India should lift Nepal blockade


Nepal Foreign Affairs (KATHMANDU, October 28) : The responsibility of addressing Madhesi demands lies with Kathmandu. But the problem deepens when Delhi seeks to become a party of bargain on behalf of Madhes. At present, it has actually worsened as Delhi’s ‘interest’ has morphed lower into the personal ‘ego’ of its Babudom.  India must understand that being a global power not only means large army, nuclear arsenal or bigger population, it also involves being responsible.

In the first three weeks of the new government of Nepal, its new constitution is slowly at work. It has elected a new government from the parliament, a president has been elected and the new government, with efforts to reach out to China, has shown urgency in looking for the diversification of Nepal’s trade, suffocated by the ongoing Indian blockade. There is an anticipation that fuel from China would come soon, and things improve.

Badly injured by the earthquake in April and May this year, India’s economic blockade, or say the “oil embargo” is prompting another unforeseen humanitarian crisis, if current situation continues. Education institutions have stayed shut as schools ran out of fuel to cook in their kitchens and for their vehicles; hospitals are at the verge of closing specific services in view of the absence of fuel supplies; and most importantly, people have started using coal-briquettes or firewood for cooking, which is unsustainable.

It was sad that the last government couldn’t do much in seeking alternatives. People see this blockade as an inhuman and unjust measure India has applied against a weak neighbor like Nepal to effect certain political changes. In doing so, India has forgotten that Nepal has always worked to address Indian security concerns, and even its undue political interests. This time, Nepalse people are in the mood to stand with their government, under the condition that the alternative fuel supplies would be found, over-reliance on India would be broken and Nepal would talk to India as a proud, independent country. The government must seize this advantage and work sooner than later. It must identify able and upright people to work with, which is lacking. Still, people are looking towards the government’s diplomatic efforts with hopeful eyes. If results are delayed, this will fizzle out.

India hasn’t accepted the blockade, like in 1989 and 1969. In 1989, it said the non-renewal of Indo-Nepal Trade and Transit Treaty was responsible for the “supply problem”. In reality, India itself was delaying the renewal of the treaty, refusing Nepal’s several calls. This time, India is saying that Nepal must address the Madhesi demands first to get the supplies in order. Using bilateral trade to advance a political side in an internal political debate of another country is nothing more than the strategy of blackmail.

Without doubt, the responsibility of addressing Madhesi demands lies with Kathmandu. But the problem deepens when Delhi seeks to become a party of bargain on behalf of Madhes. At present, it has actually worsened as Delhi’s ‘interest’ has morphed lower into the personal ‘ego’ of its Babudom.  This has pushed a solution to Madhes movement further away.  Still, Kathmandu cannot afford to turn a blind eye towards the Madehsi  isuses. Continuous talks with flexibility can bring a way out. But flexibility must be shown by the Madhesis as well. It takes two hands to clap.

Having inflicted unforeseen sufferings on Nepal, India hasn’t done a work it can be proud of. In fact, the world is gradually seeing through the Indian lies. Despite India refusing the blockade, the fuel embargo has been noticed by the world. Madhes-centric parties are only used as pawns in the game. India must understand that being a global power not only means large army, nuclear arsenal or bigger population, it also involves being responsible. Having lost the faith of Nepalese people, like that of the people of Maldives, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and even Bhutan, India has lost the credibility of its regional leadership. Lifting Nepal blockade would be the first small step towards repairing that damage.

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