New Delhi: Escalating its territorial row with India over the Lipulekh area in Uttarakhand, Nepal's foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali on Monday summoned the Indian ambassador in Kathmandu and issued a diplomatic note conveying Nepal’s protests over the recent construction of a road by India in the Lipulekh area which Nepal claims as its own.
India however made it clear last Saturday that the road falls very much within Indian territory in Uttarakhand.
The latest row was triggered last Friday after defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80 km-long high-altitude road from Dharchula to the Lipulekh Pass (both in Uttarakhand) which reduces the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage time.
Nepal however claims that as per the Treaty of Sagauli signed more than two centuries ago between British India and Nepal in 1816 after the Anglo-Nepal War, “all territories east of the Kali (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh, belong to Nepal”.
On Monday, the Nepal Foreign Ministry tweeted, “Foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali conveyed Government of Nepal's position on boundary issues to Ambassador of India to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra at a meeting held at the Foreign Ministry today (in Kathmandu) and handed over a diplomatic note in this regard.”
This comes after the Himalayan country on Saturday claimed it had “learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ by India of the ‘Link Road’ ... which passes through Nepali territory”.
But New Delhi swiftly made its stand clear last Saturday, with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) saying, “The recently inaugurated road section in Pithoragarh district in the State of Uttarakhand lies completely within the territory of India. The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. ... The boundary delineation exercise with Nepal is ongoing. India is committed to resolving outstanding boundary issues through diplomatic dialogue and in the spirit of our close and friendly bilateral relations with Nepal.”
The MEA had added, “Both sides are also in the process of scheduling Foreign Secretary level talks which will be held once the dates are finalised between the two sides after the two societies and governments have successfully dealt with the challenge of Covid 19 emergency.”
But conveying its concerns last Saturday, the Nepalese Government had said it had “proposed twice the dates for holding the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, as mandated by their leaders, for which the response from the Indian side is still awaited”.