India and Nepal’s enduring border disputes have repeatedly provoked nationalist movements and protests in Nepal and alienated Nepal from India. Resolving the disputes through cooperative rather than coercive measures will be critical for India’s ambition to become a “responsible” rising power.

Protracted border disputes have routinely soured bilateral relations between India and Nepal. The two countries share an approximately 1800 kilometer international open border, which is managed under the bilateral Treaty of Peace and Friendship (1950). The border had been agreed upon in the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli, which states in Article 5 that Nepal “renounces for himself, his heirs, and successors, all claim to or connection with the countries lying to the west of the River Kali.” This means the Kalapani to Limpiyadhura stretch east of the Kali river historically belongs to Nepal. However, India has deliberately misinterpreted the origin of the Kali River to claim Nepal’s lands in the Kalapani–Limpiyadhura region, including the Lipu Lekh region. To resolve the dispute, Nepal and India formed a Joint Technical Committee (JTC) in 1981, which was successful in resolving 97 percent of the border issues. The remaining three percent, approximately 606 square kilometers of disputed area, is the crux of the protracted border disputes.

The border tension re-escalated on 8 May 2020 when Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the 80 kilometer-long road to Mansarobar, a part of which is built on Nepal’s land in Lipu Lekh area. In response to Nepal’s blatant objection to the unilateral construction of the road, the Indian external ministry swiftly claimed that it is built “completely within the territory” of India. India’s army chief baselessly complicated the matter, alleging that Nepal’s objection was at China’s behest. In the absence of constructive dialogue, this kind of allegation only deepens the diplomatic crisis and validates Nepal’s allegation that India has failed to respect the Treaty of Peace and Friendship. The Lipu Lekh region is strategically important for connectivity between India and China and the road has long been a desire of the Indian military.

Please click here to read the full “Border Disputes Between India and Nepal: Will India Act as a Responsible Rising Power?” article published at International Affairs, written by Griffith Asia Institute PhD Candidate, Bikram Timilsina and Dr DB Subedi.