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Opinion

Lipu Lekh Pass: Nepal must be reconciled with reality | HT Editorial – Editorials

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There has been a drop in the relationship between India and Nepal in the past month. Two issues have contributed to this. The first was an internal rift within the Communist Party of Nepal (PCN) where Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli faced a challenge from party leaders and former Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Madhav Kumar Nepal. The crisis calmed down after China brokered an agreement between the leaders. If there were doubts about China’s investment in the PNC and endorsement of Mr. Oli, it dissipated. Delhi noted the development, in silence.

The second, more public episode has been the border controversy. India inaugurated a highway that crosses the Lipu Lekh pass, part of an area that both countries claim as their own. There is a long history of claims and counterclaims, but what’s relevant is this. India owns the territory; sees it strategically important; and will continue to expand infrastructure. However, the issue is an ultra-nationalist policy issue in Nepal. Oli’s own nationalist policy (which seems to disappear when it comes to China), and internal political opinion resulted in Kathmandu taking a firm stand. While Beijing supports Oli in general, internal factors are driving Nepal’s rhetoric on this issue. In fact, India and China, in 2015, agreed to trade through the pass, a recognition by Beijing of India’s control over the area. Nepal should reconcile with the status quo and stop its anti-India rhetoric. India can offer diplomatic treatment by agreeing to start a dialogue on border issues. But Delhi must be vigilant and control the Chinese-backed Oli regime.

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