New Delhi: India and Nepal are planning to hold discussions over the Lipulekh-Kalapani border row soon, even as the Himalayan nation’s government tabled a constitutional amendment bill Sunday to endorse its controversial new political map.
On 20 May, Nepal officially released a new map showing the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani within its borders on 20 May. The bill seeks to amend Annex 3 of the Constitution, to reflect the new map in Nepal’s national emblem.
The K.P. Sharma Oli-led Nepal Communist Party government tabled the amendment after securing support from the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress headed by former PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, the previous day.
“The proposal to amend the constitution and endorse the new map will require a two-thirds majority. With the support from NC there we will be able to have it passed with adequate votes,” said a senior Nepali official who refused to be identified.
“We are in talks with India to discuss this through diplomatic channels,” the official said.
India has already made it clear that it will not accept any “artificial enlargement of territorial claims”, but has said it is open for talks with Nepal.
Official sources say both sides are planning to hold talks soon, most probably during the voting process on the amendment, India will be “closely watching” the developments.
The Nepali official quoted above said even if the amendment goes through, which the government is confident of, it will not impact the dialogue between Kathmandu and New Delhi.
Madhesi parties not on board
Last Wednesday, Oli’s ruling NCP failed to secure political consensus for the constitutional amendment, mainly due to opposition from Madhesi representatives.
Madhes refers to Nepal’s plains or ‘Terai’ region contiguous with India, and is said to have an identity distinct from the hill regions of the country.
Sources said the Madhesis do not have reservations on the bill as such, but they want the government to include their agenda of wider representation for the community in the Nepalese constitution.
In Nepal’s 275-member House of Representatives, the Nepal Communist Party holds 174 seats while the Nepali Congress has 63. As a result, sources said, even if the Madhes-based parties do not support the bill, the proposal will be approved.
However, a discussion on the bill will now begin, and is expected to take a week or even a month, sources said. Subsequently, the parliament will vote on the bill.