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Nepal delays discussion in parliament to amend constitution for updating map

By Shirish B Pradhan
May 27, 2020 21:14 IST
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Nepal has delayed a discussion in parliament to amend the constitution for updating the country's map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura under its territory as Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has decided to seek national consensus on the issue amidst a border dispute with India, parliamentary sources said on Wednesday.

The constitution amendment proposal was to be tabled in Parliament on Tuesday but it could not be done after Oli said that he wanted to hold an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.

Amidst rising tensions, Oli is seeking other parties' views on the issue and called the all-party meeting to forge national consensus before moving the Constitution amendment proposal forward, the sources said.

 

The government had registered the amendment proposal in parliament on May 22 after releasing the new political map of Nepal depicting Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limipiyadhura as its territories on May 18.

Reacting to Nepal's move, India on Wednesday bluntly asked it not to resort to any "artificial enlargement" of its territorial claim after the neighbouring country came up with a new political map showing Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani as its territory.

The ministry of external affairs said the revised map of Nepal included parts of the Indian territory and asked Kathmandu to refrain from such "unjustified cartographic assertion".

India's angry reaction came hours after the Nepal government released the revised political and administrative map, laying claim over the strategically key areas along the border between the two countries.

According to Nepal's law, a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority vote.

As per the business schedule made public on Tuesday, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Shivamaya Tumbahangphe was supposed to table the bill for discussion at Parliament on Wednesday but at the request of the Oli-led government, the discussion was removed from the business schedule at the last minute, the sources said.

The ruling Nepal Communist Party commands a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, but it needs support from other parties to get the Constitution amendment proposal through the Lower House, as it falls short of around 10 seats.

Ganesh Shah, the ruling NCP's standing committee member, said that the government has decided to hold the discussion on Constitution amendment for the time being as per the request of the main Opposition Nepali Congress and Samajwadi Janata Party, a key Madhesi party.

The NC sought some time as the matter should be discussed in its Central Committee Meeting, before being brought to parliament for discussion.

The SJP has demanded that their long-standing issues relating to the re-demarcation of the provinces and citizenship should also be incorporated while amending the constitution amendment.

During the all-party meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Oli sought support from the top leaders on the constitution amendment bill that recognises Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as the Nepali territory.

Ruling party chairs Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal urged the leaders not to mix the agenda of national territory with their political demands, The Kathmandu Post reported.

The ties between the two countries came under strain after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a 80-KM-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.

Nepal reacted sharply to the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through the Nepalese territory. India rejected the claim asserting that the road lies completely within its territory.

Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali earlier this month summoned Indian Ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and handed over a diplomatic note to protest against India inaugurating the key road.

The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory -- India as part of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.

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Shirish B Pradhan
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