Conflict Weekly 18

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Conflict Weekly 18
Kalapani dispute in India-Nepal border, Migrants exodus in India, Continuing violence in Balochistan and KP

  IPRI Team

IPRI Conflict Weekly, 20 May 2020, Vol.1, No. 18

Sourina Bej, Alok Gupta & Abigail Miriam Fernandez

India-Nepal Border Dispute: Kathmandu to publish new map claiming control over Kalapani 

In the news
The dispute over the riverine border of Kalapani and Lipulekh pass has worsened the current bilateral relation between India and Nepal. Three incidents have contributed to the escalating tensions in the relationship. 

On 8 May Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road-link connecting Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, China that is expected to help pilgrims visiting the pilgrimage site. The road is around 90 km from the Lipulekh pass. Protesting against India's border road development near the pass, Nepal President Bidhya Bhandari, in her address to the Parliament last week, reiterated its claim that Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh belong to Nepal and appropriate diplomatic measures will be adopted to resolve the existing issues with India. 

This was followed by tabling of a special resolution by Nepal's ruling Nepal Communist Party in the Parliament demanding return of territory in Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh. Nepal's cabinet has endorsed the resolution and a new political map showing Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura under its territory will be made public for the first time by the Minister of Land Management in the subsequent weeks. By announcing the desire to bring out a new map, Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali was also responding to the Indian Army Chief General Naravane's statement that the reaction from Nepal could be "at the behest of someone else" thereby indicating at the dragon in the room. 

Issues at large
The first issue is the historicity of the border. The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal have claimed Kalapani as a part of their territory - India as part of Uttarakhand's Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district. As Nepal goes on to restore its cartographic rights on the disputed territory by including the 335-km land area of Limpiyadhura into the Nepalese territory, the new map draws its historical claims from the Sugauli Treaty of 1816. The treaty signed between Nepal and the then British India government primarily suggests Limpiyadhura, from where the Kali river originated, as Nepal's border with India. 

Second is the geo-economic importance of the border. The road connecting India with China has been one of the agreed agendas of the May 2015 India-China summit in Xian. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Chinese President Xi Jinping had signed an agreement to use the Lipulek pass for trade between the two countries. Hence as the road turns into an economical route between India and China, Nepal's has swiftly moved to clear the dispute over Kalapani. 

Third is the rocky history of recent India-Nepal relations. Nepal has raised the issue of Kalapani for many years with India. The current decision to publish new maps comes after repeated deadlocks in the border talks. Nepal's current strong message to India is also due to the past heavy-handed policy of an economic blockade by New Delhi in 2015-16. In addition, India's repeated retort at Nepal being soft to China has not borne well with the political leadership in Nepal. 

In perspective 
First, since November 2019, the Indian Government has been fully aware of Nepal's position on the issue. Hence it remains unclear why India would 'inaugurate' an unfinished road amid the pandemic without addressing Nepal's concerns first. The likely answer could be on the economic value of the Kailash Mansarovar route. With a much easier alternative for trade between India and China, Nepal's economic prospect as a transit could considerably reduce. 

Second, with the present call for a new map, there has been a distinct change in the narrative that Nepal has taken while negotiating with the border issue with India. Since 1950 till now, Nepal has gone from political silence under the Rana monarchy to rigorous persuasion by the Nepali people. It is noteworthy that while the panchayat institutions in Nepal has been silent about the triangle in the northwest, the elected governments under democracy post-1990 have pursued the "Kalapani agenda", supported by growing scholarship built on the historical revisiting of the Sugauli treaty and the British-era archives. Meanwhile, regular communications with New Delhi has also been undertaken to keep the matter current. 

India: Left in the lurch in lockdown, millions of migrants walk back home

In the news

Amidst spiralling cases of COVID-19 pandemic, the first spate of nationwide lockdown began in India on 25 March for 21 days, which was subsequently extended three more times till 31 May. It brought untold and unique misery and hardships across the cross-section of the Indian populace. Worst of all was the mass exodus of internal migrant workers from urban to rural home. International migrants were brought home by special planes with adequate precautions and quarantine facilities and in organized manner.

Issues at large
First is the disrupted livelihood. According to the World Bank, the lockdown impacted the livelihood of 40 million internal migrants of India; the magnitude of which was about two-and-a-half- times that of international migration. Reportedly, India's 90 per cent of the workforce - an estimated 450 million are in informal sectors. Lack of national database has caused a lack of social security coverage; ill-organized welfare schemes for them, and assurance of even minimum wages; even though governmental claims are to the contrary. 

Second is the empty stomachs and the long miles to walk home. Loss of employment created chaotic and painful conditions, and many walked empty stomach for hundreds of miles, with meagre food support from philanthropic organizations, individuals, and non-governmental organizations. The exodus of labour from workplaces has forced lockdown on manufacturing sectors and other centres of economic activities, thereby causing tremendous loss to the economy, for want of labour. Social distancing was a casualty as many migrants walking on highways herded together while hitched-in trucks and whatever kind of vehicles they came across on the way. This may contribute towards the further spread of the epidemic to other cities and rural India. 

Third is the Government's miscalculations, ill-preparedness and insensitivity towards the migrants which have led to the deepening of crisis. The governments – federal and State should have forecasted the problems that the lockdown would cause to migrants in terms of livelihood, loss of income and dislocation. Besides the failure to predict, the strategies that the governments pursued were haphazard and lacked consensus. 

In perspective
First, migrant workers started trudging across a hundred to thousands of kilometres to reach their village and home, on highways, barren field, and railway tracks. Mass media and social media remained flooded with heart-rending stories of emotional breakdown to death. Several of them lost lives on account of dehydration; tiredness and fatigue; ran over by freight train; being hit by trucks and other vehicles on the road; and from other ailments. 

Given the scale of their desperation to return home would not fade easily from public memory. It was indeed an unprecedented crisis. Several faces of state police were revealed: some butchered them with rods; some made them stay on roads; some drenched them with sanitizing chemicals on roads to disinfect them; while some were hospitable enough to offer food, water, clothes and slippers to the toiling millions. It raised several issues necessitating sensitization of police force. 

Second, hardly there was any alternative available to the Government as the cases of COVID-19 started surging by a thousand on a daily basis. Leveraging time and allowing migrants even few days to commute their destination would have caused havoc towards spreading the virus exponentially. It was also required to create adequate health infrastructure. Before announcing nationwide lockdown, Government may have pressed the administration to facilitate commutation of migrants on buses and special trains and could have continued to carry out the same for next five days in a meticulously organized manner to manage and mitigate the crisis that ensued.

Pakistan: Violent attacks on soldiers continue in North Waziristan and Balochistan 

In the news
Violent attacks on political leaders and soldiers are emerging as a worrying trend in provinces of Balochistan and North Waziristan in Pakistan. On 18 May, seven soldiers of Frontier Corps (FC) were killed in two separate attacks in Balochistan. The first attack with an IED explosion took place when six soldiers were returning to their base camp. The second attack on another soldier took place in an exchange of fire in the Kech district. This is the second major violent incident in recent weeks in Balochistan. On the same day, another IED explosion took place at a market near Mirali in North Waziristan killing a soldier and injuring many. 

Issues at large
First is the return of violence since 2019. Earlier this month, attacks have taken place along the Pakistan-Iran border, killing six soldiers, including an Army Major. Further, these attacks come a few weeks after prominent PTM leader Arif Wazir was gunned down in front of his house by unidentified gunmen in Wana, North Waziristan. A report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies has shown that in 2019, Pakistan witnessed a decline in the number of terrorist incidents and consequent casualties. 

The statistics of Pakistan Security Report 2019 also showed that terrorist attacks in 2019 had decreased by around 13 per cent as compared to 2018, and the number of people killed in these attacks have dropped by 40 per cent. Thus, there was an overall decline in terrorism in the country. 

Second is the focus of violence along the border regions. The recent attacks over the past month have happened along the Pakistan-Iran border, and Pakistan-Afghanistan border. A tribal district within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, North Waziristan has remained a hotspot for militancy and violent attacks on representatives of political institutions. Similarly, the attack in Balochistan took place not far from the border.

In perspective
First, the recent spate of attacks has shown that the threat is still very real and potent, especially for those who are in the first line of defence. There has been an increase in the causalities within the Pakistani security forces. 

Second, the issue of violence in Balochistan and KP has not been seriously addressed. The two provinces are lagging back on this front. Violence in Punjab and Sindh provinces have decreased significantly as the issue has been addressed. However, the unending issue of violence in Balochistan and KP has not, and thus they continue to face the brunt of it. 

Third, the conversation on border security between Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff and Iran's Chief of Army after these recent attacks highlights the transboundary nature of the attacks. It may be required that both Iran and Pakistan would have to work together in combating this issue. 

Also this week…

Rwanda genocide suspect arrested in France
The most wanted suspects of the Rwandan genocide, Félicien Kabuga, has been arrested near Paris, reported the French justice ministry on 16 May. Kabuga was detained in an early morning raid in Asnières-sur-Seine, where he had been living under a false identity. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda had charged the 84 years old for allegedly assisting and financing the ethnic Hutu extremists for slaughtering 800,000 Tutsis in 1994.

Back in power, Netanyahu vows to annex West Bank
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed on 17 May to annex Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank. As he returns back as the leader of the unity government, Netanyahu puts the West Bank annexation back in political agenda. "These areas of the country are birthplaces of the Jewish nation. It's time to apply Israeli law over them," said Netanyahu in the Knesset. Israel is expected to carry out West Bank annexation on 1 July, as agreed to between Netanyahu and Gantz. 

Somalian Governor killed in al Shabab claimed by suicide bombing
On 17 May the governor of the Mudug region in Somalia's Puntland has been killed along with three of his bodyguards in a suicide car bombing claimed by the terrorist group al Shabab, according to the police and a security official. This is the second such attack mounted against a political representative in the region by the group. 


About the authors

Sourina Bej and Abigail Miriam Fernandez are Research Associates at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bengaluru. Dr Alok Kumar Gupta is an Associate Professor, at the Centre for Political Studies, in the Central University of South Bihar, Gaya.

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