New Delhi reacts after row in Nepal after PM Modi’s comments on road building
Reacting to a series of reports and public statements in Nepal criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comments on expansion of the road to Lipulekh, the Indian embassy in Kathmandu said it has conveyed India’s “unambiguous” position to the Nepali government.
“The Government of India’s position on the India-Nepal boundary is well known, consistent and unambiguous. It has been communicated to the Government of Nepal,” said the Embassy spokesperson in a statement on Saturday, which urged talks in order to resolve any disputes.
“It is our view that the established inter-governmental mechanisms and channels are most appropriate for communication and dialogue. Mutually agreed boundary issues that are outstanding can always be addressed in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations,” the Indian embassy spokesperson added.
The latest controversy has followed Mr. Modi’s comments at a public rally in Haldwani on December 30 where he mentioned the Lipulekh construction undertaken by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
“Manas Khand, which is the gateway to Mansarovar, was deprived of roads by those who believed in depriving you of comforts. We not only worked on the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh All Weather Road, but also built the road up to Lipulekh and it is being expanded further,” Mr. Modi said at the event. ( https://www.narendramodi.in/text-of-pm-s-address-at-inauguration-foundation-stone-laying-ceremony-of-multiple-projects-in-haldwani-559226 )
Since the rally, Nepali opposition and even members of the ruling Nepali Congress party have protested, calling for Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba to raise the issue with the Indian government. On Friday, two senior Nepali Congress leaders met with Mr. Deuba and issued a statement calling for India to stop construction of the road as well as to “withdraw the Indian Army” from the area.
“We have drawn the attention of the Prime Minister to the recent statement [by the Indian Prime Minister] and urged him to make a position on the issue,” said Gagan Thapa and Bishwa Prakash Sharma, both general secretaries of the Nepali Congress. According to a detailed report in The Kathmandu Post on Saturday, the Nepali Embassy in Delhi had already forwarded footage of Mr. Modi’s comments at the Haldwani rally to the Nepali MFA, which was looking into the matter. (https://kathmandupost.com/politics/2022/01/15/calls-grow-in-ruling-parties-for-deuba-to-speak-up-on-lipulekh)
Officials did not clarify when the “communication” referred to in the Indian embassy note had taken place, but the statement indicates that New Delhi has taken note of a number of media reports and public statements on the issue, that has caused a rupture in India-Nepal relations in the past as well.
In May 2020, the former Oli government had protested when Defence Minister Rajnath Singh virtually inaugurated the newly-constructed road in Lipulekh, which falls in disputed territory. In a move that led to a diplomatic freeze with India, Mr. Oli then passed a controversial constitutional amendment making Nepal’s version of its map, including the Indian areas in Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyudhara, as a part of its national emblem. While the dispute has existed for decades, it was most recently triggered after New Delhi’s publication of a new map showing the changes it brought about in Jammu and Kashmir after the amendent in Article 370
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