Unresolved Item : Nepal-India Border Demarcation

Unresolved Item: Nepal-India Border Demarcation

                                                             Buddhi Narayan Shrestha

Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Committee meeting was held in New Delhi, India from 18 to 19 December 2007. This was the 31st and the last meeting of the committee since its inception in November 1981. It is claimed that the committee has prepared authoritative strip-maps of the border, except the Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura areas. It is a matter of curiosity, why the disputed and encroached segments of the borderline have been remained undecided. Now who will deal on these unresolved items of the border, since the tenure of joint committee has not been extended. However, in the past its time period was extended to 1991, 1995, 1997, 2003, June 2005, 2006, June 2007 and to December 2007. Presently, the joint committee has been dissolved without solving the disputed area of Nepal-India border.

Concerning the disputed portion of Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura, the Indian side of the joint committee denied taking up the matter for discussion. The Nepalese side pressed to mention ‘Susta as an encroached portion’ in the minutes of the final meeting. But the Indian counter-part out rightly rejected to include these wordings.

So far as Kalapani-Limpiyadhura sector of the border is concerned, it is left behind mentioning that this is the case among Nepal, India and China. And this should be decided by tripartite agreement.

This is the case of unresolved items of Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura. However, the joint committee has prepared 182 strip-maps on the scale 1:15,000 showing half a kilometer on either side of the borderline, including 10-yard No-man’s Land. It has constructed, repaired and re-installed 8,000 main and subsidiary boundary pillars to demarcate the line of sight along the border. The strip-maps have been signed jointly by the Survey Officials. It is yet to sign by the plenipotentiary to make it formalized document. It is said that the border maps will be public after the joint signature of the authorities of both countries.

It is sad to mention that major problems of border encroachment at Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura are unresolved. In this circumstance, how the border demarcation of 1,808 kilometer length of Nepal-India borderline could be completed. The next query may be- whether the strip-maps are exact and accurate according to the situation of the ground. In other words, let us assume that the maps are drawn according to the spirit of the Treaty of Sugauli on the basis of old documents. But if the Nepalese land is encroached and occupied by the Indian nationals, what is the use of those maps for the Nepalese. Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura border issues have been unresolved due to following reasons.  

 Susta dispute

Susta is located on the south eastern part of Nawalparasi district. On the west, it is the Narayani River. It is surrounded by India on three sides, north, east and south by a curved boundary line. To go to Susta at first we have to travel 25 kilometers south-east from Parasi bazaar. After that we must have a boat ride for half an hour across the Narayani River. While returning back, it needs one hour boat ride due to anti-current of the river water.  Susta VDC was merged with the Tribeni VDC in 1980, as its seven wards have been encroached by India. Presently, the remaining portion of Susta has been named as ward number 4 of the amalgamated Tribeni SustaVDC.

 The Susta area came within the Nepali territory when the British returned the Tarai region from Koshi to Rapti Rivers on 11 December 1816 instead of paying two hundred thousand Rupees annually, as per Article 4 of the Treaty of Sugauli. The work to erect border pillars along Nawalparasi and Rupandehi borderline was started in 1829, and the border map was prepared during 1883-84-85. The 24 kilometer borderline from Tribeni Ghat to Sagardinha village area has been represented by the course of the River Narayani.  When the river flows south of Susta, the borderline leaves the riverine sector and catches the land boundary to the west. It is interesting to note that the Junge border pillars were constructed east of Tribeni Ghat and west of Sagardinha area. But 24 kilometer river course was not demarcated by masonry pillars. This is regarded as unfortunate as a bone of discontent for the settlement of disputed areas of Susta.  At that time Susta was mostly covered by dense forests.                                           susta-mantri-copy.jpg Reason of dispute The changing of river course is the main reason of dispute in the Susta area. The other reasons are floods, and cutting and felling of the jungles and lack of road transportation. The Narayani River is called Gandak in India. It has been changing its course from east to west since hundreds of years. In every flooding, the Narayani River which separates India on the east and Nepal to the west, cuts its bank and shifts towards Nepalese territory. When there are big floods, thousands of hectares of land shift towards the east of the river. For example, in 1845 the Narayani River suddenly shifted towards west by cutting Nepal’s territory. Similarly, during the massive flood of July 1954 the river shifted more towards west. In 1980 there was another heavy flood and the people of Susta had to be shifted to Tribeni. At that time, the river cut about 100 hectares of land. To date, the river has shifted and eroded approximately 14,000 hectares of Nepalese land, leaving towards east. And this portion of Nepalese territory has been encroached by Indians, regarding as the shifting river is the border between India and Nepal.    Unresolved Susta Many attempts were made to solve the dispute of Susta at the bilateral level many times from 1928. But the attempts proved futile since the Indian side displayed unfriendly attitudes. At several meetings of the Nepal-India Joint Technical Boundary Committee, the Nepalese side tried to push the Susta dispute aggressively. Due to the arrogance of Indian side nothing remarkable happened. And, resultantly, the issue has been postponed indefinitely. It now seems that the discussion on this issue has almost been stopped. The flat refusal of India to term the Susta area as ‘debatable’ during the last meeting held in New Delhi on 18 December 2007 is simply unfair.    Kalapani-Limpiyadhura dispute

The other disputed sector, Kalapani-Limpiyadhura is located on the north-western portion of the Nepalese territory. It is to mention that the Treaty of Sugauli of 4 March 1816 is the basis to delineate and demarcate the western border of Nepal, even though the Boundary Treaty of 1 November 1860 is implied specially to the south-western portion, as the restoration of Banke, Bardiya, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts as new territory (Naya Muluk).  According to the Treaty of Sugauli, river Kali is the western boundary of Nepal with India.  The boundary river, Kali is delimitated by Article 5 of the treaty.  It says “the Rajas of Nepal renounces for himself, his heirs, and successors, all claim to or connection with the countries lying to the west of the river Kali and engages never to have any concern with those countries or the inhabitants thereof.”  The Article denotes that the place where the river Kali originates is the north-western corner border limit of Nepal with India. It is situated on the tri-junction area of Nepal, India and China. But there is a controversy on the determination of origination of the Mahakali River.

 Status of the River Kali and Kalapani:

The status and origination of the river Kali has not been demarcated yet. The river is known as Kali at the upper reaches, Mahakali in the middle portion and Sarjoo / Gogra / Sharada or western branch of Gogra when it comes down to plain area. 

There is a controversy and much debate in the determination of the point of origination of river Kali:  whether it is originated from Limpiyadhura (5,532 meter) or Lipulek (5,098 meter) or an artificial pond near Kali Temple (4,571 meter).  The second debate is the location of Kalapani, whether it is located in the Nepalese territory or Indian side.  In another words, whether Kalapani belongs to Nepal or India!  This issue has assumed the status of national interest since October 1996.

Regarding the determination of the origin of river Kali, there are more or less three different thoughts.  The first thought pertains of those intellectuals, researchers, elite and informed people who have opined that the Kali River mentioned in the Treaty of Sugauli is originated from Limpiyadhura as per available historical documents, old maps and hydrological facts. The second thought is related to the government machinery that believes that the Lipulek pass, situated near the River Kali is the source of the river. The third thought belongs to the Indian team of the Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Working Group. They have opined that the river Kali is originated from a small pond of the Kali Temple, which is located south of Kalapani and further south of the Pankhagad stream.

Now the main crux of the matter is to identify and determine, which one is the river Kali of that period according to the spirit of the treaty.  Description regarding the  origin of the river is not mentioned in the treaty.  As such, it was not necessary to make a description of the river at that time, because of the fact that there was no controversy and confusion on the river and there was only one river which was used to be known as Kali. But it is miserable and misleading that India has changed the name of the then Kali River to ‘Kuti Yangti’ on the maps prepared by them unilaterally.

To reach into concrete conclusion, one has to make a study of the historical document and old maps, which are inscribed and established on and around the time of the treaty.  The scanning of spot findings on the basis of hydrological facts and watershed principle is also mandatory. What should be well understood is that Kalapani itself acts a concrete proof because the area is located towards the east of the historical river Kali, and the Treaty of Sugauli clearly says that all those areas lying to the east of the river Kali is the territory of Nepal.

                                                mahendranagar-jpg.jpg Measures to solve the problem

It is conspicuously evident that Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura belong to Nepal. But Indian side of Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Committee has denied discussing this contentious matter logically. In this situation there may be a curiosity as to who will solve these problems since the problems are unresolved in the technical level. The short answer may be-  it is the diplomatic and political level that has to deal on.

Head of the government must take up the matter seriously, since the topic of border is a sensitive element for an independent nation. Territorial encroachment hinders the integrity, solidarity and sovereignty of Nepal and the Nepalese people. If the process of border encroachment accelerates, it is sure to endanger the very existence of the nation.

Realizing the gravity and sensitivity of the national integrity, the cabinet meeting, which was held on 24 December 2007, has given the responsibility to the Prime Minister to resolve the issues of Susta, Kalapani-Limpiyadhura, Laxmanpur, Rasiyawal-Khurdalotan Dam etc. The PM said that he was seriously ready to discuss      these issues with India in the higher level. Besides, the PM informed that the government was holding talks with India at the highly diplomatic level to resolve the Susta and Kalapani issues in the cabinet meeting held on 6 January 2008.

“The government had taken the land dispute over Susta and Kalapani seriously. It should be resolved through quiet diplomacy as India is our good neighbor. Making a hue and cry unnecessarily doesn’t help address the problem but only worsen it.” PM told a delegation of journalists led by Reporters’ Club on 8 January 2008

The last statement of PM seems to be somewhat submissive as compared to his previous expressions. At first, he was determined to put up the issue to his counterpart through diplomatic channel. But in the latter stage he seems to be reluctant to deal the matter. Depressingly, he has not yet communicated the border problems formally to India. It means he is not sincere in this regard. His wordings are limited within the boundaries of Nepal. It has not crossed the international boundary. 

 Role of head of government

If the head of government /state is really serious, grave and sensitive on the security of national boundary of Nepal, he must have communicated the issue to his Indian counterpart and start dialogue with facts and figures on the basis of existing historical maps, authentic documents and ground truth. His counterpart may be willing to discuss the border issues. For India, the existing border problem with Nepal is the subject of high importance since the Indo-Nepal borderline is common to both the nations.

In fact, the Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala will be appreciated by the people of Nepal, if he resolves the pending border issues like Susta and Kalapani-Limpiyadhura etc. If he does, he will be a dutiful and worthy son of Nepal. If he doesn’t take interest to resolve the border problem, the Nepalese people will disgrace, neglect and hate him. 

                                          ♣♣                     border@wlink.com.np  


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