Politicians fear of raising Border Issue

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Buddhi Narayan Shrestha

Politicians fear of raising border issue would annoy India

Buddhi Narayan Shrestha is a border researcher. He is former Director General of the Department of Surveys and after his retirement he opened a mapping company, named Bhumichitra Mapping Company. He is the managing director of the company. He was awarded the Madan Puraskar in 2007 for his book ‘Border of Nepal’, and his pursuit of studies on Nepal’s border continues. He talked to BN Dahal of the People’s Review when the issue of Indian encroachment of Nepalese territory at different places of the Nepal-India border has again become a hot issue. Excerpts:

Q. You are an expert on border and border issues. There has been a hue and cry over the shrinking of Nepalese border. What do you feel?

A. It is not that Nepal’s border has shrunk it has been encroached. The country’s borders have again fallen into dispute. More than how much Nepalese land has been encroached, first we should talk about Nepal’s two neighbouring countries. On the north there is China. In 1960, there was a border agreement between Neal and China and the border treaty followed the next year. That time there were disputes at 32 border points. China had even claimed the peak of Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest). But when Nepal furnished proofs based on maps that Sagarmatha belongs to Nepal, China conceded. That dispute was resolved at the Prime Minister’s level. The diplomatic agreement between Nepal and China has been renewed three times and the fourth renewal will follow soon. But when we talk about Nepal’s border with India, 27 Nepalese districts share border with India. Out of those 27, India has encroached Nepalese land at 54 points in those 21 districts. The largest portion of them is the Limpiyadhura where 376 sq kilometre area of Kalapani in Darchula district has been encroached by India and the smallest part is the 40 square metre at Phatak of Pashupatinagar in Ilam district. Altogether, India has encroached 60,000 hectares of Nepalese territory. They are 37,000 hectare of Kalapani, 14,000 hectares in Susta and 1,000 hectares in other areas.

Q. After the border agreement between Nepal and China in 1960 all disputes were solved in two years, but why the border disputes with India has not yet been resolved? Has India encroached upon Nepalese land or the other way round?

A. Nepalese had also stepped upon the no-man’s land at several places. But the Joint Border Team could persuade them and they were returned from the overstepped territory. But the Indian never tried to remove the Indians who have encroached into Nepalese territory.

Q. There have been several rounds of border talks between Nepal and India. Is it because Nepal has failed to furnish sufficient proof that the border disputes have remained unresolved?

A. Only last week, Nepalese representatives of the Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee, led by the Director General of the Survey Department went to New Delhi for negotiation. There was news that representatives of both the sides also prepared 193 maps and signed them. They will be authorized after the foreign ministers of both the countries sign on it. But there was no verification of the maps of Kalapani and Susta and the dispute remained unresolved. The reason that the dispute of Kalapani and Susta were unresolved because Nepal does not have sufficient proof of these areas and Indians do not agree to whatever proofs we present before them. In the same way, Nepal does not agree to the maps produced by the Indians. What should be remembered that the map of 1956 presented by Nepal shows the origin of Kali River as Limpiyadhura. This map shows the 17 km territory from the Kali River to Limpiyadhura belongs to Nepal. But the much older map of 1879 presented by shows a small stream flowing by the side of Kali Temple as the origin of the mighty Kali River. Nepal cannot agree on this. So, the dispute has continued because the two sides have not agreed to a common map as the basis. In Susta also, India has not agreed to the map presented by Nepal and vice versa. But Nepal has not yet presented the map prepared by Nepal in 1993-1994 with cooperation of JICA before the India. It is not known why.

Q. The dispute of Kalapani and Susta is growing and the Indians have intensified their encroachment. But the Nepal Government is has remained quiet, why?

A. The dispute is more serious in Kalapani and Susta. The Indian army or paramilitary forces have occupied Kalapani since 1962. After India lost to China in the border war of 1962, Indian troops came stayed at the Nepalese territory in Kalapani so prevent the Chinese from crossing over to India through the Lipulek Pass. Kalapani is a hillock and from that point Indians can see any troop movement on the Chinese side and could attack from a higher position if they try to attack. That is why the Indians captured the strategic Nepalese point and it has been capturing the point ever since. In this, border experts or the government, the prime minister, minister, leaders of political parties and those who call themselves as representatives of the people have remained quiet because they fear India might get angry if they raise the issue of border. Those would lose their chairs if India gets angry. But for a sovereign country, border is a very sensitive issue because if India encroaches even a small part of Nepal, the Nepalese living in the area becomes Indians. Therefore, the Nepalese government and people’s representatives should have talked with India seriously and sternly, but they have failed. Recently, Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan, at the SAARC ministerial level meeting, put the issue of border dispute before Indian foreign minister and the latter has assured of doing investigation on this. This proves Indians would response if Nepalese leaders collect the courage and put the issue before the Indians. But our leaders fear and hesitate to even raise the issue during meetings and talks. However, the Nepalese people have become aware and they are raising voices that if the border is encroached the country would its sovereignty. Even the people of Susta are speaking out.

Q. You as a border expert, a professional, but you are raising voices more strongly than the political leaders?

A. I worked for a long time at the Department of Survey and I gathered some experience when I was in that department. Then after, I thought why not carry out study on the same subject and I started studying about border and border issues. The more I studied the more I found that India had encroached Nepalese land. When I was studying in London, in the library of the British Museum I found a map that showed Nepal’s western border was up to Limpiyadhura. The same map showed encroachment in different other places. Then I started disclosing my findings. Similarly, I reached to the Library of Congress, the world’s biggest library, twice and the maps I studied there also showed encroachment of Nepalese land at different places. There is a place called Sundarpur between Ilam and Panchthar districts in east Nepal. That place gives the most beautiful scenery of Mt. Kanchanjungha. Even that place was nibbled by India. I thought if this trend continues, the existence of Nepall might fall into danger and I started making my findings public. This is an issue of nationalism. I firmly believe that no Nepalese territory should be contracted.

Q. Now, Terai is called Madhesh. Is Terai and Madhesh are the same?

A. In my study Terai is not Madhesh. Geographically, Nepal’s topography has Terai, Chure-Bhabhar, mid-hills, mountains and the Himalayas. Generally speaking Nepal is made up of Himal, mountains and Terai. Even the government has not said that Nepal has any geographical area called Madhesh. In my studies I have found that the original people of Nepalese terai are the Tharus. Later, there was emigration into Nepalese terai from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar of India for employment and livelihood and their number started growing and they became prevalent in the Terai. The influx of Indian grows whenever there are political changes and disturbances and the original people of the Terai fell into minority. With the rise in the influx, those people virtually wiped out the four-mile wide forest of the Terai to make room for agriculture and cultivation. These Indians who came to Nepal are called Madhesi because they came from the middle country and the areas occupied by the new arrivals began to be called as Madhesh. Nepalese Terai has never been called as Madhesh.

Q. Then geographically where does Terai lie?

A. It lies south of the Chure-Bhabar and north of the Indian border. It is about 28 km wide and stretches 885 km from east to west.       ♣ ♣ ♣

Interview : People’s Review Weekly, 27 December 2007

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