Border issues should be
resolved through diplomacy
Nepal is situated in between India and China. China is located on the northern border, whereas all three sides are surrounded by India. India and China are the neighbours of Nepal and it has very good relations with both of the countries. There are so many fellow-feeling in so many items due to close and neighbourly relations. At the same time there may have some issues, dialogues and debates in some extent because of closeness and inter-related with each others. It is natural that sometimes there might have some issues and problems in between the close neighbours. And border issue is one of them. But the border issues should be resolved amicably and in a friendly manner through diplomacy. If the diplomacy doesn’t work, troublesome country must take further steps to protect the integrity and sovereignty of the nation.
Nepal-China Border :
Nepal has had border business and some issues with both of the countries, India and China. So far as the issues and border business with China is concerned Boundary Treaty was signed on 5 October 1961 and delineating of physical demarcation of the boundary line was done during 1961-62. However, there were disputes, conflicts, debates and controversies in 35 places including the question of Sagarmatha (Mount Everest) during the joint boundary demarcation on the Sino-Nepal borderline. But it was settled forever in accordance with the principles of equality, mutual benefit, friendship and mutual accommodation. Besides, it was adopted by both the parties, the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence and in a spirit of fairness, reasonableness, mutual understanding and most importantly respecting each other as Nepal and China have the equal rights and status in the international arena. Regarding the question of Sagarmatha, it was agreed to take the Nepalese map drawn with its historical facts, which depicted the highest part of the peak on Nepal side. As a result, the dispute of Sagarmatha was settled and ended while the visiting Prime Minister Chou En-Lai made a statement in Kathmandu on 28 April 1960 that “Sagarmatha belongs to Nepal.” Finally the border line was demarcated and erected border pillars with watershed principle, determining the water-parting line to connect snow-capped high altitude mountain peaks, passing and crossing through mountain passes and spurs, saddles and cols, rivers and rivulets, pasture land and river basin or valleys. With the basis of these entire mutual understanding, Nepal-China border demarcation was successfully completed within a period of less than two years. Consequently, three Joint Boundary Protocols have been signed as the last one on 8 December 1988. It is high time to make the fourth protocol, because twenty one years have been elapsed since the third protocol was signed. However, joint team is working to complete by mid-2010.
Nepal-India Border :
So far as the Indo-Nepal border demarcation is concerned, Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee worked for the 26 years (from 15 November 1981 to 31 December 2007). But the boundary business is not yet completed. There may be so many reasons the boundary business not to be completed in due time, though it has the target to complete it by 2003. However, this type of target had been fixed many times in the past as in 1993, 1998 and 2001. But the target was not materialized. The main reasons and issues of the boundary business with India is the border encroachments, disputes on certain segments, divergence of opinion on basic materials such as maps and old documents for demarcation, slackness in joint survey field teams and so on and so forth.
The Treaty of Sugauli of 4 March 1816, Supplementary Treaty of 11 December 1816 and Boundary Treaty of 1 November 1860 delineate the boundary of Nepal with India. British East India Company made treaty of Sugauli on 2 December 1815 and it was provided to Nepal to make the counter signature by fifteen days. But Nepal did not make the signature in due time, because of unwillingness. It was finally ratified after 92 days under pressure and compulsion enforced by the British regime that they will invade Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Eventually, it was not signed by the King or Prime Minister/Maharaja but by only the courtier Chandra Shekhar Upadhaya. So there were disputes and conflicts and controversy on the borderline even after the ratification of the Treaty.
Historical Border Disputes :
There were so many issues of disputes just after the Sugauli Treaty. Some of the disputed areas are cited as examples as follows:
- Disputes on Siwalik Range : whether the borderline runs from the crest (ridge) of the Siwalik Range or northern or southern foot-hill of the range!
- Origin of the river Mechi : whether it is originated from north-east of Antoo Hill or from north-west!
- Dunduwa Range : India had claimed that the border line should be followed on the northern foot from Arrahnala to Talbagauda, whereas Nepal denied it.
- Dispute on ownership of the village and settlements of Ramnagar Zamindari area.
- Dispute on the lands adjoined with the districts of Tirahoot and Sarun.
- Land area of Sharada Barrage constructed by India on the river Mahakali.
- Disputes on the borderline of the river and rivulets, whether it has to be taken on the old course or the new channel.
- Disputes on the demarcation of borderlines in agricultural land, forest area and village areas, where there are not conspicuous features.
Some of the above mentioned disputes were settled with mutual discussions. For example, identification of the origin of the river Mechi was solved by Campbell, taken as the origination from north-east, though Captain Lloyd had judged in 1827 that the area falls under the jurisdiction of Sikkim. Similarly, the dispute of Dunduwa range was solved jointly by Lieutenant Col. Mac Andrew and Siddhiman Singh Rajbhandari on 7 January 1875 that the borderline shall be demarcated on the southern foot-hill of Dunduwa Range from where the plain area begins. Regarding the disputes of Ramnagar Zamindari area, it was settled on 2 January 1841 with an Ikararnama of 95 people of village-heads, gentlemen, Chautaria and Guru Gharana. As far as the matter of the exchange of lands of Sharada Barrage is concerned, Nepal has not yet received 36.67 Acre of land from India. These are some of the examples of the then border issues between Nepal and East India Company. The main problem lies that Nepal’s southern borderline on the Indo-Gangetic plain with India does not run from the prominent natural features such as mountain peaks, passes, crests etc.
Border Disputes after India’s Independence :
The disease of border demarcation issues and disputes have not been cured even after the independence of India from the British rule in 1947. Encroachment on the Nepalese frontier have been rather increased. It is due to population boom across the Indian frontier. Secondly, dense forest of Charkoshe Jungle of the Nepalese frontier was being cut-off and cleared-up, so that encroachment of the Nepalese land from Indian population pressure was much easier, where there were not boundary pillars and demarcation of ten-yard width No-man’s land.
By this time, there are 54 places and spots of encroachment, dispute, conflict, controversy and debate along Indo-Nepal borderline, especially in the plain area of southern border of Nepal. There are number of cases of disputes and encroachments in the Nepalese frontier of 21 districts among 26 districts which are adjoined with India. The area of encroachment consists of from 240 square meters of a small patch or strip of land to a big chunk of 378 square kilometers. There are frequent border disputes and debates in the borderline, on which it is not yet demarcated and erected border pillars. Surprisingly, disputes have been raised even on that spots where the boundary pillars have been installed. It is due to pull out of the pillars and cultivate the land and construction of houses, disfiguring the no-man’s land. It has created the problems on either side of the borderline.
Places of Encroachments and Disputes :
There are not less than 54 places of encroachments, disputes, debates, controversy, differences and conversations on the Nepalese frontier and even inside the depth of the frontier. The most noted places and spots are Kalapani-Limpiyadhura area, Susta area, Mechi riverian sector, Balmikinagar, Thori, Sandakpur, Manebhanjyang, Chiwabhanjyang, Bhantabari, Jogbani, Sakhada-Lalapatti, Kunauli, Sunauli-Belhi, Krishnanagar, Santalia, Bhadanala, Biranala, Luna river area, Someswor, Shri Antu Gufapatal, Dakshhin Jhitkaiya, Laxmanpur embankment area, Rasiawal Khurdalotan embankment area etc. etc.
- After the independence of India, the issue of dispute was raised in Susta area along the river Narayani on the Nepalese frontier. The area is consisted of near about 14,850 hectares. The main reason of dispute is change of course by the river Narayani. During heavy floods of 1845, 1954, and 1980 the river changed its course dramatically some kilometers westward to the Nepalese territory. After the flood, Indian peasants used to encroach and cultivate the Nepalese land supposing that the new river course is the boundary line between the two nations. The river is changing its course more and more westward to Nepal side nearly every year but bluntly during flood havocs. And Indian nationals are encroaching the Nepalese land more when the river shifts it course.
- The largest chunk of encroachment by India is Kalapani-Limpiyadhura area. It consists of 378 sq. km (37,800 hectares). It was encroached just after the border war of November 1962 between India and China. After the defeat with the Chinese army, Indian troops retarded back and set up a camp in the Nepalese territory of Kalapani area. Indian army men judged the Kalapani area as a strategic point to watch the Chinese activity and to check the attack / infiltration of the Chinese army via Lipulek Pass. There is a most strategic and highly sensitive spot with 6,180 meters high in Kalapani area, from where it can be visualized with the help of a binocular, whether horse or mule/ sheep or goat/ white or fair complexed men are crossing the Lipulek Pass to and from Taklakot of Tibet. At first, there were some Indian armed policemen with some tents and hand operating wireless and binoculars in Kalapani camp, as they had named Indo-Tibetan Border Post (ITBP). But these days there are more than eight buildings constructed having bunkers, deployed battalions of Indian army men with modern arms and ammunitions and means of satellite communication. Some of the buildings have central heating system, not to let freeze the expensive arms and ammunitions during winter season. Presently, the crux of the matter of dispute in Kalapani area is the determination of the river Kali, whether it is originated from nearby Lipulek Pass or Limpiyadhura or an artificial pond, south of Pankhagad Khola.
- Mechi riverian sector is one of the notable disputed areas in the recent times since 1995. There are disputes in various places along 20 kilometer of the river Mechi. The main reason of the dispute is that Joint Boundary Survey Team erected new and small boundary pillars, ignoring the old Masonry Pillars (Junge Pillars), whereas Urdu written map of 1874 was taken as the basis of the demarcation of the course of river Mechi. The most illogical aspect of the dispute on this segment is that it tried to demarcate the old river course, instead of counting century old masonry Junge main boundary pillars, which have been standby along the river. These Junge pillars are the live guards in the border of Nepal, erected by the British Surveyors themselves during 1816-17, just after the Treaty of Sugauli. What needs the solid and live proofs more than these live and standby Junge Pillars? Paradoxically, these Junge Pillars have been categorized as the Reference Pillars, but not the main boundary pillars. So there are cases of encroachments and disputes in near about 1,600 hectares of Nepalese land from Bahundangi, Nakalbanda to Kakarbhitta, Pathamari, Bhadrapur, Maheshpur etc.
- Border pillars and ten-yard width no-man’s land have been disappeared due to the construction of Laxmanpur dam and 22 km embankment by India on the river Rapti, only 350 meter apart from the Border pillar No. 19. Small rivers flowing from Nepal have been blocked and Nepalese land of 5 Village Development Committees (VDCs) have been submerged.
- The other construction by India is the Rasiawal Khurdalotan Dam on the river Danab-Ghongi in Marchawar area of Nepal. The three kilometer long dam has been constructed just 40 meter apart of Border Pillar No. 30, so that 20 km long no-man’s land have been encroached. As a result, paddy land of 11 VDCs of Nepal have been submerged during the monsoon season. Besides, Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha will surely be inundated, if the water of the river is blocked by closing down the shutters of the dam and by further constructing the embankments.
- 22 hectares of Nepalese land have been encroached in connection to the construction of Afflux Bond of Tanakpur Barrage by India. In connection to the construction of Sharada Barrage, Nepal has yet to get 14.84 hectare (36.67 Acre) of land. Furthermore, most recently India has encroached the area of six households and one government office of Nepal in Hile area of Pashupatinagar Ward-4. This is due to the erection of new Pillar No. 71/22 by Indian side in 8 July 2002. Similarly, part of Sandakpur (3,336 meter high) hill area of Ilam has been encroached. Sandakpur is a touristic place, from where Mount Kanchanjunga can be visualized majestically. There are various cases of encroachments in 21 districts of Nepal out of 26, which are adjoined with Indian States.
Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee :
Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee worked for the twenty-six years. It had the mandate to relocate the missing pillars, reconstruction of the damaged and dilapidated pillars, clear ten-yard width no-man’s land and preparation of strip-maps of both the sides of borderline. But it has not resolved the issues, such as Kalapani-Limpiyadhura, identification of the source or river Kali, Susta dispute, Mechi controversy etc. These are the major issues and problems of demarcations of border between two nations, which should be settled in higher level (most probably in head of the government level) with diplomatic and political level talks. The issues climb slowly up to the ministerial level but it is instantly pushed back to the technical level, which has its limitations as the nature of the problem. In such a fashion, major issues have not yet given yield by the higher level decision making authorities.
Border Diplomacy :
Border business consists of diplomacy and it is related to geography, especially political geography. When someone talks about the border issues between neighbouring countries, we have to keep in mind some norms to be adopted. These steps may be border strategy, border diplomacy, border politics and border business.
A sovereign and independent country must have its own solid strategy on borders, how to deal with the neighbouring states. It could be formed joint technical committee to supervise, demarcate, erect boundary markers, delineate no-man’s land (ten-yard width area) and prepare strip-maps. Under this step as an example, Nepal-India Joint Technical Level Boundary Committee has prepared maps of 98 percent of the border and established 8,853 border pillars. However, two percent issues have yet to be resolved. And there are encroachments, claims and counter-claims on the borderline within the various segments of this two percent. This issue has been stalemate that the committee was not able to sort out the problems.
To resolve this remaining issues, it needs to conduct border diplomacy. To fix the border diplomacy of a nation, it is necessary to form a group of Track-II diplomats and technicians, who have been knowledgeable and experienced during their bygone career. This group analyzes the problems with the help of historical documents, technical facts and figures (maps and co-ordinate data), past incidents, dialogues, conversations, on the spot enquiries to local senior citizens of both the frontiers. Then Track-II Diplomatic Group prepares a national policy paper, based on the result of all facts and findings to resolve and plead with the quarrelsome neighbour.
On the third step, this policy paper must be discussed on the political level. Almost all the major political parties of the nation must participate and express their views to resolve the issues, not only from their parties’ view points, but also from the national perspective as an independent and sovereign country to maintain the national integrity. The policy paper prepared by track two diplomatic group must be studied, discussed and commented thoroughly by the state politicians. They could amend, highlight, delete and add the wordings and paragraphs and suggest even additional points. Ultimately, a national consenseous paper must be prepared on how to deal the border business with the adjoined country.
On the final step, the government has to take up this policy paper, as a national mandate. The state has to deal with the counter-part authority of neighbouring country, on the basis of national mandate. Head of Government must keep in mind the supremacy of the civil rights and national integrity of a sovereign nation, while tackling with the quarrelsome neighbour.
Civil society, non-governmental organizations, researchers and political parties create awareness to the government. They uncover the eyes and open the ears of the government. There is an old saying that the government doesn’t have eyes and ears to look and hear the matter, unless someone approaches. The government hears when somebody whispers into the ears of the authority. It uncovers the eyes when someone files complaint. So various organizations and political parties create pressure to uncover the eyes and open the ears of the government, so that it will be compelled to put the matter to the quarrelsome nation. It is the responsibility of the government to save and maintain the national boundary, since border business is a matte of one nation to another nation.
It will be relevant to mention here the stalemate Nepal-India border issues. The visiting External Affairs Minister of India, Pranav Mukharjee had told the press reporter on 28 November 2008 that the issue of Kalapani and Susta will be resolved by the higher authorities of both the governments with mutual understanding in a congenial atmosphere. As regards the case of the correctness of 182 strip-maps, the visiting dignitary had expressed that there might have some typological errors on the borderline of the jointly prepared strip-maps. That will be corrected as necessary by mutual consultations with friendship by both the governments.
It indicates that finally, the border issues have to be dealt by government to government level. It is worth thinking that the Indian authority was compelled to spell this statement due to the pressure created by the civil society, media persons and political parties.
Besides, border diplomacy needs furthermore steps to be adopted, if the issues have not been able to resolve with mutual understanding in and amicable way. It may be to call upon to the third country as mediator. But it is important that both the countries must be agreed and relied to the mediator country. It will not be too bad to invite to British Government for the mediation of the border stalemate between Nepal and India. Because Sugauli Treaty of 1816 was made with the then British India, not with the present India. The British Government has sufficient knowledge and capability to resolve the border issues between Nepal and India.
The next step is to go to the United Nations and finally to the International Court of Justice, if the mediation fails. It is thoughtful that the State has to go to these international organizations, if it is necessary. Because neither the political parties nor the civil society will be entertained by the UN or ICJ. It will be somehow relevant to mention here that nine Leftist Political Parties of Nepal, including CPN (ML) had requested to the Secretary General of the United Nations to ask India to withdraw her armed personnel form Kalapani to vacate the occupied Nepalese territory and to stop further encroachment and intrusion of Sugauli Treaty of 1816 with relevant documents and evidences. In response, the UN replied on 27 July 1998 that any UN approach would have to be at the request of the Government of Nepal. It proves that the government herself has to be prepared to go to the UN or ICJ. On the other side of the coin, it is a fact that it takes a lot of time and needs mush patience and money, if a country knocks the door of ICJ.
Nepal and India has a long and traditional relation. It has naturally promoted social and cultural relationship among the general people of both the nations, through matrimonial relation as well. Nepalese boys are the son-in-laws of the Indian nationals. Similarly, Indian daughters have been the daughter-in-laws of the Nepalese, being Nepalese and Indian fathers as the father-in-laws each other. So the border demarcation issues and the problem of border management should be resolved through government level. There must have good understanding with each other to solve the problem and issues, segment by segment grasping the difficulties of other side.
But the most important thing is the dedication and willingness to resolve the issues, since border business is a matter of equal participation from both the nations. Nothing can be happened if only one nation is willing, eager and hurried. It needs the equal spirit from both sides. Particular problem of particular segment of the border must be solved in such a fashion that this is resolved forever and no question will be raised in future. If it is not resolved amicably, the trouble facing country must be ready to knock the international organizations for the integrity of the sovereign and independent nation..
1. Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, Indo-Nepal Frontier Dam (in Nepali-2009), Bhumichitra Co. P. Ltd, Kathmandu.
2. Buddhi Narayan Shrestha, Boundary of Nepal (in Nepali-2000), Bhumichitra Co. P. Ltd, Kathmandu.
3. Chetendra Jung Himali, Mahakaliwari-Mahakalipari (Across Mahakali-2002), Patriotic Democratic Forum Nepal, Kathmandu.
4. Hiranya Lal Shrestha, Kalapani and Source of Kali (in Nepali-2000), National Peoples Publication, Kathmandu.