Monday (May 11th): A New Road & an Old Territorial Dispute

Name? Vinay Mohan Kwatra

Westphalian identity? Indian

Age? 58

Why is he in the news? As the Indian ambassador to Nepal, Kwatra had a difficult task this week of informing and explaining to the Nepali government why the new road constructed by India to Kailash-Mansarovar does not breach the territory (Lipulekh) disputed by the two countries. This is especially important for Kwatra as he has only been in the position for four months (previously serving as the Indian ambassador to France), meaning these talks need to go well for him personally and professionally.

Why do we care? Well, considering that India and China are major players in the region (not to mention the world), we tend to care when something involves them both and, in this case, an underdog. (We generally like rooting for an underdog.)

Why should you care? Because you don’t like bullies (at least we’re assuming you’re good people who don’t). China and India (and other major geopolitical powers cough cough USA cough cough) have taken advantage of the current coronavirus to pursue their personal interests, regardless of what countries or regulations stand in their way. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Covid19 is not an excuse nor a coverup for authoritarian actions; that includes building a road in a largely disputed territory under religious pretenses but economic interests.

Who else cares? Presumably the people of China and the Tibet region who also hold claims over parts of the territory and thus, stand to gain/lose from any changes in the region. On another note, Pakistan cares as they are also in a dispute over territory with India (Kashmir) and thus, could feel increasingly concerned about what India may try to do in that region as the Corona crisis rages on.

Any further comments? While they obviously didn’t use it in their argument for the road, the new road provides a much more direct trading route between India and China, strengthening the two countries trade relations as well as their geopolitical power. Then again, the two countries just witnessed a cross-border fistfight so…who’s to say if their friendship is flourishing or failing…

Sarah McFadden

General Coordinator