In a strongly worded statement after Nepal’s lower house unanimously passed the constitutional amendment on Saturday, the MEA spokesperson Anurag Shrivastava said, “This artificial enlargement of claims is not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable. It is also violative of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues.”
For the second time in five years, the India-Nepal relationship is heading for a train wreck. As KP Sharma Oli government in Kathmandu steered a constitutional amendment to Schedule 3 of the constitution to update the national emblem by incorporating Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani in Nepal’s map, bilateral relations dived to a new low. Stating that New Delhi had already clarified its position, India has told Nepal it would refuse to hold boundary talks with Nepal after the passage of this amendment.
Nepal’s foreign minister Pradeep Gyawali tweeted this afternoon, “The House of Representatives unanimously adopted the Constitution Amendment Bill, paving the way for accommodating the updated political-administrative map in the national emblem.”
Nepal’s Samajwadi Party Chairman Upendra Yadav in his remarks called for the Mahakali Treaty to be amended. Speaker Agni Sapkota also rejected the only amendment proposal registered by Socialist MP Sarita Giri on the Constitution Amendment Bill. The legislation will now move to the National Assembly for its approval, which is expected to happen without any hitch.
The Indian government has maintained a studied silence on the issue after the MEA stated last week that India would not accept unilateral changes in Nepal’s map. In fact, this week, the government emphasised on the “close and civilisational” ties between the two countries.
On Saturday, the Indian Army chief, Gen MM Naravane also softened his stance on Nepal, saying, “We have a very strong relationship with Nepal. We have geographical, cultural, historical, religious linkages. We have very strong people to people connect. Our relation with them has always been strong and will remain strong in the future.” Gen Naravane’s comment a couple of weeks ago that Nepal was raising opposition on the Kalapani at “someone else’s behest” was generally held to be the trigger for Nepal PM Oli’s outburst. In fact, that comment also raised objections among Nepal’s armed forces, who have generally kept a low profile on the growing dispute.
In the past few days, sources say there has been some consternation in Nepal regarding India’s continued silence on the issue. India has refused to hold talks with Nepal while the Oli government pushed through the constitutional amendment. “We will not talk with a sword over our heads,” sources here said. China is a favourite villain of the piece here, but this may be an overstated threat.
The unfortunate reality, according to government sources, is that India believes Nepal’s PM KP Sharma Oli wants to fundamentally transform ties with India.
Oli has successfully pushed back against India, twice won elections in the teeth of Indian opposition — that gives him virtually unbeatable nationalist credentials.
Added to this is his Communist politics blends better with China, allowing him to use their deeper pockets to offset Indian influence as well as be a bargaining chip with India. The Modi government has made much of the Hindu-ness of Nepal being a natural “fit” with India. Neither Oli nor the younger generation Nepali actually see it in this light. This frequently leads to crossed wires between the two countries. Oli has used the boundary issue with India brilliantly, both saving himself politically, as well as building distance with India.