The Ayodhya dispute . . .
Trouble between Nepal and India hit a new high this week as Nepal’s Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli claimed that the Hindu deity Lord Ram’s birthplace, Ayodhya, was in Nepal. For centuries, Hindu activists and followers have maintained that Lord Ram was born in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, in India, and the temple marking the site was demolished to build the Babri Masjid in the 16th century. Lord Ram’s birthplace has been a contentious issue for years, resulting in demolition of the mosque in 1992, and communal riots. The Supreme Court of India ruled in November 2019 on the years-long case, allowing a temple to be built in place of the demolished mosque. Prime Minister Oli’s claims touched a raw nerve with Hindu activists and caused an immediate uproar. Hindu activists in Varanasi, for example, engaged in a deplorable action of tonsuring a Nepali citizen and forcing them to say, “Jai Shri Ram (Glory to Lord Rama).”
Redrawing the border . . .
PM Oli’s claims about Lord Ram come amid ongoing tensions between Nepal and India over the Nepalese government’s revisions of its official map of Nepal in June. The redrawn map includes three areas in the Himalayas that have long been disputed with India: Kalapani, Lipulekh, and Limpiyadhura. In November 2019, India also revised its political map after changing the status of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. In its updated map, India included the disputed area of Kalapani. Nepal’s map revision may have also been sparked by the Indian Defense Minister’s May 8 announcement that it would construct a Link Road to a Hindu pilgrimage site in Tibet that would pass through the disputed territories. New Delhi has registered a border dispute with Nepal and claims this an “artificial enlargement” that is not based on historical facts.
China’s increasing role in Nepal . . .
Nepal’s move to revise the border demarcations with India is happening at a time when the latter is engaged in a border dispute with China. Beijing’s growing relations with Nepal through the Belt and Road Initiative and its increasing role in Nepal’s politics has caused schisms between Kathmandu and New Delhi to widen. India is worried that it is losing sway of Nepal, which sits in India’s strategic backyard. Wedged between two large Asian superpowers, Nepal has to strike a careful balance between diplomacy and its national interests.
- BBC: India and China: How Nepal's new map is stirring old rivalries
- Council on Foreign Relations: India-Nepal bilateral relations slide: Perspective from Kathmandu
- Nikkei Asian Review: Nepal broadcasters block Indian news over 'insulting' propaganda