PITHORAGARH: Days after Nepal lodged a protest against India for inaugurating an almost 80-km link-road near Lipulekh Pass, saying it passed through its territory, Kathmandu has set up an armed police force border outpost near Kalapani at Chhangru, on the Nepalese side of the border. Chhangru is the last village before the border. The post has been set up almost 18 km from the Lipulekh Pass, a source told TOI on Thursday.

The source, who is based in Nepal, added that on Wednesday, 25 armed personnel of Nepal Police reached Chhangru by helicopter to set up the post.

"It is for the first time that Nepal armed police force has been deployed at the border. Earlier, there used to be just a regular police post," the source said, adding that the Nepal government has allotted 11 crore Nepalese rupees for setting up the post.

Reacting to the development, Pithoragarh district magistrate Vijay Kumar Jogdande said, "I have not received any official communication regarding this as of now. I have asked for a report from the tehsil administration on the matter."

Defence minister Rajnath Singh had on May 8 inaugurated the Tawaghat-Lipulekh road, which the minister said would cut travel time to Kailash Mansarovar significantly. The road was constructed by the Border Roads Organisation enabling vehicles to go near Lipulekh Pass, which is marked by the Kalapani river, one of the headwaters of the Kali river in the Kumaon Himalayas at an altitude of 3,600-5,200 meters and is claimed by the Nepalese as their territory. The foreign ministry has reiterated the area lies "well within Indian territory".

In a related development, Nepalese authorities have requested the Pithoragarh district administration for permission to be granted to residents of Tinkat and Chhangru villages to use the newly inaugurated road to return to their villages. Residents of these villages are migratory and each year 500 families of these areas come to the lower regions of the valley during winter. This year, though, they were unable to return due to the lockdown. The route to their villages is through the Indian side of the border. Jogdande told TOI that he has forwarded the request to the state government and the Centre for clearance.