MonitorsPublished on Jul 02, 2020
South Asia Weekly Report | Volume XIII; 26

Nepal: Are there solutions to the India border row?

Sohini Nayak

The recent Indo-Nepal border row now seems to have reached a stage of heightened misunderstanding, leading to unnecessary rival claims. With the statement of Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali alleging ‘incoherent attitude’ of the Indian government to resolve the issue, a new phase of delayed responses and prolonged gloom over the border has come to prevail.

Minister Gyawali has been very clear in stating that Nepal has been trying to retrieve the ‘encroached territory’ in Kalapani, Limipiyadhura and Lipulekh through political dialogue.  However, the most important point to note here is the validity of the issue for the Indian authorities who have never acknowledged the area and the aforementioned locations as ‘disputed’. In fact, the southern neighbour has been vocal about Nepal ‘politicising’ the boundary with the release of their new political map, after India had done the same, in early November of 2019, in lieu of mentioning Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir as the newly formed union territories of the country.

Indian ‘reposte’

India has always been rigid in mentioning the areas as its own, with claims based on several historical documents that date back to the Treaty of Sugauli (1816) and the assessment of the location of River Kali by the Nepal-India Technical Level Joint Boundary Working Group. According to this organization, the River Kali, one of the main sources of the problem, originated from a small rivulet named Pankhagad, lying on the southern portion of Kalapani with the subsequent ridge on the eastern part of this area being the true border, thereby making India’s justification correct.  New Delhi, as a reaction to the Nepalese side, has always maintained that the actions taken by the neighbour “do not reflect any seriousness” and is rather “myopic and self-serving to further a limited political agenda”.

The ‘China card’

Given Lipulekh is the tri-junction between Nepal, India and China, the role of the northern dragon can never be dismissed. This is all the more relevant because of the present border clash between China and India in the Galwan Valley – the India-China Line of Actual Control (LAC) which has also led to  loss of lives of many. In this situation, there are high chances of India being side-lined by a Nepal-China dyad. Thus, the vulnerability of India, engulfed or rather surrounded through its northern border, must be dealt with extreme caution and a pinch of salt.

However, the complexity of the situation lies in the contentious Lipulekh Agreement that has been functioning as a kind of a ‘cushion’ for India in the past few years, since 2015, signed between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Nepal must realise that China may not be the all-weather friend that it actually claims to be and there is no reason to forget the 41 points joint statement of the treaty, which has clearly violated the sovereignty of Nepal in discussing Lipulekh or even conducting business with India in Taklakot, a small Tibetan township of China. It is also here that a strategically important hill of 6180 meters is present, south of Kalapani, which would undoubtedly give India the access to keep a close watch on the area of concern.

In this entire scenario, despite being well aware, Nepal has never been able to take a step, as China is involved. It must be mentioned at this point that there were several media reports which claimed that important border points in the Nepal-China front have been seized by China. It was also reported that if the river changes its course further, there would be more patches of land encroached by China.

Nonetheless, the Nepalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has completely denied this stance. There were also several protests in Kathmandu regarding this issue. However, the more common opinion is that Prime Minister K. P Sharma Oli is not ready to sabotage its relationship with China as it is not only benefitting from the One Belt One Road(OBOR) Initiative but is also gaining substantial support with regard to its tension with India.

Nepal and India must realise the presence of China. This is especially true for Nepal that is a landlocked country and is dependent on both the neighbours for development. However, the fact that Nepal has been favouring China more has become an inevitable fact in recent times, thereby often turning a blind eye to its policies of encroaching foreign land as its own. Nepal must also realise that it has to exist next to India for its geographical contiguity, forever. Thus, maintaining cordiality must always be a priority.

India: Challenges of a welfare state during pandemic

Ambar Kumar Ghosh

The concept of welfare state has been a ubiquitous imperative in present times. There have been apprehensions of the rolling back of the welfare state due to the emergence of a globalised world order. But the increasing salience of the welfare state seems to prevail unabated, despite all challenges. The welfarist predilections of every nation-state, despite the different forms of governments, constitutional and institutional structures and leadership styles, has been very apparent. This is largely because societies across the world in being engulfed in bludgeoning economic inequality. Hence, some form of corrective redistribution of resources becomes mandatory for the survival of the weak and marginalised sections of the society.

Weak and marginalised

Such reparative measures of the state in order to assuage the crude injustices of material inequalities is not only essential for the interest of the weak and poverty stricken but also for ascertaining societal and political stability. As the weak and marginalised constitutes a major section of the populace, their disaffection with and resentment against the state might trigger a legitimacy crisis for the modern nation-states.

The popular legitimacy of the state becomes all the more crucial in the working democracies like India. As electoral support remains the hallmark of political regimes in democratic states, the confidence of the major sections of people who bears the brunt of an unequal economic structures, remains crucial. Hence, the indispensability of the welfare state in India has always been unfettered regardless of the political parties in power at various points in time.

The importance of the welfare state has once again reinforced its unavoidable necessity in India in the wake of the ongoing pandemic. A situation has emerged in which the live and livelihood crisis has exacerbated itself like never before due to the sudden onslaught of the COVID-19.

So, the reparative and caring role of the state became indisputable amidst such a humongous health crisis which has touched the everyday lives of the people. It is true that the detrimental impact of the notorious virus is all pervasive and has threatened all lives, regardless of societal and economic conditions. But, the larger suffering during the pandemic is definitely being shouldered by the poor and the marginalised.

Increasing need

First, the kind of cautious lifestyle with continuous sanitisation and adequate social distancing norms that the precaution against the virus requires is inconceivable for the poor.  Poor sanitation and congested housing have made slums like Dharavi in Mumbai and similar other areas hotspots of the disease, making the lives of the poor residents perilous and replete with further uncertainty. Further, the poor who are infected by the virus depends heavily of the government public health care services which remains largely dysfunctional and in a fragile state.

Second, what seems to be the best measure to contain the spread of the virus also has been an anathema for the poor. A prolonged period of nationwide lockdown has snatched the meager means of livelihood and rendered them jobless. The unimaginable sufferings of the millions of migrant workers stuck in the various urban conglomerates of the country are emblematic of the deep-rooted material divide that the pandemic have brought out in the open. Hence, in such circumstances, the role of both the central and the state governments became paramount for securing the welfare of the poor and marginalized.

Dual requisites

Researchers Devesh Kapur and Prakirti Nangia in their paperSocial Protection in India: A Welfare State Sans Public Goods’ have demarcated public goods and social welfare measures as two central tenets of a welfare state. As the paper argues, the Indian state has given greater primacy to the distribution of social welfare benefits over creation of durable public goods like robust public educational and health infrastructural needs.

The greater salience of social welfare schemes like distribution of subsidized food grains, health insurance and other redistributive social handouts over the public infrastructural development has largely been due to two fundamental factors. First, in a resource starved ecosystem, the immediate needs of food and other basic means of survival makes social welfare schemes, no matter how temporal measures they are, extremely crucial.

Second, social welfare schemes of material redistribution are much more politically beneficial than the long-term infrastructural projects in the domains of education and health. In a society like India, where patronage based clientelistic networks at the grassroots helps in political mobilisation, distribution of material benefits like cash doles, food and other commodities by the government is extremely beneficial for yielding immediate electoral dividends.

On the other hand, the creation of durable public goods like educational, health and employment infrastructure requires a lot of time to institutionalise and reap political benefits out of it. Hence, heavy investments in such domains are not as politically enticing as in the social welfare commodities in a competitive electoral democracy where immediate and constant popular support is necessary.

Inherent predilection

Hence, political elite in India has been found to have inherent predilection towards more tangible and immediate social welfare policies over long-term public developmental infrastructure.  However, this argument is not be to misconstrued that public infrastructural needs are completely absent in the political imagination of Indian leadership.

Rather, they have prioritised social welfare policies over long-term public goods, when seen in a comparative framework. A direct manifestation of such systemic neglect is the laggard health infrastructure in India that got more blatantly exposed during the pandemic. Though the prolonged lockdown in India was ostensibly implemented, to rejuvenate the public health infrastructure, the outcome isn’t much encouraging.

As the nature of the political elite’s behaviour suggests, the focus even during the pandemic has been more towards attempts of material redistribution in form of social welfare schemes to the needy. It has also been extremely necessary as the major section of India’s vulnerable population engaged in the informal economy had been rendered jobless during the lockdown and became prone of hunger as Covid-19 threatened their health and economic security.

Such a situation demanded universalisation of social welfare policies so that food, shelter, health services and economic assistance reaches to every needy person during such a crisis. But the pandemic also exposed the fragmented, inadequate and the exclusionary nature of the social welfare policy regime in India.

The long stint of the lockdown revealed that a large chunk of the poverty stricken and starving population remained at the receiving end of all possible sufferings amidst the health crisis. Such a situation arose due to the exclusionary nature of the welfare regime of the Indian state.

The welfare state in India has remained paranoid about being over inclusive in its distribution of social safety measures of the people. Hence, in its zealousness to be extremely cautious in rolling out the benefits to only the ‘eligible people’, a large section of India’s poor without proper documentation or mobilising power, remained out of the social welfare mechanism.

Such an exclusionary behaviour of an overcautious Indian state has kept a large section of the marginalised population diseased and hungry during the ongoing contingency. Hence, a more expansive and universal social welfare mechanism where the vulnerable population outside the social safety net is also benefited is the need of the hour in times of crisis.

Two-pronged approach

The pandemic has reiterated the need of a more robust welfare state in India in order to mitigate the vagaries of an unequal society, albeit in a limited manner. It has also delineated the need of simultaneous development of both the dimension of welfare state in India. On one hand, urgent need of rapid development of better public health infrastructure is the need of the hour.

Only then will the economically weaker sections be able to battle health challenges in a better way. On the other hand, more inclusive nature of redistributive material social welfare measures will enable India’s vulnerable sections to sustain and survive through such catastrophic circumstances. In such a scenario, only then can a democratic welfare state true to its ethical obligation of care towards its people thrive in India.

Country Reports


UN claims deliberate attack

Based on a report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the UN has accused both Taliban insurgents and government forces of deliberately attacking healthcare workers and facilities during the pandemic. According to the report, there had been 15 incidents of violence targeted at the healthcare industry in the country since March, out of which 8 attacks were attributed solely to the Taliban.

Deadliest week yet

The week gone by was the deadliest week in the two-decade long history of conflict in the country, as stated by Javid Faisal, Spokesperson for the Office of the National Security Council. According to Faisal, the Taliban carried out 422 attacks in 32 provinces, killing 291 security personnel and wounding 550 others. The Taliban however, rejected government figures of casualties and claimed that most of the attacks they conducted were, in fact, in defence.


Ending human-trafficking

Bangladesh has been working on curbing human trafficking. The success of its effort helped to improve its status in the US State Department's report on Human trafficking in which Bangladesh ranking was upgraded to Tier-2 from Tier-3. The report titled ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2020’ observed that the country is making significant efforts in the elimination of human trafficking, however, Bangladesh does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

Bank offers $ 1.05 billion

The World Bank has approved $ 1.05 billion financial assistance to help the country tackle the economic fallout of the pandemic. The financial assistance will be utilised in the economic zones, software parks, and strengthening governments' cloud computing capacity and skill development which is expected to creates jobs for hundreds and thousands of youth. A portion of the money will be utilised financial help will be invested in supporting Covid-19 crisis responses.


No blocking water for India

The Foreign Ministry in a statement issued on 26 June clarifying that Bhutan has not stopped the irrigation water to farmers in Assam but is working to clear blocks caused by heavy rains and repair the channels. The statement further added that, Bhutan will make every effort to ensure that the disruptions caused by the monsoon rains to the irrigation channels are addressed without delay and there is water available for the farmers in Assam. The people of Bhutan, especially those living along the borders of India, deeply value their age-old ties of friendship and cooperation with the people of India, particularly their close neighbours across the borders in Assam and West Bengal, the statement reiterated.

Japanese aid for medical equipment

Bhutan’s ambassador to Japan, V Namgyel and Japan’s ambassador to Bhutan, Satoshi Suzuki signed the exchange of notes for the Economic and Social Development Programme (provision of medical equipment) under Japan’s Grant Aid on June 23 in New Delhi, India. Under the programme, the government of Japan will provide a grant of 300 million Japanese yen to procure medical equipment to strengthen public health and medical system of the country. The proposed medical equipment that would be purchased with the grant includes portable ultrasound and X-ray machine including ambulance.

Stranded trucks return

Bhutanese trucks stranded at Fulbari for more than three months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown in India have finally returned. Fulbari borders with Bangladeshi town of Banglabandhu. Boulders and other riverbed materials headed to Bangladesh in trucks from Bhutan enter through this town. Of 489 trucks stranded at the Fulbari parking lot, 316 have entered Bhutan.


Border dispute continues

The India-China border dispute continues as Chinese troops are yet to disengage in the Eastern Ladakh region. India is waiting for the Chinese People Liberation Army (PLA) to honour its 6 June assurance of de-escalating and disengaging its troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Diplomatic and military talks at the lower levels are under process to diffuse the tensions.

Pandemic on the rise

The spread of Covid19 pandemic in the country continues as the number of positive cases is witnessing the steady surge. States like Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu is getting the highest number of COVID 19 cases. Few states have also decided to extend the lockdown beyond June to flatten the curve. Under the present circumstances, the board examinations in the schools have been declared cancelled.


Re-emphasising multilateralism

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic re-emphasised the need for multilateralism as "global problems require global effort", Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid has said. On the 75th  anniversary of Maldives signing the UN Charter, Minister Shahid highlighted the importance of international cooperation in solving current challenges, such as climate change and increasing natural disasters. Nothing that Maldives' journey in multilateralism began in 1965 when it became one of the first small nations to join the UN, Minister Shahid said, adding, "Our progress and advancement as a nation owe much to the global environment created by the United Nations.”

Party post for Jameel

Jailed former President Abdulla Yameen’s PPM-PNC combine has named his one-time estranged deputy Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, party advisor. Jameel  quit the other Opposition Jumhooree Party (JP) of billionaire-businessman Gasim Ibrahim in February, to join the PPM after following out with the former, purportedly over his leading Yameen’s defence team in the money-laundering case in which the trial court has since jailed him for five years and a $ 5-m fine. Yameen got Jameel impeached after he ‘escaped’ to Europe, fearing arrest on undisclosed arrests, and was made the patron of the Opposition MDP-led coalition and then became Jumhooree Party president after joining the same.


Budget shortfall

According to the Finance Commission chaired by President U Win Myint, the nation is expecting a budget deficit of K6.8 trillion in fiscal 2020-21, or 5.4 per cent of the GDP. He added that an emergency fund totaling K100 billion set up last year has been increased to K150 billion for fiscal 2020-21. Meanwhile, spending allocations for the states and regions has been raised by K267 billion to a total of K2.3 trillion. Thus, the deficit is expected to be around 5.4pc of GDP in fiscal 2020-21 compared to 5.9pc in the current fiscal year.

Illegal returnees won’t be charged

As informed by a senior state official, the Rakhine state government will not take action under the immigration law against illegal returnees who brought back COVID-19 from Bangladesh. However, the government has given the state Public Health Department the authority to take action on its account. The 25 year old man had returned illegally to Shwe Sar village in Maungdaw township and failed to inform local government officials of his travel history. Currently, he has since tested negative for the disease twice and is recovering and will be discharged within a day.


India ‘non-responsive’

The southern Indian neighbour has not been very positive in resolving the border issues, Nepalese Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali has told at the Standing Committee meeting of the Nepal Communist Party. He has also  dismissed Indian media reports that China had occupied certain patches in Nepal.


OIC panel on Kashmi

At the behest of Pakistan, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Kashmir. In the online meeting, OIC foreign ministers on the Jammu and Kashmir Contact Group comprising member-states Pakistan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Niger and Azerbaijan deliberated upon the current situation. The meeting was also attended by ‘president’ of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) Masood Khan. The group urged ‘New Delhi to end the siege in Kashmir’. Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi briefed the contact group about what he claimed as the worst human rights violations, extra judicial killings of Kashmiri youth done by Indian security forces. In a media brief, Qureshi said the participants in the meeting called upon New Delhi to repeal all black laws in the disputed region and that the group will form a committee to the assessment of ground situation. 

Hold New Delhi responsible: PM

In a tweet, Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the international community to hold New Delhi responsible for sexual violence, human rights violations in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Khan said that “continuing silence in the face of such blatant abuse is against int human rights & humanitarian laws & must be unacceptable”. In his address to the National Assembly, the Prime Minister also alleged that the Modi-led BJP government did not want to improve bilateral relations and took unilateral decision to annex disputed Kashmir. He said the PM of India is a fanatic who is curse not only on minorities but also for Hindus.

Sri Lanka

Not concerned, says army chief

Army Commander, Lt-Gen Shavendra Silva, said that there is no cause for concern even if some individuals are making certain statements about the army. “Any person is free to express themselves as Sri Lanka is a democratic country. There is no need to make any special comment about the majority view and opinion of the Sri Lanka army and there is no cause for concern even if two individuals are making certain statements about the army,” he said in response to a question about ex-LTTE Eastern commander, ‘Col’ Karuna’s recent comment that he had “killed 2,000-3,000 soldiers in one night at Elephant Pass and more at Kilinochchi” during the conclusive Eelam War IV’. With political parties and international organisations, including the UNHRC, taking up the issue, the CID, on the orders of the government, has since ‘interrogated’ Karuna, who was a  Minister in the post-war governments of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, now Prime Minister. Karuna continues to be a part of the ruling SLPP-led combine for the 5 August parliamentary polls, but is contesting as an ‘Independent Group’ in the three Eastern Province districts of Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara.



Opinion Pieces

Abdullah Ahmadzai, “Afghanistan’s COVID19 Bargain”, The Asia Foundation, 24 June 2020

Nazir Dawi, “COVID19 Measures Are Crippling Afghan Education”, TOLO News, 22 June 2020


Afghanistan Times, “War, Peace Going Hand in Hand”, 23 June 2020

Afghanistan Times, “Den of Thieves or What?”, 22 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

Shuprova Tasneem, “How long will women be punished for their ambitions?”, The Daily Star, 26 June 2020

Aysha Akter Akhi, “Will pandemic-enforced economic crisis boost human trafficking?”, Prothom Alo, 25, June 2020

Atiqur Rahman, “FY20-21 Budget: Bangladesh’s high stake gamble to keep its dream alive”, The Daily Star, 24 June 2020


The Daily Star, “Time to get rid of the DSA for good”, 24 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

Passang Dorji, “View of Galwan from Bhutan”, Nepali Times, 24 June 2020


Kuensel, “A deep-rooted problem”, 26 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

S Y Quraishi, “In this time of crisis, the most urgent imperative is to protect underprivileged families from starvation”, The Indian Express, 27 June 2020

Karan Thapar, “The weight of words, spoken and unspoken”, hindustantimes, 27 June 2020

Prashant Solomon, “Real estate sector in urgent need of intensive care”, The Economic Times, 22 June 2020


The Telegraph, “Junk model: Adopt a village, then?”, 26 June 2020

The Hindu, “Bad to worse: On India-Pakistan ties”, 25 June 2020

The Hindu, “Vigilance paramount: on State's tackling of coronavirus”, 23 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Delhi needs to work with Indian Ocean neighbours to deny strategic foothold to China”,, 27 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

Fabian Jurewecz, “COVID-19 increases pressure on Myanmar firms to improve governance”, The Myanmar Times, 22 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

Amish Raj Mulmi, “The yam between two loose boulders”, The Kathmandu Post, 25 June 2020

Prem Singh Basnyat, “Israeli contribution for Nepal Army” Republica, 25 June 2020


The Kathmandu Post, “Monsoon madness”, 26 June 2020


Opinion Pieces

Fahd Husain, “King’s speech”, Dawn, 20 June 2020

A. Rehman, “Creeping religiosity”, Dawn, 25 June 2020

Hari Lohano, “Food insecurity and hunger in Pakistan”, The Express Tribune, 24 June 2020

Talat Masood, “Implications of the India-China conflict”, The Express Tribune, 24 June 2020

Imran Jan, “Kabul’s Kurdoglu”, The Express Tribune, 25 June 2020

Durdana Najam, “India’s false sense of security and stability”, The Express Tribune, 25 June 2020

Sri Lanka

Opinion Pieces

D B S Jeyaraj, “Col Karuna’s Eastern Tiger revolt against LTTE chief Prabhakaran”, Daily Mirror Online, 27 June 2020

M S M Ayub, “Karuna’s attempt market his past”, Daily Mirror Online, 26 June 2020

Kelum Bandara, “Karuna, Harin miscalculate their remarks”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 June 2020

Ravi Nagahawatte, “Dealing with an apolitical President driven by performance, not votes”, Daily Mirror Online, 25 June 2020

Harim Peiris, “The SJB and UNP defend independent institutions”, The Island, 25 June 2020

Ranga Jayasuriya, “New era of India-China rivalry is emerging: Sri Lanka, take note”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 June 2020

P K Balachandran, “Nepal too has difficulty accepting MCC compact”, Daily Mirror Online, 23 June 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Towards a disciplined society”, Ceylon Today, 23 June 2020

N Sathiya Moorthy, “Can digging deeper divide Tamil-speaking people even more?”, Colombo Gazette, 21 June 2020


Kelum Bandara, “Split in UNP just a storm in a tea cup”, Daily Mirror Online, 22 June 2020


Afghanistan: Shubhangi Pandey

Bangladesh: Joyeeta Bhattacharjee

Bhutan: Mihir Bhonsale

India: Ambar Kumar Ghosh

Maldives & Sri Lanka: N Sathiya Moorthy

Myanmar: Sreeparna Banerjee

Nepal: Sohini Nayak

Pakistan: Ayjaz Wani

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