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Nepal withdraws textbook which includes contentious border map with India


NEW DELHI: Nepal has withdrawn a school textbook which included a contentious map of border areas with India that it earlier showed as part of its territory in its political map, a move being seen as a conciliatory step.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli ordered the education ministry to halt distribution of the 110-page ‘Self Study Material on Nepal’s Territory and Border’ to high school students, said people aware of the matter.

The Nepali-language book also included a chapter on the campaign to reclaim disputed territory with India. The new books for the 9th and 12th classes have a preface written by education minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel.

The move to withdraw the book can also be viewed in the light of alleged Chinese encroachment in Humla district in northern Nepal, said Kathmandu-based observers.

The Chinese encroachment came to light during an inspection of the Lapcha-Limi region of Nepal’s remote Humla region from August 30 to September 9 by the local district officer. It was found that the Chinese army and border police had occupied Nepalese territory in the region, which falls in Namkha gaupalika (rural municipality) of Humla district, according to those in the know.

The Chinese side has unilaterally completed the construction of buildings one km into the Nepali territory. Lapcha-Limi is a strategic place from where Kailash Mansarovar is clearly visible and the Chinese move is part of its expansionist designs, said the people cited earlier.

Although Chinese diplomats and Nepalese foreign ministry officials have both refuted the allegations, there have been demonstrations outside the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu and the Oli government feared that it could come under flak from within Nepal.

In this backdrop, the Oli government’s move could be viewed as an attempt to avoid further damage to ties with India, said the people.

Rajan Bhattarai, the prime minister’s foreign affairs advisor, told Japan’s leading English-language publication Nikkei Asia that the recently outstretched olive branches are part of efforts to mend the relationship with India.

“We want to maintain good relations with India on the basis of mutual respect and equality,” said Bhattarai. “India and Nepal have divergent views on some issues including the territory of Kalapani along Nepal’s north-western frontier, which has remained a matter of dispute.”

In May a constitutional amendment was undertaken in Nepal including a revised national map. India termed untenable the “artificial enlargement” of the territorial claims by Nepal after its Parliament unanimously approved the new political map of the country featuring Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura areas.

The Oli government has instructed the Nepal Rastra Bank, the central bank of Nepal, to mint the coins with the revised map. An official at the bank, however, said they had no immediate plan to mint the coin, though preparations are on to issue coins worth Re 1 and Rs 2 with the inclusion of the new map within a year.

The first sign of a thaw came on August 15 when Oli called Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the occasion of India’s Independence Day. Another cordial exchange followed on September 17, Modi’s birthday.

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