With the relationship between Nepal and India precariously placed on account of a dispute over land high in the mountains, Nepal's Defence Minister on Monday accused the Indian Army chief of insulting his country.
Last week, Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said that Nepal's strident objections to a new road being built in Uttarakhand is "at the behest of someone else". The allusion to China was clear.
"Such a statement is an insulting statement made by ignoring Nepal's history, our social characteristics and freedom. With this, the Indian CoAS (Army chief) has also hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gurkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India. It must now become difficult for them to stand tall in front of the Gurkha forces," Nepal's Defence minister Ishwor Pokhrel said in a local newspaper on Monday, according to news agency ANI.
On May 8, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated via videoconference an 80-km road that will make far easier the pilgrimage for lakhs of Hindus who visit Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet.
The road India is building passes connects Uttarakhand to the Lipulekh pass on the border with Tibet and runs across the stretch of land that is claimed by both countries as their own. Nepal says the road encroaches on its territory, a claim that India strongly refutes.
"How professional is it for the head of the Army to make a political statement? We don't have anything like that here. Nepali Army does not go vocal on such matter. The army is not there to speak," Nepal's Defence Minister said on Monday.
Nepal claims the territory under an 1816 treaty with the East India Company which sets the Kali as its western boundary with India and says the land lying east of the river is its territory. "All the territories east of Kali (Mahakali) river, including Limpiyadhura, Kalapani and Lipulekh, belong to Nepal," its officials have said.
But last week, Nepal said it was adapting a new political map showing the contested territory as part of its borders. India has rejected Nepal's "unilateral act" saying it was not based on historical facts and evidence.
Ruling Nepal Communist Party lawmakers have also tabled a special resolution in parliament demanding the return of Nepal's territory in Kalapani, Limpiyadhura and Lipulekh, the report said.
The Nepali PM has said in parliament that he will "bring back at any cost" the three territories. He also blamed India for infecting Nepal with coronavirus.