Following a blockade imposed at the Birgunj Trade Checkpoint with India which has cut off vital supplies (including petroleum products) to Nepal, Deputy PM and home minister of Nepal Bamdev Gautam said that Nepal might establish a land route with China and air routes with other countries if the blockade on the India border does not end. soon.
Bamdev told DNA:
“It is true that India is a strong country and a big economy but to live, we will have to make alternative arrangements. Nepal has never bowed down to anyone and will not bow even now. We will establish contact with China through land and with other countries through air to get the essential supplies.”
The blockade, which has continued for the fifth successive day, is the result of protest by the Indian origin people (or Madhesis) who allege that the new Constitution adopted by Nepal last Sunday denies them an equal representation in parliament.
The economic blockade has led to a fuel crisis in Nepal as a result of which the Himalayan country enforced an odd-even licence plate system for plying of vehicles on alternate days and asked international airlines to refuel planes abroad.
Nepal, which imports all its fuel from India, blamed the Indian government for the crisis.
Nepalese officials have said that the Indian customs officials stall cargo movement and the Indian Oil Corporation has stopped the supply of petroleum to the Nepal Oil Corporation.
Accusing the Indian governemnt for supporitng the blockade, Bamdev said:
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“Indian representatives say it is not Indian government’s policy but the Indian officials at the border have told us that they are doing it as per the instructions of their government. This blockade has been done in favour of Madhesi parties.”
To uplift the country from the on-going crisis, sources in the Nepalese government said that the road leading to the border checkpoint with China at Tatopani near Sindhupal Chowk, which was devastated in the earthquake, is being rebuilt and will not take more than seven days to complete.
A senior official said:
“It is hardly 114 kilometres from Kathmandu and once ready, supplies can reach Kathmandu within 4-6 hours. The other border checkpoint with China, Syapra Besi near Nuakot is also only 132 kilometres away and can be opened up in a few months if needed. China would be more than happy to help us.”
However, the Indian government officials who are dealing with the situation said that it is easier said than done as Nepal knows how much it depends on India, and the Chinese may not be interested. Nepal is using this only as a bargaining chip.
India maintained that it has imposed no such blockade, and the restrictions are a result of security concerns.
Meanwhile, Nepal began rationing fuel on Monday. The measures introduced restricting weekly sales to three liters for motorcyclists and 10 liters for cars.