is an international issue. He should act boldly, fully prepared to execute his words into deeds while having a talk with his Indian counterpart.

Do you think he has decided to wait a while for a long term solution of the issue?

We wish he would not make it a political stunt. He has a good political backup and public support of Nepali people. He has the advantage of showing it and speaking boldly. While holding talk with Delhi he should execute it more boldly.The sooner, the better. People want result in few months. If someone wants to use it as a ‘political stunt’ for the time being, people shall never excuse, never forgive them. People can’t wait long. ‘Fake patriotism’ can’t tempt the people much further.

Now let’s talk about your party. Despite being a democratic party, these days people say, democracy is declining in Congress and it has been incapable of executing the role of main opposition party, What do you say about it?

The Nepali Congress is a democratic party. Both in principles and practices we are committed to safeguard and promote democracy.

Our democratic guidelines are very strong. We agree to abide by the democratic norms and values put forward by late BP Koirala. We don’t have differences in our opinion about the government.  We don’t have any problems in the policy, philosophy, strategy, analysis of the prevalent politics, etc.

We have differences in leadership of the individuals, like who should lead the sister organizations of the party, etc. We have differences on when should the General Convention be held, etc. We should penetrate in these issues in such a way that such issues don’t crop up in the future. The strategy for party mobilization and balance of power are key concerns as well.  We should address these issues at the earliest.

Regarding the weak performance in the parliament, we are relatively weaker due to the number as well. We bear a gentle nature, we don’t act aggressively and take to vandalism neither in the parliament nor in the street. So, people who are used to aggression may miss such behavior.

Recently, we had the awareness campaign, now we are planning to make our roots stronger.  Our General Assembly will address all such issues in detail. Till then, instead of trying to please everyone, the leadership should adopt the democratic practice of making the decision by majority. The impasse created by the culture of attempt to please all should be worked out tactfully and democratically.

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