NEW DELHI :
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday rejected Nepal’s claim over three areas falling in Uttarakhand state but offered an olive branch to Kathmandu by expressing the Modi government’s willingness to sort out the "misunderstanding" with India’s northern neighbour through dialogue.
Addressing a meeting of BJP supporters via video link, Singh said that the ties between India and Nepal were multilayered -- social, geographical, historical and cultural. India can never forget this reality and Indians can never have any bitterness towards the people of Nepal, Singh said.
"These are no ordinary ties and we are bound by the 'roti' and 'beti' (livelihood and marriage) relationship. No power in the world can break it," Singh said.
Bilateral ties became stressed after Singh inaugurated a 80-kilometre long road connecting Lipulekh pass with Dharchula in Uttarakhand last month. The new road is aimed at shortening the travel time for those undertaking the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage to China by about a week. But Nepal objected to the road saying that it passed through its territory. The Kathmandu government also brought out a new map, including within Nepal’s borders three areas -- Lipulekh, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura -- that lie in Uttarakhand. On Saturday, the new map was cleared by the lower house of parliament unanimously and on Sunday, it received the go ahead from the upper house.
Singh in his rally on Monday said that "if the Lipulekh-Dharchula road has given rise to some misunderstanding among the people of Nepal, I believe we can sit together to address it. We can do it through dialogue."
To underline the strong people to people connect between the two countries, Singh spoke of the Indian army’s Gorkha regiment comprising mostly Nepalese nationals, saying that its battle cry was "Maha Kali, Aayo Gorkhali" (Goddess Kali, Gorkhas are here)."
"How can the India-Nepal relations be broken?" Singh said adding "no matter how much fencing one does across Dharchula, these ties cannot be ended," he said.