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The Way Forward In The India-Nepal Border Dispute

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By Dr Simi Mehta, Ritika Gupta and Anshula Mehta, Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI)

Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS), Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi, and International Development Institute (IDI), Washington, DC, organised a panel discussion and International Webinar on The Way Forward in the India-Nepal Border Dispute.

The current dispute over the Lipulekh-Limpiyadhura and Kalapani area road construction of 80 km was the main topic to discuss.

Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI, New Delhi initiated the session by highlighting the historical diplomatic ties between India and Nepal which were cemented on June 17, 1947, in the presence of high-level officials from both the countries with the commitment of peaceful existence and sovereign equality and understanding of each other aspirations.

There was a sudden jolt to the bonhomie when current Ministry of Defence virtually inaugurated the 80 km long road in the Himalayas at the Lipulekh pass at Dharchula, Uttarakhand. This was countered by Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli government claiming that road passes through Nepalese Territory and accused India of changing status quo without diplomatic consultations. They responded by making constitutional amendment in the administrative and political map of the country showing that Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani is part of Nepal. India protested this.

This new road is the shortest route from New Delhi to Tibetan Plateau and it is an important trade route and passage for thousands of pilgrims to visit the holy place of Kailash Mansarovar. Therefore, no doubt it is in the interests of both the countries. Various questions were posed to the panellists including the ways towards potential resolution of the issues given the importance of the long history of friendly relations between the two countries, especially in the people-to-people ties; Further, the panellists also were asked of their opinion on the fact that it appears that both sides in the dispute feel that the other side has acted to trigger the escalation of the dispute.

Dr Minendra P. Rijal, Member of Parliament, Republic of Nepal made his very brief remarks with evidence and thoughts on the issue. He noted that 97% of the disputes with India have been resolved successfully and in satisfaction. Still, some differences remain. He opined that India-Nepal is having very friendly relations. He stated that both sides will have to sit and resolved the issue in a diplomatic way once the Coronavirus pandemic fades away.

He also said that both nations have to talk and educate their citizens about the relations between the countries and need to clarify with the media about the issue. Dr Rijal said Nepal is ready to sit and resolve the dispute as soon as possible. While answering the question he stated that this issue will not lead to a situation wherein India would blockade bulk commodities exports to Nepal, and should that happen, it would be a huge disappointment. He requested the Indian media and the people to respect Honourable Prime Minister Mr KP Sharma Oli.

Mr Ajay Pradhan, Senior Policy Advisor – Treaty Negotiations on Comprehensive Land Claims, Government of Canada took part in the webinar as an individual of Nepal and not behalf of the Canada Government. He said both countries have very strong cultural, religious linguistic relation with each other. He noted that political leaders of each country extended moral support to political issues and in the independence movement of India. He told to look at this issue as an opportunity to sit and tie relations with others.

He said first step to resolve is to honestly acknowledge and accept that it is disputed. Secondly, present evidence and start the negation process. He stated that Nepal should be respective to concerns of India behind road construction which are 1. Strategic Security 2. Religious and Cultural pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar 3. Trade and Transit to China and Tibet through Lipulekh Pass. He claimed that Nepal was never consulted by India for names of rivers from Limpiyadhura to Lipulekh. He also stated Kali river is not an issue but which river is Kali is the main concern for both states. He reminded of Treaty of Sugauli.

Ambassador Rakesh Sood, Former Ambassador of India to Nepal (2008-11) pronounced the norms of Treaty of Sugauli. He also observed that none of the maps of India or Nepal covered the disputed land that is a concern now. He also discussed the Kalapani issue that told it was different from this as this issue is more formed due to Constitution Amendments of Nepal and the other was due to diplomatic threads of Britishers and East India Company.

He pointed out that at no point in time over the last ten-years of construction of the road did Nepal raise a concern, and it was only after the inauguration on May 8, 2020, that it expressed its views. He claimed that now the official level of talks is pointless and only at the political level can one expect a resolution of the issue. He also provided evidence from dated back to September 5, 1817, about the disputed territory as part of India’s. He explicitly mentioned that a worsening of this border dispute would be a lasting legacy of the Oli government in creating insurmountable problems for India-Nepal relations.

Major General (Dr) P.K. Chakravorty, VSM (Retd), Strategic Thinker on Security Issues stated that dealing with border disputes is not new for India, and India has resolved the issues with Bangladesh, Myanmar very successfully. He quoted that it is a relation of blood between two countries and we had the best of time and relations with Nepal. He noted that we require political guidance.

He also assured that India is not a big brother but we are equals and we respect all of the citizens of Nepal. He also stated that some issues need to be resolve by international norms. He eagerly asked for people to people contact in both countries. He also stated that as a secular nation, the exchange is required in terms of culture, religion and youth.

The event was co-moderated by Dr Ambika P. Adhikari, Principal Planner, City of Tempe, Arizona, USA. Dr Arjun Kumar, Director, IMPRI has given a vote of thanks to every panellist and attendees concluded the webinar with immense pleasure.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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