KATHMANDU, May 9: Hours after Nepal strongly objected to the construction of a strategic link road by the Indian government connecting Dharchula of the Indian State of Uttarakhand with the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China via the Lipulekh Pass, a Nepali territory, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Saturday evening claimed that the road lies completely within the territory of India.
Issuing a press statement, the official spokesperson of the MEA said "The road follows the pre-existing route used by the pilgrims of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Under the present project, the same road has been made pliable for the ease and convenience of pilgrims, locals and traders."
The MEA said that India and Nepal have established mechanism to deal with all boundary matters.
"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," it said.
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, the MEA stated.
On Friday, India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the completion of the link road to be used for Indian pilgrims to Mansarovar of Tibet via the Lipulekh Pass.
In a press statement today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) stated that the Nepal government has learnt with regret about the ‘inauguration’ yesterday by India of a ‘Link Road’ connecting to Lipulekh (Nepal).
In light of this development, the Government of Nepal called upon the Government of India to refrain from carrying out any activity inside the territory of Nepal, the ministry said.
The ministry reminded the Indian government that Nepal has consistently maintained that as per the Sugauli Treaty (1816), all the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) River, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipu Lekh, belong to Nepal.
"This was reiterated by the Government of Nepal several times in the past and most recently through a diplomatic note addressed to the Government of India dated 20 November 2019 in response to the new political map issued by the latter," the ministry stated in the press statement.
The MoFA also said that this unilateral act runs against the understanding reached between the two countries including at the level of Prime Ministers that a solution to boundary issues would be sought through negotiation.
"The Government of Nepal remains committed to seeking diplomatic solutions to boundary issues on the basis of the historical treaty, documents, facts and maps in keeping with the spirit of close and friendly ties between the two countries," the ministry said.
The ministry also recalled that the Government of Nepal had expressed its disagreement in 2015 through separate diplomatic notes addressed to the governments of both India and China when the two sides agreed to include the Lipulekh Pass as a bilateral trade route without Nepal’s consent in the Joint Statement issued on 15 May 2015 during the official visit of the Prime Minister of India to China.
In its statement issued by the MoFA, the Government of Nepal reemphasized that pending boundary issues between the two countries should be resolved through diplomatic means.
"With this in mind, the Government of Nepal has proposed twice the dates for holding a 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," it said.
The MoFA also noted that the two governments had constituted the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on Nepal-India Relations with a mandate to recommend measures and institutional framework with a view to elevating the existing relations to a new height. The Group has concluded its task and prepared a consensus report.
"The Government of Nepal is ready to receive the report and believes that it will be in the interest of the two countries to implement its recommendations which will also help address the outstanding issues left by the history, thereby paving the way for ever stronger neighborly relations," the MoFA added.