Kalapani Territory Issue
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Baljit Dhaka

Kalapani Territory Issue

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Why in News?

  • Nepal and India are planning to resolve the Kalapani border issue through dialogue. India has clarified that the latest political map of India reflects the sovereign territory of India.  

Background

  • The new political map of India released recently by the Govt. of India (GoI) to account for the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir, showed the disputed Kalapani area as a part of Uttarakhand, India.
  • In response to it, the Nepal government issued a statement, stating that it was “absolutely not acceptable”. To which India replied it had not made any change to its border with Nepal and held that “Our map accurately depicts the sovereign territory of India”.

Where is Kalapani Situated?

  • Kalapani is a 35 square kilometer area, which is claimed by both India and Nepal. It is located at an altitude of 3600m on the Kailash Mansarovar route.
  • River Mahakali, earlier known as River Kali, flows through Kalapani, which is situated on the eastern bank of the river.
  • Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territories - India as part of Uttrakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of the Sudurpaschim Pradesh’s  Darchula district.
  • Kalapani is at a tri-junction point where the Indian, Nepalese, and Tibetan(Chinese) borders meet. The region has been manned by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police since 1962.

What is the dispute?

      • Under the treaty of Sugauli signed between Nepal and the British East India Company in 1816, the Kali River was located as Nepal’s western boundary with India.
      • Nepal claims that the river located towards the west of the territory is the main Kali river and thus it falls in its territory. India claims a ridgeline towards the east of the Kalapani territory and hence, includes it in the Indian Union.  
      • It, however, made no mention of a ridgeline and subsequent maps of the areas drawn by British surveyors showed the source of the Kali river at different places.
      • This discrepancy has led to the boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps including the territory in their own area to support their claims. The exact size of the Kalapani territory also varies in different sources.  

Other India-Nepal Border Issues

  • India and Nepal share a 1,800 km open border such that Nepal is surrounded by India from three sides. Relations between the two countries were strained after Nepal blames India for imposing a border blockade in 2015, which crippled supplies to the landlocked nation.
  • Susta area in southern Nepal remains another area of territorial disputes.

Way forward

  • While the two countries have made a lot of headway in ties, sensitive issues such as border need to be handled carefully and New Delhi has to be mindful of Nepal’s concerns.