NEW DELHI: Army Chief General MM Naravane on Friday said Lipulekh Pass was not a dispute between India and Nepal and hinted at China’s hand behind Kathmandu’s protests over the issue.
Nepal has objected to India recently opening the 80-km-long Lipulekh-Dharchula road in Uttarakhand saying the “unilateral act” was against the understanding reached between the two countries on resolving border issues.
Calling Nepal’s reaction surprising, General Naravane said, “There is reason to believe that they might have raised this issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility.”
Elaborating on the issues, he said, “In fact, the Nepalese ambassador had mentioned that east of Kali river belongs to them and there is no dispute in that. The road which we have constructed is on the west side of the river. So I don’t know what exactly they are agitating about. As we go ahead, there are little issues as to where the (India-Nepal-China) tri-junction should be. There have never been any problems on this score in the past.”
The Army chief was replying to a query after delivering a talk on ‘Covid and Indian Army: Responses and Beyond’, organised by the think-tank, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses.
Strategists agree with the possibility of the Chinese angle. Nihar R. Nayak, an expert on Nepal matters, said the Army chief was factually correct.
“Initially, Nepal mentioned Kalapani and Susta as disputed. Now, they have recently increased it to four by adding Lipulekh and Lympiadhura.”