Nepal’s upper house of Parliament on Sunday endorsed a government proposal to incorporate three regions of Uttarakhand into an expanded map of the Himalayan nation, throwing a fresh challenge to India’s regional diplomacy.

The move—although no more than symbolic—poses a test for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of building a close-knit South Asia based on cooperative bilateral ties between India and all its neighbours, said analysts.

It also presents India’s strategic rival China with an opportunity to strengthen its influence in Nepal.

The nod from the upper house—the National Assembly, or the Rashtriya Sabha—came after the lower house on Saturday passed a constitution amendment bill to update Nepal’s map with a massive 258 votes in the house of 275. No one voted against it. A vote by the upper house, scheduled this week, is a formality.

The new map—made public last month—shows three areas that India claims as part of its territory as lying within Nepal’s borders. These are Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani, which India says are part of Uttarakhand. India’s reaction was expectedly sharp, deeming the move as “not based on historical fact or evidence” and “untenable”.

“It is also violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.

According to two people familiar with the matter, New Delhi had offered talks at the foreign secretary-level to resolve the matter before the bill was introduced in Parliament. But Kathmandu, in spite of making public utterances favouring dialogue, ignored India’s offer and went ahead with changes to its map.

Speculation is rife that Nepalese Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli did this to strengthen his own position domestically, getting his party colleagues who had differences with him, to close ranks behind him. News reports last month said the Chinese ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, brokered peace between Oli and his party colleagues, including main challenger Pushpa Kamal Dahal.

Constantino Xavier, an analyst with the New Delhi chapter of the Washington-based Brookings’ Institution think tank, said, “India should have a thick skin and ignore these symbolic amendments to maps and Nepali nationalist rhetoric. “India will continue to remain in control of the disputed territories.”

Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said, “Nepal has introduced a source of permanent friction in bilateral ties through its cartographic aggression.”

India’s ties with Nepal are based on close people-to-people relations with many dimensions, including business, culture and employment

News Source: Livemint


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