Massive road development projects in the Tibet Autonomous Region have led to rivers changing their course and expanding China’s boundary into northern territories of Nepal, a document by Nepal’s agriculture department has warned.
The document, accessed by Hindustan Times, said patches of Nepalese territory in several districts had already been encroached by China and cautioned that Beijing could take over more territory in the north if the rivers continue to change course. The loss of Nepalese territory due to the rivers changing course could run into “hundreds of hectare land”, it said.
“There is a high possibility that over the period of time, China may develop its Border Observation Post of Armed Police in those territories,” the document by the agriculture ministry’s survey department said.
Nepal, which shares a boundary with China in the north, has 43 hills and mountains from the east to west, that act as the natural boundary between the two countries. The two countries have six check posts, essentially for trade.
The survey department has assessed that the changing course of 11 rivers had already cost Nepal 36 hectare, or 0.36 sq km, across four of its districts; Humla, Rasuwa, Sindhupalchowk and Sankhuwasabha.
The encroachment of 36 hectare land by China had been first reported to the KP Sharma Oli-led government last year. There were some street protests after the loss of Nepalese territory to China emerged in the local media But the Oli government, who is accused by his detractors of attempting to cosy up to China’s communist party, played down the encroachment by the Chinese and channeled the public outrage against India over the new maps issued by New Delhi in November last after the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was split into two union territories.
Instead, PM Oli went on to amp up the differences with India over Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh spread across 330 sq km in May this year after Chinese intervention helped him survive a rebellion within the party in April. That intervention, however, meant that he had to scrap two ordinances promulgated just five days earlier.
PM Oli had seized the opportunity after defence minister Rajnath Singh opened an 80-km road that ends at Lipulekh Pass on the border with China.
Analysts in New Delhi and Kathmandu believe that PM Oli’s hard push to Nepal’s new political map was an effort to whip up ultra-nationalistic sentiments targetted at India to consolidate his position in the government and the party. This is why he did, a diplomat in New Delhi said, PM Oli did not inform Parliament before it voted on the map earlier this month that he had ignored an offer of dialogue between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. Instead, he gave parliamentarians the impression that his government was forced to push the envelope since New Delhi had declined his offer for dialogue.
New Delhi hardened its position after the map was cleared by parliament this month, asserting that it was for him to create a conducive atmosphere in case he is interested in a bilateral dialogue on the boundary issue.