Kathmandu, Jun 13 (efe-epa).- The lower house of Nepal’s Parliament challenged New Delhi on Saturday by approving a constitutional amendment redrawing the country’s political map to include territories under de facto rule by India for nearly 60 years.
“I announce that the bill has been endorsed by more than a two-thirds majority,” Speaker Agni Sapkota said after all 258 members – out of a total of 275 – present for the special session voted ‘yes.'”
The upper house is expected to pass the bill as well and send it on to President Bidhya Devi Bhandari.
On May 20, the Cabinet issued a new administrative map of Nepal incorporating the disputed territories of Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani, all under Indian control since 1962.
The Cabinet’s decision followed the May 8 inauguration by Indian officials of a new road across Lipulekh linking India with the Chinese region of Tibet, home to the Hindu shrine of Kailash Mansarovar.
“This is in favor of the people and national interest. This was unanimous agreement with no opposition,” Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli said Saturday. “It is not just the Parliament, but the entire nation is behind this.”
“This is a historic occasion, when the land we lost during the period of monarchy is being returned under the republican system. Nepal doesn’t want to allow enmity to emerge with our southern neighbor from this issue,” former Prime Minister Pushpakamal Dahal, who leads the ruling Nepal Communist Party, told lawmakers.
During Saturday’s deliberations, another former prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, said that his Nepali Congress party and all Nepali citizens supported the government in reclaiming Nepali territory.
“Irrespective of the political parties and their ideologies, Nepalis have stood united for the integrity and sovereignty of the country,” he said.
Kathmandu said the new map is based on the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli between Nepal and the British Raj, which defined the Mahakali River as Nepal’s western boundary with India.
India responded to Saturday’s vote by reiterating New Delhi’s strong opposition to Nepal’s assertion of sovereignty over the contested areas.
“This artificial enlargement of claims is not based on historical fact or evidence and is not tenable. It is also in violation of our current understanding to hold talks on outstanding boundary issues,” foreign ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said.
Officials in Kathmandu say that India has ignored Nepal’s overtures for dialogue on the border. EFE