The construction of 11 buildings by China in a part of the remote border district of Humla that Nepal claims as its own territory has triggered a border row between the two countries, according to reports in the Nepalese media.
A border pillar has been missing since Nepal built a road in the area several years ago, and now China has constructed the buildings. There was only a hut in the area in 2005, according to Nepalese officials who visited the disputed area recently.
“The Chinese side claimed that the area where the houses are built falls within the Chinese territory,” said Bishnu Bahadur Tamang, chair of Namkha Rural Municipality, who visited the area on Sunday with the team of officials.
The construction of the buildings by the Chinese security and border forces has been reported to Nepal’s home ministry.
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During an inspection by a team led by chief district officer Chirinjbi Giri on Sunday, Chinese security officials claimed their territory extended one kilometre further south from the area where the buildings are located.
Tamang, however, said Nepal’s territory extends two kilometres north from where the buildings are, The Kathmandu Post reported. “Of the 11 houses in the disputed area, security forces live in one and the others are empty,” Tamang said.
After Nepalese officials reached the disputed site on Sunday, Chinese security personnel arrived in a truck, a tanker and a jeep. They used a microphone to speak with Nepali officials and asked them to go to the border for talks.
“We spent around one-and-a-half hours at the disputed area. After we reached, a team of Chinese army and security officials came and said talks cannot be held on their territory. Then we left,” Tamang said. “We claimed that area to be our territory, they showed us the map and said it is theirs.”
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The home ministry dispatched a team comprising government officials, the head of security agencies and local government representatives of Humla to Namkha rural municipality to carry out an inspection and submit a report, which is expected at the end of the week.
Chakka Bahadur Lama, the MP from Humla, said the dispute emerged after a border pillar in the area went missing.
“As long as both sides do not ascertain the location of the missing pillar, the dispute will continue,” Lama said. “The pillar was damaged during a road construction on the Nepali territory some 12 years back. That area where the Chinese have allegedly built the concrete buildings is on the old yak caravan route used for trade between Nepal and Tibet.”
During a meeting in 2015, Nepal and China had agreed to ascertain the location of the missing pillar, but no steps were subsequently taken, local officials said.
The officials further said that if a straight line of demarcation is drawn from the last existing pillar towards the location of the missing pillar, the disputed land falls inside Nepalese territory.
Parliamentarian Lama blamed negligence on the part of the Nepal government for the problem as the country’s security presence in the border area is less than that of the Chinese side.
Zhang Si, spokesperson of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu, told The Post in an email: “The buildings that are mentioned by the media are in the Chinese side. Nepali side can check it again.”
The spokesperson added that China respects Nepal’s sovereignty and any questions from the Nepalese side can be “check together [sic]”.