Nepal: Shifting borders and Maoist’s changing politics
Buddhi Narayan Shrestha
Former DG, Survey Department/ Border expert, Nepal
Top leaders of the United Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN)-Maoist, including Prachanda, Babu Ram, Mohan Kiran, Narayan Kaji, Ram Bahadur Badal and others inspected Nepal-India border areas on 11 January 2010 to solve the border problems and to create awareness for national integrity and sovereignty, keeping good relations with India. They inspected the encroached Nepali land with a crowd and chanted slogans against Indian infringement.
The leaders made speeches in some pocket areas where there were border disputes, disagreements, claims and counter-claims. Maoist Chairman Prachanda said ‘We want relations with India on equal terms. We don’t eye even an inch of Indian Territory nor will we concede and inch of ours. The struggle for national sovereignty will go on till the very last moment, until the encroached land is returned. Maoist Second Vice-Chairman Mohan Baidya Kiran said that an endeavor to protect Nepali territory should not be taken as a war against India. One should not irritate its small neighbor by encroaching on the ground.
In the same way, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, First Vice-Chairman made a remark that all the treaties and agreements that Nepal and India have inked so far should be based on equality and those unequal treaties and agreements need to be abrogated right away. He alleged that the Indian side has encroached upon 1,400 hectares of land in Susta.
We will continue both political and diplomatic efforts to return the encroached land. Similarly, Maoist third Vice-Chairman Narayan Kaji Shrestha expressed that India has blown upon the sovereignty of Nepal constructing Laxmanpur barrage along the border, against international norms and practices.
These are some of the expressions of the top brass of Maoist political party of Nepal. During these days, this party has led the government and right now Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is the Prime Minister and Narayan Kaji Shrestha is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. But they have never put the agenda to talk on the border issues with the neighboring country India.
This is the nature of political parties of Nepal that whenever they are in opposition bench in the parliament, they roar and draw attention of the people that Nepal’s southern neighbor has encroached Nepal’s territory. But when they form the government and get into power to rule the country, they use to keep their lips tight. They never spell that Nepal’s border has been encroached. This is a kind of irony of the political parties of Nepal.
We have to bear in mind that boundaries are related to the national integrity and sovereignty of a country. If the border has been encroached, that should be taken as a national issue whether the leaders are in power or out of power. On the other hand, if the border has not been violated, that should never be raised as an issue, whether the leaders are in administrative power or not. One could draw a conclusion that the political leaders have taken the border issue as an agenda of politics and identity for their parties, but not for the national issue. This is the mysterious and opportunistic behavior of the political parties.
The district level authorities including the Chief District Officer (CDO) of Nepal and District Magistrate (DM) of India have a joint mechanism to discuss the problems and come into action to maintain the border intact. They use to lead their team time to time having joint meeting at the border area. They used to inspect border area and no-man’s land physically and record where the pillars are missing and no-man’s land have been encroached. They exchange information on cross-border activities concerning security, crime, infiltration of unwanted elements and discuss on how to solve grievances of the frontier people.
So far as the centre level committee is concerned, Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Committee worked for 26 years and it was dissolved on 31 December 2007 without solving major border issues. But in connection to resolve the main problems, the matter has been raised time to time during the visit of high ranking dignitaries. During the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna to Kathmandu on 15 January 2010, Nepal voiced its concern over border issues and encroachment of Nepali territory. In relation to this issue, Nepal and India reached an understanding jointly to resolve border disputes and the controversy over alleged encroachment of Nepali soil through mutual understanding at the political level.
In the same way, visiting Indian External Minister Pranab Mukherjee then told reporters in Kathmandu on 25 November 2008 that ‘We have agreed to resolve the long standing border disputes between the two countries at various places, including Kalapani and Susta through further discussions. Differences and divergence of view within the spectra of disputed areas are to be resolved and officers from both the sides will be asked to meet and resolve this issue soon.’ But the joint mechanism has not been formulated to solve this issue either in the technical or diplomatic or political level.
Cross-border governance is essentially understood in relation to a context of ‘de-bordering.’ The dynamics of de-bordering give way to the alternative logic or fact of ‘re-bordering.’ However, the nature of cross-border relations on the basis of mutual understanding which are open is more useful to think of the border as an ambivalent object which can be at once open to others. The issue may affect the governance of cross-border regions, to the extent to which the functional changes of borders bring into play divergent interests which operate at different scales and in various temporalities. Such an examination also involves questioning the changing reality of borders by paying particular attention to practices of ‘borderisation’ and to their underlying logic.
The spatial re-composition affects social, economic and political relations within the cross-border regions whether in terms of territorial integrity or through the articulation of different geographical scales. Despite the fact, networks of actors play a determining role within the development of a multitude of cross-border institutional arrangements; work will be done within the relational approach which seeks a re-conceptualisation of the region as structured by a variety of flows and relations. In view of this, the question is not whether the territorial approach should be replaced by a relational approach, but rather how they can be combined in a way which goes beyond the inherent limits of uni-dimensional approaches.
The emergence of cross-border regions is favourable to such an enterprise: at the first step, there should not have absence of a well-defined territory. The multiplicity of actors from grass-root level to central level involved in the decision-making process favour a governance approach based on a system of negotiable political arrangements. Next, the presence of a national border cannot be relegated to the level of a simple remnant of a past territorial order as even when open it remains a significant limit in terms of State territoriality. Ultimately, it is because the processes of de-bordering/re-bordering bring into play different specialities of the border that a critical re-examination of our conceptual approaches is required.
There is a less probability of shifting the northern border of Nepal with China, as the Himalayan Range has been demarcated as the boundary between two countries. The border has been supported by the natural environment. However, the demarcation business of 1961-62 must be appreciated. Regarding the mis-location of pillar number 57 on Nepal-China border line, this issue should be resolved by higher authorities through diplomatic channels, since it is already forwarded from the technical level. It may not be any problem because there is a very good relationship, friendship, and mutual understanding between Nepal and China in all spheres of activities. With the perspective of mutual understanding, this type of minor border issue should be resolved in an amicable manner. On the background of friendship, the Fourth Boundary Protocol should be signed as soon as possible, sorting out the debatable items in due course.
So far as the southern border of Nepal with India is concerned, there is no such natural environment as physically demarcated. So it is accessible for cross-holding occupations of agricultural land of same topography and a single settlement bisected on both the frontiers. If there is something else in such environment, issues should be settled in accordance with the historic maps and documents. It should have been adopted cross-disciplinary approach that consists of new and innovative ways to solve the issues. On top of that, there should have homogenous views into the dynamic relationship between state and society.
There must have a central and district level joint technical committee (JTC) to resolve the outstanding issues. The central level committee should discuss and take a joint decision on the major disagreed issues and that should be presented to the respective governments for final approval. District level committee should work jointly to supervise and maintain the border not to let the cross-holding occupation by the local people. Such mechanism will be helpful to resist shifting of the border between Nepal and India.
As a matter of fact, nothing will disrupt the people-to-people relationship between Nepal and India. They have close cultural ties since centuries and centuries. This kind of connectivity should not be strained by one political party’s action. It would be against the interests of people on both sides, if some element tries to sour the relations between them. It must jointly resist such moves from the people level convincing each other. One cannot strengthen its nationality by humiliating another country. So the government and people of both the frontiers must respect each other in a sense of brotherhood, friendship and good neighborliness in the field of border issues as well.
Telegraph Weekly, 13 February 2013
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