The Indian Army chief’s comments on the Kalapani dispute had hurt the sentiments of Nepali Gurkhas who have a long tradition of sacrifice for India, Nepal’s Defence Minister Ishwor Pokhrel said on Monday.

In an interview to online news outlet The Rising Nepal, he said General Manoj Naravane’s indirect reference to Chinese hand behind the diplomatic spat was “condemnable” and the Nepal army would fight if necessary.

Why are India and Nepal fighting over Kalapani?

“With this, the Indian Chief of the Army Staff has also hurt the sentiments of the Nepali Gurkha army personnel who lay down their lives to protect India. It must now be difficult for them to stand tall in front of the Gurkha forces,” he said.

‘A political stunt’

Mr. Pokhrel termed Gen. Naravane’s comments a “political stunt”. Such opinions were not expected from the head of the Army, he said.

The Gurkhas of Nepal have a proud tradition of valour in the Indian armed forces dating back to pre-Independence era and were usually kept out of India-Nepal disputes.

What explains the India-China border flare-up?

This is the first time that Nepal’s Defence Minister has drawn the community into the ongoing spat that erupted after India inaugurated the Darchula-Lipulekh link road on May 8.

General Manoj Naravane had said the link road was built on the Indian territory and that there was no cause for Nepal to agitate. “There is reason to believe that they might have raised this issue at the behest of someone else and that is very much a possibility”, he statedin an online interaction with the media on the COVID-19 crisis.

The Nepal army has, however, maintained silence on this issue and declined to be drawn into the territorial dispute. Spokesperson of the Nepal army, Brig. General Bigyan Dev Pandey earlier refused to respond to General Naravane’s comments, saying the matter fell in the “political” domain.

On Monday too, he maintained the same position, saying he was “not entitled” to comment on the the opinion of the Defence Minister.

But Mr. Pokhrel maintained that the army of Nepal would act as and when required by Kathmandu. “It would definitely play its role in the right time, as per the directives of the government based on our Constitution… If needed, it will fight.” He also noted that Nepal believed in diplomatic dialogue to find a solution to the Kalapani issue.

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