Speaking at the concluding session of Kantipur Conclave titled “Neeti, Thiti and Rajneeti” (roughly translated as policy, practice and politics) on September 11, 2022, former Prime Minister and CPN-UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli made several claims. In his conversation with Umesh Chauhan, Editor of Kantipur Daily, Oli claimed his sole effort secured an amendment to the constitution and established Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as Nepali territories.
Nepal Check fact-checked Oli’s claim that his solo effort resulted in the amendment to the Constitution to establish these long-contested areas as Nepali territories.
Let’s look at Oli’s claim first.
Taking a dig at the ruling party leaders, Oli claimed that his efforts led to the publication of the new map that incorporated the lost territories and established the fact that the area belonged to Nepal. He also claimed the area was yet to be returned to Nepal as the ruling party leaders didn’t start a dialogue with India.
Let us recap the events of the past three years that led to the territorial dispute with India and how the country amended the constitution and adopted a new political map.
Nepal began a campaign to adopt a new political map shortly after the Indian government released a new political map of its territories on November 2, 2019. This was done after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government abolished Article 370 of the Indian constitution (that granted a certain level of autonomy to the residents of Kashmir region) and established Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as Union Territories. The Narendra Modi-led government published a new political map to reflect the changes following the Indian president’s approval to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 on November 2, 2019. Nepal’s government strongly protested the move as the new map depicted long-disputed areas of Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as part of India.
All pieces of land east of the Kali River, which originates in Limpiyadhura, were determined to be Nepali territory during an all-party meeting organised by the then Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on November 9, 2019. Political parties, including the then- main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC) and Janata Samajwadi party, attended the meeting. Two days later on November 11, 2019, the Parliamentary Committee on State Affairs and Good Governance directed the government to issue a new political map incorporating Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura. The government came under increasing pressure from border experts and members of civil society to take a firm stance as these territories legitimately belonged to Nepal.
Nepal tried to settle the border dispute with India diplomatically. But the Indian side repeatedly snubbed Kathmandu’s request. The border row between the two countries took a new turn after Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road passing through the territories claimed by Nepal on May 8, 2020. Two days later, Nepal protested the Indian government’s move through a diplomatic note.
On the same day, Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastav claimed that the road was built within Indian territories. On May 10, then Foreign Minister Pradip Kumar Gyawali summoned the Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinaya Mohan Kwatra and handed over a diplomatic note, protesting New Delhi’s unilateral move to build a road through Nepali territory. Ambassador Kwatra, however, reiterated the stance taken by the Indian government.
Following the inauguration of the disputed road, tensions between the two neigbhbours remained high. During a programme organised in New Delhi on May 15, 2020, Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukunda Naravane alleged that Nepal raised the border issue at someone’s behest, in an oblique reference to China. Alarmed by the Indian Army chief’s remark, the Oli government decided to release a new political map that incorporated Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura.
Moreover, in its policy and programmes presented in Parliament on May 15, the same day Naravane made the controversial remarks,the government announced that it will release a new political map of Nepal.
On May 18, 2020, a Cabinet meeting decided to release a new political map that included Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura.
On May 20, 2022, Minister for Land Management Padhma Aryal unveiled a new political map that included Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura under Nepal’s territory. Replying to reporters’ questions at a press meet on the same day, Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastav termed Nepal’s move as an “unjustified cartographic assertion” and said it was not acceptable to India.
Despite India’s objections, Nepal’s major parties came together in an unprecedented show of support for the new map that included the areas India had encroached upon.
On May 22, 2020, the government registered a constitution amendment bill in Parliament to release the new political map. The government was required to amend the coat of arms that was included in the Annex 3 of the constitution to release the new political map.
The Nepali Congress (NC), the main opposition party at the time, convened a meeting of the party’s central working committee on May 30, 2020 and made an institutional decision to support the constitutional amendment proposal.
Prior to this, Sher Bahadur Deuba, the then leader of the main opposition, had said that his party would make no compromise on issues related to nationality. All other political parties represented in Parliament also supported the move of the Oli-led government. As a result, the proposal to amend the constitution was unanimously approved by a House of Representatives (HoR) meeting on June 13, 2020, opening the door for the government to release the new map of Nepal.
How was the amendment bill passed?
According to Article 274(8) of the constitution, a bill that doesn’t require the consent of the Provincial Assembly or a bill accepted by a majority of the Provincial Assemblies pursuant to clause (5) shall be adopted by at least two-thirds majority of the total number of members of both Houses of the Federal Parliament. When Oli was elected prime minister with the backing of his coalition partner CPN (Maoist Center) on February 15, 2020, he had the support of 174 lawmakers. The UML and Maoist Centre on May 17, 2018 officially announced their unification.
Prior to the split of the UML and the Maoist Centre as a result of the Supreme Court order, Oli had the support of 172 legislators in Parliament (one was absent due to death and the Speaker can’t vote in the House). The number fell short of the requisite two-third majority. This meant it was not possible to amend the constitution without support from political parties, including the main opposition Nepali Congress. In fact, a number of influential leaders and lawmakers from the NC, including Minendra Rijal and Gagan Thapa, supported and effectively defended the government move to introduce the new political map.
Of the 271 lawmakers (excluding those who were suspended on various charges and those who passed away earlier) 258 were present in Parliament when the constitution amendment bill was put up for a vote. . All lawmakers present in Parliament voted in favour of the constitution amendment bill. The proposal had the backing of all political parties represented in Parliament. Not a single vote was cast against the amendment.
यो सत्यापन नेपालीमा पढ्नुस्
Although Oli had led the campaign to amend the constitution and played a critical role in getting it passed, other parliamentary parties deserve equal credit for the amendment that paved the way for the government to unveil the new political map of Nepal.
It is true that the new political map, which was unveiled as an effort to establish Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura as Nepali territories, was introduced by the Oli-led government. It is beyond reasonable doubt that Oli played a leading role in this effort. However, his claim that he single-handedly established the disputed territories as belonging to Nepal by introducing a new political map and amending the constitution clearly undermines the instrumental role other political parties played to execute the plan.
It is obvious that Oli or his party alone didn’t command the numbers to amend the constitution if the number of lawmakers Oli-led Nepal Communist Party had at that time. The main opposition party, the NC, and other political parties played an equally important role in this campaign. Despite having a few grains of truth in it, Oli’s claim is misleading as he doesn’t elaborate the context in which the new political map was introduced.
|Claim||Claimed by||Nepal Check Verdict|
|My solo efforts resulted in the amendment of the constitution to pave the way for the publication of a new political map of Nepal.||Former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli||Misleading|
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