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Nepal government tables Constitution amendment bill in parliament amidst border row with India

KATHMANDU: The Nepal government on Sunday tabled a Constitution amendment bill in parliament aimed at altering the country’s map amid a border dispute with India.
Minister for law, justice and parliamentary affairs Shivamaya Tumbahangphe, on behalf of the government of Nepal, tabled the bill, a day after the main opposition Nepali Congress also backed the legislation.
It will be the second amendment to the Constitution.
Nepal recently released the revised political and administrative map of the country laying claim over the strategically key areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura.
India reacted angrily to the move saying such “artificial enlargement” of territorial claims will not be acceptable and asked the neighbouring country to refrain from such “unjustified cartographic assertion”.
The bill seeks to amend the political map of Nepal included in Schedule 3 of the Constitution. The new map will be used in all official documents including the coat of arms after the amendment bill is endorsed through parliament.
Parliament will now deliberate on the proposal before endorsing the bill.
After its endorsement by both the houses of parliament, the President will order issuance of the bill.
The central committee of the main opposition party Nepali Congress on Saturday decided to back the bill.
Last week, the proposed bill was removed from the business schedule of parliament at the last minute at the request of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
The discussion on the Constitution amendment bill was delayed as the Nepali Congress asked for more time to discuss the matter in its high-level body.
Similarly, the Samajbadi Janata Party Nepal and the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal demanded that their long-standing calls for Constitution amendment also be incorporated.
It requires a two-thirds majority to endorse the Constitution amendment bill.
During an all-party meeting on Tuesday, Prime Minister Oli urged the top leaders of all political parties represented in parliament to unanimously endorse it.
The ties between India and Nepal came under strain after defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated an 80-km-long strategically crucial road connecting the Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand on May 8.
Nepal reacted sharply to the inauguration of the road claiming that it passed through Nepalese territory.
India rejected the claim asserting that the road lies completely within its territory.
Nepalese foreign minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali earlier this month summoned Indian ambassador Vinay Mohan Kwatra and handed over a diplomatic note to protest against India inaugurating the key road.
However, Gyawali last week said that he was confident that the Kalapani issue between the two neighbours will be resolved through talks.
India on Thursday indicated its readiness to engage with Nepal to resolve the festering border row based on mutual sensitivity and respect.
India is monitoring the current situation in Nepal, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said referring to Kathmandu deferring a plan to bring in a constitutional amendment to validate a new map that depicted Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territory
“India is open to engaging with all its neighbours on the basis of mutual sensitivity and mutual respect, in an environment of trust and confidence. This is a continuous process and requires constructive and positive efforts,” Srivastava said.
The Lipulekh pass is a far western point near Kalapani, a disputed border area between Nepal and India. Both India and Nepal claim Kalapani as an integral part of their territory – India as part of Uttarakhand’s Pithoragarh district and Nepal as part of Dharchula district.

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