Nepal rescues the blockade. But how?

Sisir devkotaBy Sishir Devkota–The extraordinary falling prices of Crude Oil due to overproduction and oversupply from increasing number of oil producing nations (recently including Iran) might not sound relevant to the current political reality inside Nepal. But, Nepal’s southern neighbor, a large oil importing nation will certainly have been facing the brunt of economic losses. Along with its own consumption, India sells petroleum products to Nepal and other countries in South Asia.

The reason why India must be apprehensive about its economic interests related to oil sales is directly connected to the fact that global crude prices have dramatically crashed in the space of months and importers like India have or could become the victims. Victims in the sense that countries like India paid an expensive amount for a barrel of oil to find itself in a loss position to possibly having to sell on a lower market price. Whilst, India has not stated such sort of loss apprehension, it would be best to speculate that under current global oil slide, its inability to transport and sell petroleum products from its storage to buyers like Nepal is not economically feasible.

The Madhesh based parties that carried out obstructions at the Indo-Nepal border have declared to temporarily end their protests; which deserves applause.While the protesting Madhesh based parties do not seem satisfied with their demands being met, the naming and shaming fiasco among the protest led leaders suggests grave lack of unity among themselves. This also raises question marks on the future of their protests aimed at revising the constitution of the Republic of Nepal.

The international community including India will be observing and considering the recent change of events inside Nepal with wisdom. The fact that the protests ended without achieving its goal will have bothered each and every bona fide citizen of Nepal with unanswered questions. There is a common mood of a lengthy sacrifice gone to waste. The co-incidence of the Nepali Prime Minister flying to New Delhi on a state visit in the coming days has saved India from an embarrassment they did not anticipate.

Like New Delhi always mentioned how the problem in Nepal was political and had to be solved by Nepali actors themselves; it expected solutions based on consensus, not a dissipated political agenda. In the eyes of the Indian foreign analysts, the political will of the Madhesh based parties has shrinked and once again India has found itself engulfed in a foreign policy blunder.

India has learned the lesson of underestimating the essence of representative democracy. India has learned the lesson of supporting a group of illegitimate leaders from Madhesh. It is about time the Indian government will be summoned internally to justify the achievement of supporting a political agenda led by leaders who could not win seats in the Constituent Assembly of Nepal.

Presuming that the end of blockade has to do with sliding oil prices and India’s economic interests, it is of a great lesson to Nepal. A hard learned lesson of how modern diplomacy works. It is a testament to how increasing economic strength is directly related to powerful diplomatic maneuvering in international politics.

Even though the government of Nepal has been facing harsh criticism for not being able to solve the “blockade crisis”, the tiny himalayan nation has persevered. It has set an example for itself on ways to deal with such crises in the future. Nepal has won its battle against India’s hegemonic stick. If the current oil price in relation to Nepal’s reality holds any truth, it is nonetheless an amazing stroke of luck for a landlocked nation that has suffered from the devastating earthquake and the economic blockade in the recent times.

(Author is pursuing Masters in Democracy and Global Transformations at the University of Helsinki, Finland.)

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