Tuesday, November 6, 2012 11:33 AM

Nepal: Pro-active efforts needed to prevent our lands

from Indian invasion


Ex-Director General of the Department of Survey and Managing Director of Bhumichitra (Mapping and Land Development) Company P. Ltd, Buddhi Narayan Shrestha possesses profound knowledge on the technical issues related to boundaries that divide Nepal with India and China. Apart from authoring some four books including Boundary of Nepal, which was recognized with highly prestigious “Madan Puraskar in 2001”, he has published numerous articles pertaining to technical aspects of border issues.

In his interview with The Weekly Mirror, Shrestha divulges his opinions regarding the Nepal-India border disputes and the possible ways to resolve them. Excerpts.

Q1. According to reports, Indian nationals have been increasingly encroaching Nepali territory in Susta. What is your view in this regard?

Shrestha: The Narayani River has been taking the westward course changing the geographical contours of Nepal due to floods in rainy season. Till date, the River is estimated to have taken the westward route by leaving some 14,000 hectares of land towards the Indian Territory.

The Indian nationals have been capturing the land created due to change in the course of the River. They are fallaciously claiming that the River is the actual border mark and the part left by the River naturally belongs to India. The Susta border row was stemmed from this reason.

Another reason is that the British India erected the border pillar that is located in the eastern direction from Tribenighat which lies in the northern part of Susta. Then, they also erected boundary pillar in Sagardinha that is situated in the south-west part of Susta.

The Narayani River represents 24-km long route from Tribenighat to Sagardinha as a border point. The problem would not have been created if the boundary pillar was erected in the Narayani River as in the Mechi River. So, as the River took a new route, the border problem was created.

Not to be underestimated, the Susta border problem has also much to do with the Indian nationals who are increasingly encroaching Nepali territories due to the alarming surge of population in India. Some Indian political parties are also responsible for aggravating the problem.  For instance, a certain number of political parties in Bihar are assuring the concerned voters that they would provide them with a piece of land in Susta if they cast vote in favor of them. Especially, the leaders representing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have promised to provide their voters a certain portion of land of Susta. The SSB is also encouraging the Indian nationals to capture lands in the area.

The imprudent construction of Gandhak barrage has also proved inimical to Nepal.  The flow of the Narayani River was diverted towards Nepal during the construction of the barrage.  And, even after the completion of the barrage, the River began to take the diverted course instead of the original one in rainy season. Now, the River is increasingly taking westward route occupying Nepali land.

Q2. The Narayani River has been considered as a demarcation line between Nepal and India as per Sugauli Treaty. In this light, is not the treaty per se an obstacle?

Shrestha: First of all, we need to figure out the course the Narayani River had taken during the time of Sugauli Treaty. That can be done by investigating historical documents and maps. After accomplishing this task, there should be re-demarcation of the border between Nepal and India.

Q3. Are there such documents and maps now?

Shrestha: Yes, there are such maps and documents. However, India is not giving recognition to the maps and the documents presented by Nepal and vice versa. I think both the countries should reach to a concrete conclusion in this regard as soon as possible.

Q4. What is the viable way to distinguish original maps from fake ones?

Shrestha: Only the maps verified by the registered authorities of either of the two countries at that time can be taken as original ones. India has failed to produce credible maps. But, Nepal has produced the maps prepared by the Department of Survey. The maps presented by Nepal were finalized in 1993-94. Our maps, indeed, hold more authenticity since they were sketched in technical collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) by way of taking aerial photographs.

Q5. Both sides are refraining themselves from complying with the maps produced by each other and in Susta area Indian population shockingly outnumbers the Nepalese. Isn’t it posing a grave threat to Nepal’s territorial integrity as a whole?

Shrestha: It is high time we made pro-active efforts to prevent our lands from being invaded by India. If we go for field study, it will be clear what course the Narayani River had taken in1816, the period when the Sugauli Treaty was signed between British India and Nepal.

Although the River has already changed its course, we can still trace the previous course of the River at various places.

Indian peasants have been occupying the areas left by the River and the Indian technical team has always remained reluctant to conduct field study to find out the actual route of the River in the past.  And, their reluctance, of course, is not hard to comprehend.

Q6. That means they are scared of the truth that could be unearthed after the field visit.

Shrestha: Probably yes. Nepal-India Joint Technical Boundary Committee has been working for the last 25 years to reassess the border demarcation. We had constituted a joint team for inspecting the border points of Susta area some six years ago. As per the decision of the Committee, Nepali team reached in Suasta in the scheduled time period but Indian team failed to arrive in the area for more than two weeks without giving any reason. Right after Nepali team returned back to Kathmandu the Indian team reached there.

Q7. Did the Indians deliberately fail to arrive there?

Shrestha: Of course, the Indian team intentionally did that, otherwise, there was no need for Indian team to reach late without informing Nepali team.
At times, they have also postponed the fixed meetings with an intention to avoid objective findings that could have been unearthed through the conduct of field survey.

Q8. You have mentioned in your book ‘Border Management in Nepal’ that India claimed certain areas of Mechi as its own territory as per the fixed border system. But, India has been insisting on fluid border system in case of Susta.

Shrestha: What should be well understood is that the three principles have been propounded for demarcation of boundary. They are Thalwakes, fixed boundary and fluid boundary principles. Thalwake principle stands for recognizing the deepest navigation channel of the River as a border line irrespective of what side the River is navigated deeply. The fixed boundary system propagates for identifying the actual route of the River during the period when the treaty was signed to mark the border line. Lastly, the fluid boundary principle is all about acknowledging the changing course of the River as the border line between the two countries. As far as the demarcation of border line between Nepal and India goes, the fixed boundary principle has been adopted as per the Sugauli Treaty. In fact, the meeting of the Joint Technical Boundary Committee held in 1986-87 had decided to adopt the fixed boundary principle to monitor the border lines between Nepal and India. But, in case of Susta, India is reluctant to act in line with this principle.

Q9. What efforts Nepal should make at both political and diplomatic level?

Shrestha: The joint technical team, which has been working for the last 25 years, has failed to solve the border row. However, the team has solved every technical issue. The team has solved 97 percent of the border related technical problems but the remaining 3 percent must be addressed at political and diplomatic level. The three percent border problem consist the areas like Kalapani, Limpiyadhura, Susta, Thori etc. There have been claims and counter-claims on 60,000 hectares of land, of which Kalapani and Susta areas jointly occupy a major portion.

Q10. Do you sense any political motive behind the ceaseless encroachment of Nepali territories?

Shrestha: It is not that India will grow much bigger by capturing some hectares of Nepali territory as it is already a giant country in terms of geography.

Undeniably, this problem is linked with India’s hegemonic attitude.

In addition to the case of border dispute, the hegemonic attitude of India is conspicuous in the areas of irrigation, commerce and construction of water dams. Nepali authorities have been repeatedly urging the Indian side to recede from the encroached lands. Appallingly, India has turned deaf ears to the pleas of Nepali side.

Q11. It seems that India has been maliciously unleashing its expansionist drive whenever Nepal faces instability.

Shrestha: This argument is not totally bereft of substance.

When Nepal undergoes the phases of crucial political changes, India is found to have made attempts to fulfill its vested interests.

Indian nationals seized some 125 Bigaha of Nepali lands in Susta in the same day when the date of the Constituent Assembly (CA) election was scheduled.

I don’t know if it is a calculated move or not.

Similarly, it may be recalled that during the referendum of 1980, Nepal had to suffer a massive deforestation in the bordering areas. And, India ventured on blatant encroachment of the deforested areas during the period.

Q12. How serious have you found Nepali leaders regarding the gross border encroachment?

Shrestha: The main reason behind the continuous encroachment is the tendency of Nepali leaders to satiate their gluttonous appetite for power with the backing of India.  So, they are flippantly overlooking the crucial issue of border encroachment. It is quite obvious that the Panchayat regime also remained mum over the illegitimate occupancy of Kalapani area by Indian soldiers.

Apart from the high ranking government officials, the palace was also aware about the unscrupulous occupancy of Indian soldiers in Kalapani.

Unfortunately, they silently supported the invasion of Indian soldiers by remaining inert.

Although the government officials deployed in Darchula district often informed the government and the palace about the invasion, the then government didn’t take any step to shield the territory of the country.

After the restoration of democracy in 1990, India is grossly indulging itself in encroaching Nepali territories in many places.

Unfortunately, the series of Nepali governments has shamefully failed to make any serious efforts to preserve the country’s territorial integrity.

Q13. Do you think the traditional provision of ‘open border’ between India and Nepal till holds pertinence?

Shrestha: Given the changing modalities of international as well as cross border terrorism, the concept of ‘open border’ has really lost its relevance. Instead, the ‘open border’ has only propelled the criminals to carry out their nasty activities.

It goes without saying that the smuggling of goods being carried out by capitalizing on the porous border between Nepal and India has severely affected the revenue collection of Nepal.

Furthermore, Nepali women are being trafficked to Indian brothels through the open border. Notably, the criminal elements took advantage of the open border to unleash Gaur massacre as well as to terrify Kathmanduties by exploding bombs in Kathmandu recently.

So, it is highly imperative to devise certain mechanisms to regulate the open border between the two countries.

Q14. Don’t you think the introduction of regulatory mechanism in the open border areas can be problematic to people residing near the areas?

Shrestha: There are myriad options to regulate and systematize the border. The best option could be to introduce identity card system. As per this system, only those who can produce identity card issued by their country will be allowed to cross through the border area.

The people residing across the border can be given special cards through which they can enter the neighboring country’s territory as per their requirements.

Another option could well be to fence the border areas with barbed wires by establishing 180 checks points. This system can go a long way in controlling cross border terrorism as well as preventing increasing encroachment by India. The next option is to deploy police and army personnel in the bordering areas. Nepal has mobilized Armed Police Force (APF) personnel numbering around 4,000 along the bordering areas. The number is far less than India which has mobilized around 36,000-strong SSB force along the areas. Nevertheless, I don’t think mobilizing the army across the border is the only remedy to rampant cross border terrorism, smuggling and encroachment of Nepali lands. Of course, the idea of demilitarized zone across the border can well avert possible military confrontation between the two countries.

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