Kathmandu blames India for rising covid-19 cases in Nepal

New Delhi: Nepal has blamed India for the rise of novel coronavirus cases in the country, with the country’s prime minister KP Sharma Oli saying the virus strain from India looked “more lethal” than those from China and Italy.

“Those who are coming from India through illegal channels are spreading the virus in the country and some local representatives and party leaders are responsible for bringing in people from India without proper testing,” news reports quoted Oli as saying on Wednesday.

“It has become very difficult to contain covid-19 due to the flow of people from outside. Indian virus looks more lethal than Chinese and Italian now. More are getting infected,”Oli said in comments that have raised hackles in India.

The India foreign ministry is yet to issue an official response.

The comments have widened the rift between the two countries that was first triggered by Nepal objecting to a new road inaugurated by India. On 8 May, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a road that connects the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand with Kailash Mansarovar route in China.

Kathmandu said the road was built inside its borders, something India has disputed.

Earlier this week, the Nepal cabinet endorsed a new political map that incorporates Limpiyadhura, Lipulekh, and Kalapani as part of its territory. Though Lipulekh and Kalapani have been claimed by Nepal earlier, this is the first time Kathmandu is staking claim to Limpiyadhura. Both countries share a 1,800 km open border.

The Lipulekh Pass is claimed by Nepal based on the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli it entered with the British colonial rulers to define its western border with India. Kathmandu also claims the strategic Limpiyadhura and Kalapani areas, though Indian troops have been deployed there since the 1962 India-China war, say analysts.

With inputs from Live Mint