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