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Nepal's President approves controversial bill to revise national map including three Indian territories

Nepal's  controversial constitution amendment bill that seeks to update the nation’s political map including three Indian territories has become a law.

Jun 19, 2020 11:29 IST
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Nepal Map Controversy: Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on June 18, 2020 approved the Constitution Amendment Bill  that seeks to update the nation's political map by including areas claimed by India. The bill was passed earlier in the day by Nepal's upper house of the Parliament, National Assembly with unanimous support. All 57 members of the house voted in favour of the bill.

The New Map Amendment Bill(Coat of Arms) was approved by Nepal's House of Representatives last week. The lower house had also given its unanimous approval to the bill. The controversial bill proposes to include three Indian territories in Nepal's revised map. 

As per government sources, India is disappointed with the manner in which Nepal went ahead with revising its map without trying to create a conducive atmosphere for talks. India has rejected Nepal's claim to the three Indian areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura in Uttarakhand, saying that the artificial enlargement of their national map is not based on historical facts and evidence and violates their current understanding to conduct talks on outstanding border issues.

Nepal’s lower house of the Parliament had taken up the controversial amendment bill for discussion on June 9, 2020. The bill was first tabled in the parliament by Nepalese Law Minister Shivamaya Tumbahangphe on May 31, 2020. The controversial amendment bill sought to incorporate an updated political map in the Constitution of Nepal- 2072. The new political map of Nepal depicts Indian areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura within its own borders. 

Objective 

The constitution amendment bill sought to amend Schedule 3 of Nepal’s constitution to update the nation’s political map in the national emblem.

Also read: Kalapani Territorial Dispute: Origin, history, Nepal's objection

Key Highlights 

•  Under Nepal’s law, a constitution amendment bill required two-thirds majority vote to pass in the Parliament. 

• Nepal's upper house voted unanimously to approve the constitution amendment bill. The house has a total of 59 seats, of which one is vacant and the Chairman of the House cannot vote unless his vote is supposed to play a decisive role.

• Nepal PM KP Sharma Oli’s ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) enjoys a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, but it falls short of a majority by around 10 seats in the lower house.

•  The main opposition party- the Nepali Congress party had sought time for discussion on the issue and KP Sharma Oli’s government had delayed the discussion on the bill, which was earlier scheduled for May 27. 

• Following the discussion, the Nepali Congress, which has 63 seats in Nepal’s lower house- House of Representatives, had agreed to support the amendment proposal, giving the ruling government its required majority in the house to pass the bill to revise Nepal's political map. The House has a total of 275 seats.

Nepal Map Controversy: All You Need to Know

The Nepal Government had earlier on May 28 delayed the discussion in the Parliament on the constitutional amendment bill. Nepal’s Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli stated that he wanted to hold an all-party meeting to discuss the issue to forge national consensus before moving the Constitution amendment proposal forward amid rising tensions with India. 

The Nepal government had on May 18 released a revised political and administrative map, laying claim to strategic key areas along the border between the two countries- Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani.

India sharply rejected Nepal’s new political map and asked Nepal not to resort to any artificial enlargement of its territorial claim. The Union Ministry of External Affairs said the revised map of Nepal included parts of the Indian territory. India claims the three territories to be a part of its union. 

What is Lipulekh territory dispute?

The Lipulekh pass is located at the trijunction between India's Uttarakhand state, Tibet region of China and Nepal. It has been used since ancient times by traders and pilgrims traveling between India and Tibet. It is also used by pilgrims for the Kailas Manasarovar Yatra. 

Tensions over the pass resurfaced in May 2020 after India inaugurated an 80-km-long road on the pass, connecting Ghatiabgarh and Lipulekh in Uttarakhand, to reduce travel time for pilgrims going for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Nepal claims to the southern side of the pass called the Kalapani Territory. 

What is Kalapani territory dispute?

Kalapani is a disputed territory between India and Nepal that lies at an altitude of 3600m on the Kailash Manasarovar route. It borders Indian state of Uttarakhand and Nepal's Sudurpashchim Pradesh.

India claims Kalapani to be a part of the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, while Nepal claims it to be a part of its Dharchula district.

Background 

India had released its new political map on November 2, 2019. The map depicts geographical areas of the newly-carved Union Territories-Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. The map also showed Kalapani as a part of its own territory.