9-15 October 2015 #779


Nepal is not landlocked, it is once again a victim of New Delhi’s attempt to flex its muscles
Bihari K Shrestha

India has blatantly blockaded Nepal to back a splintered bunch of disgruntled Madhesi politicians, who were humiliatingly rejected by the Madhesi voters themselves in the last election. They won a mere 11 seats of the total of 116 constituencies in the Tarai, and turned to India.

New Delhi, mysteriously, finds it in its interest to side with Madhesi ‘outcasts’.The agitating Madhesi Morcha is a fractious coalition of at least four sub-morchas which in turn is the coming together of over 13 different entities, more than one of which is a self-declared Bharatbadi.

Their main demand has been the implementation of the agreement that two of these parties had signed some nine years ago with the then Girija Prasad Koirala government that, among others, provides for delineating the whole of the Tarai as one province under federal Nepal. Given Nepal’s variegated geography, this makes no economic sense, and it would also be potentially suicidal for Nepal because it would put the plains in the hands of Madhesi politicians and their mentors across the border.  

What is even more perplexing is that India, which is aspiring to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has got itself embroiled in this misadventure out of which it has no perceived advantage or exit strategy. India’s foreign policy has become the subject of ridicule around the world, even from pundits within India.

Humiliation does not seem to matter to the Indian establishment. Back in 1989 during the previous blockade, the World Health Assembly passed an amendment proposal by the Nepal delegation, which I had the distinction of leading, to a Palestinian resolution against an Israeli embargo calling for it include all landlocked countries.

After three exchanges between me and an Indian delegate, the Assembly adopted an amended resolution to the utter embarrassment of the Indian delegation. The delegate passed on a threat that sounded exactly like the one recently issued by the Indian foreign secretary, S Jaishankar.

Soon after the 1989 embargo and regime change in 1990, India helped the ethnic cleansing drive of its protectorate, Bhutan, and ferried more than 100,000 of its own citizens to the Nepal border and dumped them there. Furthermore, while India has all these years complained of terrorist incursion by Pakistan, New Delhi has been complicit in providing a safe haven to Nepali Maoists whom India’s government has officially declared to be terrorists.   

No matter which party is in power, strangulating Nepal into submission to India’s whims of the day seems to be the only affordable arena where India can show its emerging power status despite the fact that it continues to remain home to the largest number of hungry and homeless in the world.

We should also somberly reflect that no country in the world has come to Nepal’s rescue on the blockade. Let alone material support, there hasn’t even been verbal sympathy. No country wants to antagonise India and jeopardise its big market. Even China is cautious, but there is nothing stopping us from improving our road and air links to China. Even if we survive this blockade, there will be future ones.

Read also:

Proxy war

North and south, Puru Shah

Barking up the wrong tree, Anurag Acharya

Blockade blues, Bidushi Dhungel

(Quote) Blockade (Unquote), The Ass

It's not about the constitution, Om Astha Rai

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