Context: Nepal has strongly objected to the new link road from India to China which was inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recently.

More about the news: 

  • Nepal said the decision to build the road through territory at the Lipulekh pass that it claims as its territory is a breach of an agreement reached between the two countries to discuss the matter.
  • It referred to the agreement between India & Nepal in 2014 for Foreign Secretaries to work out the “outstanding boundary issues” on Kalapani (where Lipulekh lies) and Susta.

India’s response to Nepal’s statement: The Ministry of External Affairs said the road going through Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district “lies completely within the territory of India”.

  • India plans to shorten the travel time for pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar.
  • The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing, and that “India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue”.

About the road

  • The road that starts from Dharchula in Uttarakhand and runs 80 km to the Lipulekh pass was built by the Border Roads Organisation to help shorten the travel time to reach Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet by about three days each way. 
  • The new road makes this route the shortest and the least expensive way to reach Mount Kailash as it is just a fifth of the distance when compared to other routes..
  • It also ensures that the majority of the travel is in India (84 per cent) as compared to other routes where 80 percent of the road travel is through China.

Background of current dispute:

  • Lipu-Lekh Pass is close to Kalapani, a disputed land located along the India-Nepal border in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand.
  • Kalapani is a territory disputed between India and Nepal, but under Indian administration as part of Pithoragarh district in the Uttarakhand state. 
  • The valley of the Kalapani forms the Indian route to Kailash–Manasarovar, an ancient pilgrimage site. 
  • Kalapani lies at a tri-junction of India, China and Nepal, on the dividing line of the Kali River watershed and Tinkar River watershed.
  • While the territory is geographically a tri-junction, it is disputed only by India and Nepal.

Image Source: Quora

Cause of the dispute:

  • The Treaty of Sugauli signed by Nepal and British East India Company in 1816 defines the Kali River as Nepal's western boundary with India. 
  • However, what is meant by "Kali River" in the upper reaches is unclear because many mountain streams come to join and form the river.

Another major area of dispute between India and Nepal:

  • Susta: Susta is an area under territorial dispute currently in Triveni Susta, Lumbini Zone, Nepal and near Nichlaul, Uttar Pradesh, India. 
  • Gandak forms the international boundary between Nepal and India [Bihar]. Earlier, Susta was on the right bank of the Gandak, which falls in Nepal. But, in due course of time, the river has changed its route and Susta now falls on the left bank of the Gandak, which is controlled by India.

Nepal playing the China card: Despite India’s assurance to Nepal to resolve the issue through bilateral mechanisms, Nepal has persistently requested China to make its position clear or support Nepal in resolving the issue with India.

  • Nepal claims that Lipu-Lekh Pass, which was mentioned in the joint statement of May 15, 2015 during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to China, is a disputed tri-junction in which Nepal has an equal share. 
    • The joint statement by India- China states: “…The two sides agreed to hold negotiation on augmenting the list of traded commodities, and expand border trade at Nathu La, Qiangla/Lipu-Lekh Pass and Shipki La.
  • From 1954 to 2015, China did not claim the Lipu-Lekh Pass as a tri-junction. Had the Lipu-Lekh been a disputed territory or part of Nepal, China would not have signed MoUs with India.

Nepal’s position on Kalapani and Lipu-Lekh Pass appears to be politically motivated. While India has agreed to resolve the issue amicably, Nepal’s China card - emphasis on China to become a party to the dispute – is likely to unnecessarily bring stress on bilateral relations. India should resolve the issue with Nepal on priority basis at the Foreign Secretaries’  level.


About Kailash mansarovar Yatra

  • Pilgrims from India can reach Kailash Mansarovar through three routes — via Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Kathmandu in Nepal — all of which are long and arduous.
  • The yatra is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and the journey beyond the International Border is overseen by Chinese authorities.
  • The Kailash-Mansarovar road alignment is along the Kali river, which is the boundary between India and Nepal.
  • To access Kailash through Sikkim, China and India opened the Nathu La border point in 2015. 
  • The new route via Nathu La is shorter, safer and more comfortable.

About Lipulekh Pass

  • It is  a tri-junction of India, China and Nepal.
  • Lipulekh Pass also known as Lipu-Lekh Pass/Qiangla or Tri-Corner is a high altitude mountain pass situated in the western Himalayas with an extraordinary height of 5,334 metre or 17,500 feet. 
  • It is an International mountain pass between India, China and Nepal and is one of the the India-China trade routes.
  • Geographically, Lipulekh is wedged between Nepal, India and China connecting the north-western Byash valley of Nepal and Uttarakhand state with the old trading town of Taklakot in Tibet.
  • Mana pass, Mangsha Dhura, Niti pass and Muling La passe  also located in Uttarakhand 

Source: Tribune India