This is not the first time that India has directly intervened in Nepal’s domestic affairs and has created chaos across the country. Since its independence, time and again she is victimizing her small, weak and poor neighbor with her big brotherly attitude.
Indian direct interference started in Nepal from the year 1950 after King Tribhuvan rushed to New Delhi seeking political asylum. Since then India is forcing Nepal to sign many unequal treaties in the name of friendship and mutual cooperation making Nepal more and more politically unstable, economically vulnerable and dependent on Indian goods.
Nepal experienced India’s economic blockade in 1989 for thirteen months over the issue of purchasing arms from China without asking for her approval. And, this time expressing displeasure over the new constitution promulgated on September 20, she is imposing another economic sanctions.
This clearly gives a message that till date Nepal has not become a truly sovereign nation that has right to freely do trade with other country or draft people’s constitution from Constituent Assembly with the support of overwhelming majority of her lawmakers without seeking the approval of her big brother India.
Through this economic sanctions, India has blatantly violated at least eight international laws and treaties, which all ensure Nepal as landlocked country the right of transit passage to the sea through its coastal neighbor.
The international community is closely watching this India’s duplicitous behavior in the South Asian region and doubts whether she is really an emerging regional power or regional bully.
No doubt the main reason behind our current pitiable state of affairs is because of our failure to learn lesson from 1989 blockade and continuous dependency only in India for fuel. We neither sought to diversify our opinions nor we tried to explore natural deposits in Nepal.
Not only fossil fuel but Nepal imports a huge quantity of essential commodities from India. Sadly, Nepal despite being an agricultural country, is now the net importer of even rice, livestock and fruits from India. The country has become so hopelessly dependent that in a period of one year as reported in media Nepal imports easily cultivable coriander worth of 420 million rupees.
The volume of Nepal imports is nine times more than it exports to the southern neighbor. In fiscal year 2014/2015, imports from India were worth Rs 491.65 billion while export was only Rs 55.86 billion. This has excessively skewed the trade balance towards India.
At present as Nepal is heavily dependent on India on almost everything, India’s economic sanction this time is causing far more serious deficiencies of essential goods than 26 years before.
For the past four decades, Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) has been importing oil only from the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC). Expressing serious concern over this, experts had long been pressing the government to explore other alternative energy sources and alternate import sources besides the IOC.
The ongoing Indian embargo that has started inflicting serious wounds on Nepal economy and life has now finally made the government to realize its fault and heed the long neglected expert’s advice.
With the signing of last week Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nepal Oil Corporation and China National United Oil Corporation (Petro-China), Nepal has ended the four-decade long monopoly of the IOC for the supply of petroleum products to Nepal.
The initial understanding is that Nepal would import up to one-third of petrol, diesel and gas required for Nepal at the same price that Nepal has been buying from IOC.
Petro-China has said the standard of the fuel to be exported to Nepal will be of higher quality than the quality of product of provided by India.
This commercial agreement has paved the way for trade diversification that will ultimately benefit the country in the long run. For the moment, this agreement may has given shock to Indian side as it has potential to weaken the relation of India with Nepal which is absolutely essential to have more balanced bilateral relation of Nepal with both the northern and southern neighbor.
Just a week ago Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Bikas Swarup while briefing Indian media about ongoing protest in Nepal-India border, he proudly boasted that no country could substitute ‘Roti Beti’ relation of India with Nepal. ‘Beti’ may not be substituted as it is rooted in culture and civilization but Swarup cunning mind failed to contemplate ‘Roti’ could be as it is related with trade.
As the understanding has been reached between NOC and Petro-China, both Nepal and China should now focus to reach an agreement to expedite the construction of petroleum pipelines across the borders and other necessary infrastructures such as storage depots at convenient places that can sustain the supply of fuel to Nepal.
Apart from this, it is also equally important to explore some other ways to reduce dependence on India or China for fuel. One best option would be to switch to electronic vehicles instead of using petrol and diesel dependent buses and cars. The safa tempos that run on batteries could also be a good alternative. Similarly, special focus should be given for the development of hydro-power large scale solar and bio-gas plants.
These efforts will not only move country in the direction of becoming energy-independent but will also improve our plummeting economy. Also, it would be very beneficial to keep our environment clean.
(MA in Conflict, Peace & Dev. Studies, TU)