Kalapani: A Border issue Between India and Nepal

Date: August 21, 2017

India Nepal China Greater Nepal

Kalapani is a territory disputed between India and Nepal administered however as part of Pithoragarh district in the Uttarakhand state of India. It is situated on the Kailash Manasarovar route, at an altitude of 3600 meters. It is said that the Great Sage Vyasa meditated at this place, giving the region its name - Vyas Valley. A pool by the temple of the Goddess Kali is considered to by some to be the source of the Kali River. A verdant valley covered with Pine, Bhojpatra and Juniper trees, it offers stunning views of some of the lesser known peaks like Om Parvat in the Central Himalayas. Lipulekh Pass leading into Tibet is 17 kilometers from Kalapani.

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Although claimed by Nepal as part of Darchula District,Kalapani is controlled by India's Indo-Tibetan border security forces since the 1962 border war with China. Nepal claims that the river to the west of Kalapani is main Kali, hence it belongs to Nepal. But India claims that ridgeline to the east of Kalapani is the border, hence the Kalapani area belongs to India. The Kalapani area borders the Nepalese zone of Mahakali and the Indian state of Uttarakhand. The Sugauli Treaty signed by Nepal and British India in 1816 locates the Kali River as Nepal's western boundary with India and makes no mention of ridgelines.Subsequent maps drawn by British surveyors show the source of the boundary river at different places. This discrepancy in locating the source of the river led to boundary disputes between India and Nepal, with each country producing maps supporting their own claims. The Kalapani River runs through an area that includes a disputed area of about 400 km² around the source of the river although the exact size of the disputed area varies from source to source.

Nepal has long complained about minor Indian encroachments into other parts of the border, mainly when rivers shift their course from time to time. But Kalapani is different, with Indian soldiers in possession, and this has raised nationalist hackles in Nepal . Nepal claims that the Kalapani area lies within its Darchula district and, therefore, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) presence there amounts to “Indian encroachment of Nepal ’s territory.” It has therefore demanded that the border post be removed and the area restored to it.

Official sources in India claim that the administrative and revenue records dating back to 1830s (available with the UP state government), show that Kalapani area has traditionally been administered as part of Pithoragarh district. A State Police post was established by the state government at the now disputed site in 1956 and operated from here till 1979. Since 1979, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) have been manning a post for surveillance over the area, which is on the tri-junction of the international boundaries of India, Nepal and the autonomous region of Tibet in China. According to India , vide Article 5 of the Segauli Treaty (1816), Nepal had renounced all claims to areas ‘lying west of the river Kali’. The Kali (now Mahakali) river thus evolved into a well-identified border demarcation in the west. Before claiming some area around the Kalapani tri-junction, Nepal had disputed even the source of the river Kali, as claimed by India .