After hours of brain-storming in Singha Durbar, Nepal’s new Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Kamal Thapa left for Delhi and a little later, an electricity outage reminded Nepal of the need to bring an end to the fuel blockade, which is Mr Thapa’s task in Delhi.
But irrespective of Mr. Thapa’s success or failure in Delhi, Nepali diplomats and politicians say that India-Nepal ties are now damaged. Ramesh Nath Pandey, veteran diplomat and one of the longest serving Ministers in Nepal’s history, told The Hindu that the blockade had created a vacuum in the public mind which has been filled by China. “The blockade hurt Nepal’s supply lines but it also removed the visibility of India inside Nepal. Someone had to fill that vacuum that India left. China is now a psychological force in Nepal because of India’s support to the blockade,” Mr. Pandey said.
Pro-China sentiments can be heard also among the Constitutional fraternity of Nepal.
Bipin Adhikari, one of the foremost constitutional lawyers of Nepal, believes that the blockade has ended Nepal’s innocence: “India-Nepal relation is vast and has multiple dimensions. In comparison, Nepal-China ties are small. But after this blockade which has lasted more than two months, Nepal has become aware that it urgently needs an option beyond India. China provides an alternative to India and China has always treated Nepal with respect which is missing in India’s attitude to Kathmandu”.
Sensing the public mood in Nepal, China moved fast and using massive pieces of machinery, cleared the path that connects Nepal with Tibet at the Tatopani crossing. This helped in reducing the sense of despair in Nepal. China has ensured a steady flow of essential commodities through the newly opened passages but has maintained total silence on India-Nepal ties during this period.
Mr. Pandey believes that the blockade is rooted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “South Asia First” policy. The blockade has conveyed that new reality of Delhi to countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Maldives and others in South Asia which did not comprehend the full extent of the political change in India,” said Mr. Pandey.