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Amendment to formalise new map tabled in Nepal parliament

The government of Nepal on Sunday tabled the crucial Constitution Amendment bill to formalise the country’s new map which claims parts of India as its territory.

The bill was tabled by Nepal’s Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe amid high drama on the streets with reports that senior diplomats wanted to reach the parliament to witness the historic session.

Strategic sliver

The Constitution Second Amendment bill will change the Schedule 3 of the Nepalese Constitution and replace the existing map with the map that was unveiled on May 20. The new map depicts the sliver of strategically important land covering Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani as part of Nepal. The area is currently part of Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand but Nepal has disputed the Indian position based on historical documents and bilateral understanding.

Ms. Tumbahangphe said the Coat of Arms of Nepal will be altered after the amendment is passed as it will depict the new map. The tabling of the amendment bill came a day after the chief opposition, the Nepali Congress, extended support to Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli’s government which ensured that the bill will get the required two-thirds majority in the parliament. The entire process is expected to take around a week.

Former Foreign Secretary of Nepal Madhuraman Acharya said the amendment is bound to sail through given the unanimity among political parties. “It’s just a matter of time as all sides are united on this that Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh belong to Nepal and the map needs to show the correct territory of of our country,” said Mr. Acharya speaking to The Hindu on the phone.

The parliament session began in the morning even as crowds gathered outside, shouting patriotic slogans.

Some political activists and supporters blocked parts of the road leading to the federal parliament (Sanghiya Sansad) as reports came that both the Chinese Ambassador Hou Yanqi and Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Qwatra were to arrive in the parliament to witness the session. Sources in Kathmandu said traffic blockade remained in place for a brief period. “Nepal has never been a colony so we did not want Indian and Chinese diplomats to attend our parliament’s session on our map,” said a source from Kathmandu.

Indian diplomatic commentators have maintained that the amendment is a setback to bilateral ties as it will formalise a new territorial dispute with India. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has urged India to withdraw troops from Kalapani and Lipulekh and restore status quo in the region.

India has maintained that it remains open to dialogue though a recent attempt to connect the prime ministers of India and Nepal failed last week. Latest reports indicate that a similar telephonic conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli is being planned in a day or two.

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