INTERNATIONAL

Blame game on between India and Nepal as trucks pile up

Oil tankers and commercial trucks stranded near a gate that marks the Nepalese border with India, in Birgunj on Thursday.— Photo: AP

Oil tankers and commercial trucks stranded near a gate that marks the Nepalese border with India, in Birgunj on Thursday.— Photo: AP  

The diplomatic confrontation between India and Nepal over its new Constitution has turned into a blame game over the pile-up of trucks carrying goods into Nepal at three critical checkpoints along the border.

According to a local customs association, about 1,500 trucks laden with fuel, civil supplies and essential foods have been held up since Wednesday on the Indian side, as Madhesi groups protesting against what they call an unjust Constitution have refused to let truck traffic move at all the major checkpoints, including Birgunj, Biratnagar and Nepalgunj.

The government denies there was any move to delay goods flowing into Nepal.

“India has conveyed in no uncertain terms that there is no blockade from the Indian side,” a senior official told The Hindu . “But we are unable to control what is happening on the Nepali side of the border, and the prevailing situation is leading to obstructions in trucks going through.”

On Friday, the Nepal government had called in Ambassador Ranjit Rae to ask him to explain the “obstructions” in supplies from India. The meeting was the second between the Indian Ambassador and senior Nepalese officials since India registered a strong protest over the adoption of a Constitution which it feels disregards the Terai region.

India retorted with another statement on Friday, telling Nepal to look at root causes of the protests, calling the issues “political in nature.” Nepal’s PM Sushil Koirala, who rejected India’s plea to postpone the Constitution, has tried to reach out some of the Madhesi leadership in the past few days. On Saturday, he travelled to Tikapur, where the first flare-up over the Constitution occurred in August, to discuss measures to calm the violence.

On Saturday, reports came in from Kathmandu and other major towns across the country of people lining up to fill up on fuel and stock up supplies, as fears spread of an economic blockade like the one imposed by India for 13 months in 1989 as relations between then PM Rajiv Gandhi and then King Birendra had led to the lapse of a transit trade agreement between them. “While the fears may be similar, there is a vast difference between 1989 and 2015,” noted Nepal-expert and Professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, SD Muni told The Hindu .

“In 1989 it was a bilateral problem that had caused the crisis. This time, the problem involves India, and people inside Nepal, so it is much more complicated.”

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