Nepal, India decide to set up boundary working group

Kathmandu: In a significant development, Nepal and India have agreed to set up a boundary working group at the surveyors-general level in order to settle some boundary issues, including Susta and Kalapani, and maintain and renovate border pillars.

According to a Kathmandu Post report Tuesday, the two sides recently exchanged a diplomatic note on setting up the boundary working group (BWG) and it is likely that an announcement of the mechanism will be made during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Kathmandu.

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Swaraj will be arriving in Kathmandu on a three-day visit July 25. Susta and Kalapani are two major disputed border areas between Nepal and India for long.

According to the report, the mandate for the mechanism would be to seek an amicable technical solution of unsettled boundary at Susta, Kalapani and other places and immediate solution to border encroachment on both sides.

The mandate would also be for erecting border pillars that have been missing since long, repairing, maintaining and renovating damaged border pillars, and clearing the no-man’s land of Dash Gaja of Nepal-India border so that encroachment does not recur.

Nepal will host the first meeting of the BWG, according to the understanding. The two sides will make field visits and according to agreed strip maps, settle the encroachment issue and other disputes along border areas.

According to the bilateral understanding, the two sides will follow the strip maps while erecting and demarcating the new border pillars.

The 28th meeting of the joint surveyors-general from Nepal and India had prepared 182 strip maps of Nepal-India boundary in 2007, excluding the controversial Susta (Nawalparasi) and Kalapani (Dharchula) sketches, and signed them subsequently, paving the way for higher authorities to ratify them.

The joint surveyors-generals’ meeting also recommended a boundary working group be set up in order to achieve a permanent solution to border encroachment, claims and counter-claims made by both sides, erection of new border pillars and renovation of damaged ones.

Successive Indian governments have been urging Nepal to ratify the decisions by excluding the Susta and Kalapani areas from the rest of the boundary, and advocating a joint working group on border management for completing the remaining two percent boundary mapping.

Nepal has been pursuing a wait-and-watch policy, maintaining that it would be difficult for the country to endorse the boundary maps without resolving outstanding disputes.

The Indian side argues that signing the strip maps should be seen as a confidence-building measure on both sides which could lead to a resolution on Susta and Kalapani.

Only if the BWG ends the border row, including on Kalapani and Susta, Nepal would agree to sign the border protocol with India, government officials here said.

It is estimated that 8,000 border pillars should be there along the Nepal-India border, of which 640 pillars are on or across rivers.

On land, 1,240 border pillars were missing. Besides, around 2,500 pillars needed to be renovated and 400 new pillars needed to be erected, according to officials.