Survey officials from Nepal and India have agreed to settle their bilateral border disputes within four years, including the construction, restoration and repair of boundary pillars and clearance of “no man’s land” on both sides of the border.
Two prominent newspapers of Nepal — The Kathmandu Post and the Republica — carried news items in their Tuesday editions that a decision was taken at the end of December in the Indian city of Dehradun, according to which both sides have agreed to start field work in the border areas by the first week of February.
The inspection and field work will not cover the Susta and Kalapani sections that together total 40 km of the 1,751-km Nepal-India border. These sections are the most contentious boundary issues between the two neighbours and are being discussed at top bureaucratic levels.
During the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj last year July-end, Nepal and India had agreed to form a Nepal-India Boundary Working Group (BWG) and commence work in the field at the earliest for the construction, restoration and repair of boundary pillars including clearance of “no man’s land” and all other technical tasks according to the terms of reference (TOR) to be agreed in the first meeting of the BWG.
The BWG — a new bilateral mechanism formed last year ahead of the visit of Swaraj — is a technical body at the surveyor general-level which replaced the joint technical level Nepal-India boundary committee formed in 1981 and ended its mandate in 2007 after preparing GPS-based boundary maps.
The field survey teams of both sides that will be dispatched in the first week of February are mandated to construct, restore and repair boundary pillars, carry out GPS observation of boundary pillars, develop modalities to address crossholdings and encroachment in no man’s land and provide technical inputs to the higher level as required.
The field inspection team from the Nepali side includes the chief district officer, armed police force and officials from the survey department while the Indian side will be led by a district magistrate, Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and border management officials.
Three separate teams will be mobilised on both sides of the border and will coordinate with other on disputed issues.
GPS maps prepared by both sides will be taken as the basis for the construction, restoration and repair of the boundary pillars.
Nepal and India had erected a total 8,553 pillars along the border, of which 1,325 are missing and 1,956 are either damaged or semi-damaged.