Territorial dispute

Recently, Nepal unveiled a new political map that claimed strategically important land Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh of Uttarakhand as part of its sovereign territory.

India Nepal Border

India and Nepal share an approximately an 1,800- kilometer long open border running along West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Sikkim.

It was after the Peace and Friendship Treaty of 1950 that the two countries encouraged a well-identified and formally accepted “open border” between them.

An “open border” means that there is free and unrestricted movement of people from either side. Open border has led to better social and trade connectivity between the two countries leading to what is called ‘roti-beti karishta’.

India-nepal border


  • The Survey of India issued a new political map (eighth edition) on November 2, 2019: this is to reflect the change in the status of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories.
  • Nepal registered a protest, though the map in no way had changed the boundary between India and Nepal.
  • On November 8, the ninth edition was issued and the delineation remained identical, but, the name Kali River has been deleted. This led to stronger protests in Nepal.
  • Constitution second amendment bill by Nepal will change the Schedule 3 of the Nepalese Constitution and replace the existing map with the disputed map.
  • The new map depicts the strategically important land covering Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani as part of Nepal.
  • The new alignment adds 335 sq km to Nepali territory, a territory that has never been reflected in a Nepal map for nearly 170 years.
  • The disagreements between India and Nepal over the border dispute are over the regions which include Kalapani, Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura (all three in Uttarakhand) and Susta (Bihar).

Origin to the boundary dispute

  • Before the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli, the Nepalese kingdom stretched from the Sutlej river in the west to the Teesta river in the east. Nepal lost the Anglo-Nepalese War.
  • The resulting Treaty limited Nepal to its present territories.
  • The Sugauli Treaty was between the Rajah of Nepal and the East India Company.
  • The Rajah of Nepal, his heirs, and successors, renounce the claims towards the west of the River Kali.
  • Under the provisions of the Sugauli Treaty, Nepal lost Sikkim, Kumaon, Garhwal and Western Terai (Flat) area.
  • River Mechi became the eastern border with India while the river Kali (called Mahakali in Nepal) was demarcated as the north-western border.
  • The Treaty of Sagauli also defined Gandak as the international boundary between India and Nepal.
  • The Treaty established Mahakali River as a dividing line in the Western sector.

After Independence, India continued with the tradition of an open border and it was noted under the Indo–Nepal Friendship Treaty of 1950.

Main issue

The main issue related to the border management between India and Nepal is that the borders have been demarcated on the basis of a flowing river.

The problem is that the rivers shift their courses over a period of time. This impacts the border which gets affected due to shifting rivers.

Nepal considers the source of Kali river near Limpiyadhura, which is higher in altitude than the rest of the river’s flow. Thus, all the three areas Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh and Kalapani are considered to the east of the river Kali.



  • Kalapani area is the largest territorial dispute between Nepal and India.
  • It is located in the easternmost corner of Uttarakhand Pithoragarh district.
  • It is a tri-junction between India, China and Nepal which is of strategic significance in South Asian diplomacy.
  • As per the treaty, Kali River is designated as the western part of the boundary. In between the two streams of the Kali River lies Kalapani. The issue arises as the segments to the West of Kalapani of Kali River are claimed by Nepal while India claims segments to the East of Kalapani of Kali river area, thereby making a claim to entire Kalapani. In the 1962 Indo–China war, Kalapani was occupied by Indian forces and India considers it strategically important.



Susta in Bihar is on the banks of River Gandak. The changing course of River Gandak often created issue between two countries.


Lipulekh pass

The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. There is Protest against the construction of a key road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand. 80-Km new road inaugurated is expected to help pilgrims visiting Kailash-Mansarovar in Tibet in China as it is around 90 kms from the Lipulekh pass.


Issue wasn’t there till 1996

In 1953, India and China identified Lipulekh Pass for both pilgrims and border trade.

After the 1962 war, pilgrimage through Lipulekh resumed in 1981, and border trade, in 1991.

In 1960s / 1970s, India and Nepal showed Kalapani as the origin of Kali river.

After 1979, Indo-Tibetan Border Police has manned the Lipulekh Pass.

After the 1996 Treaty of Mahakali, which envisaged the Pancheshwar multipurpose hydel project, the issue of the origin of Kali River came to the forefront.



  • India says, the Lipulekh pass has always been a part of the road to Tibet.
  • It was mentioned as one of the border passes for trade in a 1954 agreement with China. This was also reaffirmed in another trade agreement in 2015.
  • Since 1981, when China reopened Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage route for Indians, this route is being used and pilgrims walk into Tibet through this route. The road built now follows the same alignment.
  • It would essentially cut down the travel time by three days each way.
  • It is the area controlled by ITBP, which has a post there since 1962.
  • The border begins at Kalapani which India says is where the river begins.
  • Kali originates in springs well below the Lipulekh pass, and the Sugauli treaty does not demarcate the area north of these streams.
  • India has controlled this territory since 1950s and built other infrastructure here before, besides conducting its administration and deploying military forces up to the border pass with China.


Challenges in settling border dispute:

  • China factor: China opening port facilities to Nepal and providing access to Trans Himalayan Railway reduces Nepal’s dependency on India and reduces the leverage that India has with the Nepal to settle the dispute.
  • Interpretation of the boundary: The dispute is mainly because of the varying interpretation of the origin of the river and its various tributaries that slice through the mountains.
  • Big Brotherly attitude: India’s Big Brotherly attitude towards Nepal has created a sense of insecurity in the Nepalese government and its citizens and any settlement would be seen as a weakness.
  • Nepal internal politics: deeply divided and unstable democracy.