NEW DELHI: Nepal's parliament has cleared a constitutional amendment bill in a special session on Saturday to update the country's map, which includes stretches of land that India also claims as part of Uttarakhand state.
The House of Representatives opened the discussion on the amendment bill, which was put for voting after the deliberations were over on Saturday, news reports said. The bill was passed with the overwhelming vote of 258 members present in the house of 275, the news reports said. There were no votes cast against the bill. Now that it has been passed, it will be sent to the Upper house, the National Assembly, where it is set to undergo a similar process.
The move is likely to exacerbate strained relations between India and the Himalayan country. In a bid to reach out to Kathmandu ahead of the vote, New Delhi had on Thursday underlined its close cultural, developmental and political ties with the country.
Last month, Nepal's ruling party had cleared the map, drawing a strong reaction from India, which described the move as "unilateral" and not based on historical facts.
"Such artificial enlargement of territorial claims will not be accepted by India," Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson for the Indian Foreign Ministry, had said last month. "Nepal is well aware of India's consistent position on this matter and we urge the Government of Nepal to refrain from such unjustified cartographic assertion and respect India's sovereignty and territorial integrity," he had added.
The new map - made public last month - shows three areas that India claims as part of its territory as lying within Nepal’s borders. These are Lipulekh, Limpiyadhura and Kalapani.
Once introduced in the National Assembly, the upper house is expected to give lawmakers 72 hours to move amendments against the bill's provisions, if any. After the National Assembly passes the bill, it will be submitted to the President for authentication and will be incorporated in the Constitution thereafter.