- India recently released a new map showing Kalapani area, a region of three villages, as its territory. On November 19, the Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli expressed that India should immediately withdraw its troops and “the government will not allow anybody to encroach even one inch of its land. There is support of all to the government for nationality and national integrity”. Since then, the territorial dispute between India and Nepal has attracted a lot international concern, whereby Nepal is pondering it to take it to the United Nations. As some Indian reports point to China’s hand behind the aggravated issue, there are strong reactions by some scholars in Chinese media. Most of the scholars posit that India-Nepal hostility has intensified over the years and it is to the advantage of China.
Is There Really a China Hand?
Indian External Affairs Ministry official statement says “both countries should guard against vested interests trying to create differences between our two countries”. Some scholars opine that the statement directly points fingers at China; others believe that Indian media reports are pointing either China or Pakistan hand in the protests in Nepal. On November 21, Global Times published an article by Liu Jianyang and Wang Huizong pointing to the flare up of territorial dispute between India and Nepal. It stated that on the one hand India is busy ‘consoling’ Nepal; and on the other hand it is finding ‘external factors’ to put the blame for the flare of the issue. Quoting Deccan Hearld, the article stated that India and Nepal will soon hold Border Work Meet in order to inform Oli government that India will make efforts to resolve the dispute through “close and friendly dialogue”, thereby destroying all plans of any third party using the pretext of “dispute” to “seek benefit”.
The Global Times article also quoted from an article of US website The Diplomat published this month and stated that “Nepal claims that its Survey Department conducted a population census survey in 1961 to which India did not object. In 1962 during India-China conflict, as Indian army was not allowed in Nepal, hence they entered Kalapani.” The article further picked up the quotation of Ashok Swain, Professor at the Uppasal University, stating “India has not many friends left in its neighborhood. Particularly, its relationship with Nepal has deteriorated considerably since unofficial blockade in 2015; while China is doing everything to get Nepal to its side. In this critically sensitive time of bilateral relationship, India’s ham-handed decision to put Kalapani as part of its territory in its new map is nothing but self-defeating. If anything, it is only going to serve China’s interest.”
Wang Dehua former Director & Professor at Institute for South and Central Asia Studies, Shanghai in a long article titled “India Annexed Nepal’s Territory, But Pointing to China is Extremely Shameful” called Kalapani as “another Dokhlam”. He says that “Kalapani is an area near India-China border, covering an area of 75 sq. km”. In elaborating the cause of dispute, he elaborates that during 1962 war, India lost and while withdrawing the troops, India suddenly realized the strategic value of Kalapani. India then immediately dispatched its troops to occupy the area. Although Nepal has historical claims and beneficial evidences, Indian government has always ignored Nepal’s demand. After Nepal was defeated by the Britishers in 1816, Nepal was forced to cede territory and sign the Treaty of Sagauli. The Treaty used the section of Mahakali river as the border between the two countries. However, the precise source of the river was not clearly stated in the Treaty. Hence, the Kalapani territorial dispute emerged.
While strongly refuting the blames of any ‘China hand’, Wang Dehua points out that this is not the first time India is putting blame on China. Last time, in 2015, when Nepal had major earthquake, there was some changes in the height of Mt. Everest. At that time, India wanted to measure the height as it still used the 1855 standard of the Britishers. India made a formal proposal to Nepal in January 2017, to which Nepal did not respond. Later, Indian media PTI reported that ‘the behavior of Nepal is supported by China’. “India acts shamefully by gobbling up the territory of the surrounding small nations but putting fault on China.”
Wang Dehua in his article further emphasised that “anti-India fire” in Nepal has its roots to 2008 when a 100 minute documentary titled “Greater Nepal: In Quest of Boundary” was produced, demanding India to return Nepal’s territory. The documentary won the ‘Critics Recommendation Award’ from Nepal Film Development Association and a separate award was given by the then Nepali Prime Minister. This proves that there is deep anti-India sentiments among the masses and there is no ‘black hand’ of China behind it.
Chinese Use Dagger Knife To Combat
To counter the Indian media opinions of ‘China hand’ or ‘Pakistan Hand’, Chinese hinted to the challenges such a proposition could have on India. Scholars dwelled at length on the border issue with China, the Kashmir bifurcation issue, and the wars with Pakistan to support Nepal’s Kalapani issue. In a strongly worded article published by Phoenix on November 25, it pointed to the arrogance of India under Modi regime and warned India of being on an edge to be taught a lesson. The article stated that “the arrogance has reached a level where it has done what it has not done in 70 years though had planned to do many a times i.e. abolition of article 370 scrapping the special status of Kashmir. It has also incorporated the Kalapani area in to its own territory in the newly realized map”.
The article further states that in response to Nepal’s strong anti-India protests, India is playing a ‘thief calls for catching a thief” game to “smoothen” ties. “For years India has continuously invaded, expanded and annexed neighboring areas. India will have to pay a heavy price for this.” The article emphasized that “China had earlier repeatedly made clear its solemn stand that the actions of India are illegal, invalid, and cannot change the fact that this area is under China’s actual control. It will also not have any effect on the realities.”
Chinese scholars point out that China strongly oppose this act of India and there is support for the Nepalese. As Kalapani is at the trijunction of India-Nepal-China border, it has high strategic significance. Hence, India does not want to leave this territory. Although in the last few years, Nepal has claimed sovereignty rights over Kalapani, India has ignored Nepal’s voice as its strength is much bigger than Nepal. India’s attitude is seen by some as “blatant aggression and robbery”, which they regard as “Indian style Fascism.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by a delegation of Chinese scholars visiting Nepal recently as reported in The Kathmandu Post published on November 19. At a Press Council meet, talking to media, Zhang Weiwei and Lin Minwang from Sudan University referred to China’s boundary dispute with India and offered Nepal to mediate. Lin Mingwang highlighted that “in the new Indian map, China’s territory in Ladakh was also included in their map, besides some parts of Pakistan’s territory.” Hence, Chinese scholars are correlating larger issues of boundary disputes with India in relation to the current India-Nepal Kalapani issue, what some may see as the use of dagger knife to combat India.
By: Miss Liu Jinxiu, Research Scholar, Jawaharlal Nehru University; and Dr. Geeta Kochhar Jaiswal, Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University.