Nepal : In Humla, Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba announced the formation of a committee to “examine” the Nepal-China boundary conflict. The committee will investigate the alleged construction of 11 dwellings on Nepali land between boundary pillars 11 and 12 in the Humla district of Western Nepal by the Chinese.

The issue came to the fore a year ago, when Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli was at the helm in Nepal. Deuba’s Nepali Congress was in the opposition then and its legislators were vociferous in their allegations that China had encroached Nepali territory in Humla district.

Nepal shares a 1,439-kilometer-long border with China. The border is remote and inaccessible in large parts due to its difficult terrain and complex geography. The frontier between the two states is based on the 1961 Border Treaty, and the various protocols signed thereafter. It is marked by 100 main and subsidiary pillars.

However, minor disputes over the border have surfaced between the two countries occasionally, mostly due to natural causes.

The “dispute” regarding the construction of 11 Chinese buildings on the Nepali side of the territory in Humla came to the fore after Indian newspapers reported Chinese encroachment with some even describing it as “Chinese expansionism.”

Nepali media followed up on the issue. They drew on a 2017 report by Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture, which alleged that China had encroached upon Nepali territory in ten places.

The news spread widely via social media. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Agriculture denied the said “report” existed and clarified that the Ministry of Agriculture has no jurisdiction over the issue.

However, before the CDO concluded his report, MoFA reaffirmed that the construction had not occurred in Nepali territory. The statement also stated that an inter-ministerial team had concluded that China had constructed some buildings within Chinese territory in 2016. China also stressed that the construction had taken place on Chinese territory and denied there was any territorial dispute between China and Nepal.

The Nepali Congress called the MoFA hasty and condemned the statement made without waiting for the report from the investigation by local authorities. It tabled a resolution in parliament calling on Prime Minister Oli “to bring back these encroached territories by holding dialogue” with China.

Unsatisfied with the report, a team led by Jeevan Bahadur Shahi, a Nepali Congress lawmaker for Karnali Province, visited the site. He alleged that China had encroached into Nepali territory and replaced a pillar in such a way that a large chunk of Nepali territory had gone into China.

The allegations led to protests in front of the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu, where protestors chanted slogans calling a “stop [to] Chinese intervention” and to “Chinese encroachment.” Nepali Congress leaders accused the Oli government of appeasing Beijing and remaining quiet when China had encroached on Nepali territory.

China’s interventions in Nepal’s domestic politics, in particular, its encouragement for the country’s two major Communist parties to merge and form the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) government that Oli led, had previously been criticized by the Nepali Congress. The Nepali Congress was also upset with the Oli government’s dismissive response to the allegations of Chinese encroachment.

Now in power – the Nepali Congress formed a minority government with the support of the Maoist Center, which was earlier a part of the Oli government – Deuba is obligated to act on his earlier allegations against China.