Fuel and Fire

An un­of­fi­cial trade block­ade by In­dia is caus­ing heartaches in Nepal.

Southasia - - CONTENTS -

A cost must be paid for be­ing In­dia’s next door neig­bor.

For­mer In­dian prime min­is­ter Atal Bihari Va­j­payee once said, "You can change friends, but not neigh­bours." The quote may be a wise say­ing for oth­ers, but for a small and land­locked coun­try like Nepal, it is a harsh re­al­ity.

This is be­cause Nepal has been fac­ing its worst ever en­ergy cri­sis owing to an “un­of­fi­cial trade block­ade,” which has been im­posed by neigh­bour­ing In­dia from where Nepal gets its es­sen­tial sup­plies like oil, diesel, avi­a­tion fuel, kerosene and liq­uid petroleum gas (LPG). The Nepalese gov­ern­ment has de­clared an en­ergy emer­gency in the coun­try.

The rea­son be­hind the block­ade is the new con­sti­tu­tion in Nepal, which In­dia per­ceives as dis­crim­i­na­tory to the Mad­hesi com­mu­nity, an eth­nic In­dian mi­nor­ity liv­ing in the southern re­gions of Nepal bor­der­ing In­dia. A large num­ber of mi­nori­ties, mostly from the Mad­hesi com­mu­nity, have shown their con­cerns over the new fed­eral con­sti­tu­tion.

Prior to the con­sti­tu­tion’s en­act­ment, over 45 peo­ple died and sev­eral oth­ers were in­jured in clashes with se­cu­rity forces dur­ing protests. Soon af­ter the con­sti­tu­tion was promulgated on Septem­ber 20, In­dia dis­al­lowed its cargo trucks and fuel tankers to cross the border, which sud­denly led to a fuel cri­sis through­out Nepal and since then oil sup­plies to the coun­try have been put on a halt.

The In­dian Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs is­sued a state­ment a day af­ter the con­sti­tu­tion came, say­ing that In­dia was deeply con­cerned over the vi­o­lent in­ci­dents that re­sulted in many deaths and in­juries to civil­ians in the In­di­aNepal border re­gions.

“We had re­peat­edly cau­tioned the po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship of Nepal to take ur­gent steps to defuse the tension in th­ese re­gions. This, if done in a timely man­ner, could have avoided th­ese se­ri­ous devel­op­ments,” a In­dian state­ment said.

It fur­ther said, “We have con­sis­tently ar­gued that all sec­tions of Nepal must reach a con­sen­sus on the po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges con­fronting them. The is­sues fac­ing Nepal are po­lit­i­cal in na­ture and can­not be re­solved through force.” In­dia says its trans­porters and freight com­pa­nies have al­ready raised their deep con­cerns over the se­cu­rity is­sues and they are fac­ing sev­eral dif­fi­cul­ties dur­ing their move­ment within Nepal, owing to the on­go­ing tur­bu­lence.

On Septem­ber 25, five days af­ter the pro­mul­ga­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion, the In­dian Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs is­sued a state­ment, say­ing, “We have seen re­ports of ob­struc­tions at var­i­ous en­tryexit points at the In­dia-Nepal border. The re­ported ob­struc­tions are due to un­rest, protests and demon­stra­tions on the Nepalese side, by sec­tions of their pop­u­la­tion. As was al­ready said on 21 Septem­ber 2015, our freight for­warders and trans­porters had voiced com­plaints about the dif­fi­cul­ties they are fac­ing in move­ment within Nepal and their se­cu­rity fears, due to the pre­vail­ing

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